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Joseph J. Kowalski Papers

Identifier: UP000250

Scope and Content

Important subjects touched upon in the collection are: Caucus and committee meetings, minutes and proposals on legislation; Committee Hearings; Agriculture; Amish Education; Banking; Michigan Budgets; Civil Rights; Civil Service; Conservation and Recreation; Constitutional Implementation; Constitutional Amendments and Revision; Court Reorganization; Democratic Party; Economic Development; Education; Organization of the House; Health; Pollution; Homestead Exemptions; Prisons; Hospitals; Public Employees; Income Tax; Reapportionment; Insurance; Romney; Labor Unions; Salary; Increases for Legislators; Legislative; Proposals; Senior Citizens; Liquor Control; Taxation and Tax exemptions; Mental Health; Traffic Safety; M.E.S.C.; Veterans; Michigan Universities; Workmen's Compensation; Minimum Wage Bills; Youth Problems

Among the Correspondents are: Richard Austin; Frank Kelley; Vince Brannigan; Robert B. Knox; John D. Dingell; T. John Lesinski; Gerald R. Ford; James H. Lincoln; Zoltan Ferency; Bill Moyers; Martha Griffith; Mrs. Esther Peterson; Robert C. Grosvenor; Walter Reuther; James Hare; George Romney; Philip A. Hart; Dorothy Roosevelt; W. A. Harriman; Theodore Sachs; Albert E. Heustis; August Scholle; Clarence Hilberry; Neil Staebler; Ira Kaufman; Robert E. Waldron; William R. Keast; G. Mennen Williams.

Also, innumerable letters to their congressman, from Michigan citizens.

Special Note: Some papers and correspondence of 44 other representatives and former representatives are included in the Kowalski Collection. They are mainly committee papers and notes, and correspondence between them and their constituents. Those whose papers are included are: Representatives and former Representatives Francis Beedon, William A. Boos, James Bradley, Arthur Cartwright, James Constantini, William Copeland, James Del Rio, George H. Edwards, Daisy Elliott, Einar Erlandsen, E. A. Fitzpatrick, John J. Fitzpatrick, Joseph A. Gillis, Richard Guzowski, Russell Hellman, David S. Holmes, Albert E. Horrigan, Bill Huffman, Josephine Hunsinger, Walter Hyso, D. J. Jacobetti, James Karoub, Arthur Law, Lucille McCollough, Joseph S. Mack, Frank Mahoney, Robert Mahoney, Louis Mezzano, Edward Michalski, George F. Montgomery, E. D. O'Brien, Michael J. O'Brien, John Penczak, Alexander Petri, William Romano, Joseph Snyder, Adam Sumeracki, William Thorne, Roger Townsend, Gilbert Wales, Leonard Walton, Daniel West, Chester Wosniak, and Maxcine young. Papers of Douglas Cook, administrative assistant, are also included. Most of these papers are from the year 1963.

Description of Contents: Box 1. A to Appointments and Meetings, April, 1965. Box 2. Appointments and Meetings, 1965 to Attorney General, Opinions, 1965-1966. Box 3. Attorney General, Opinions, 1966 to C Box 4. Capitol Development to Committees, 1966-1967. Box 5. Committee Reports to Cook, Douglas, 1964. Box 6. Copeland, William, Rep. to Dental Survey Box 7. Detroit to Education - Project II, 1967. Box 8. Education, Public, 1964-1966 to Extra Session, 1965 Box 9. F to Hellman, Russell, Rep. Box 10. Highway Department, 1958; 1963-1965 to Horrigan, Albert, Rep., May-Dec, 1963 Box 11. Hospitals to Interim Committees, Studies, Reports, 1965 Box 12. Interim Committees, Reports, resolutions, 1965 to Kowalski, Misc., 1964 Box 13. Kowalski, Misc., 1965 to Labor, Minimum Wage, 1963-1964 Box 14. Labor, Misc. to Legislature, Members, Lists, 1964-1966 Box 15. Legislature, 1967 to Meat Inspection Box 16. Memoranda, Speaker, 1965 to Michalski, Edward, Rep. Box 17. Michigan State Police to News Releases, Senate Democratic Box 18. News Releases, Speaker, Jan.-June, 1965 to Optometry Box 19. Organization of House, 1964 to Penczak, John J., Rep. Box 20. Peterson, Mrs. Esther to Politics, Republicans, 1965-1966 Box 21. Pollution to Proposed Legislation, 1966 Box 22. Proposed Legislation, 1967 to Resolutions Box 23. Retirement, State Employees to Salary Increase Protests, 1966 Box 24. Secretary of State to Students, State Scholarships Box 25. Sumeracki, Adam to Telegrams, Misc. Box 26. Thorne, William, Rep. to Veterans, February 1966-June 1966 Box 27. W to Z and Misc. Unsorted Invitations and Misc. Unsorted Legislators' Notes


  • 1958 - 1967
  • Majority of material found within 1965 - 1966


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


Joseph J. Kowalski, Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives in 1965 and 1966, was responsible for the introduction of many important liberal reforms in the state. Born February 19, 1911, in East Chicago, Indiana, he was the son of a Gary steel worker.

He graduated from Valparaiso University, with an LL.B. degree. He entered labor in 1936 as an organizer in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. In 1941 he was hired by August Scholle, state CIO president, to establish a workers' education program. He worked as a staff representative for the UAW, serving as director of the Workers Service Program of Michigan. He was educational consultant for the Michigan CIO Council, 1942-46; and served on the advisory committee on workers' education to the U. S. Secretary of Labor, on the advisory committee of the American Labor Education Service, and as international representative of UAW-CIO.

Kowalski was elected to the House of Representatives in 1948, and was returned each election after. His was the 19th district, of Wayne County. He was Democratic Floor Leader for six years. After the 1964 election the Democrats controlled the House for the first time since 1938. They elected Kowalski Speaker on December 4, 1964. For the two years he was Speaker, there were many changes in the Michigan political situation, as the new Constitution was implemented and reapportionment worked out. He lost the speakership when the 1967 session opened, and then became Democratic Leader of the House. He died at the age of 56, on March 18, 1967.


13.5 Linear Feet (27 MB)


As speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, Mr. Kowalski was responsible for the introduction of many liberal reforms in the state. Formerly a lawyer and union organizer, he directed UAW educational programs before his election as a representative of the Nineteenth district, Wayne County, in 1948. Papers and correspondence of 1965 and 1966 are most comprehensive on caucus and committee meetings, minutes and proposals, court reorganization, Democratic Party affairs, civil rights, civil service, liquor control, insurance problems, prisons and jails, reapportionment, aid to parochial schools, and many other state problems. Correspondents include Richard Austin, John D. Dingell, Gerald R. Ford, Zoltan Ferency, Martha Griffiths, James Hare, Philip Hart, Clarence Hilberry, William R. Keast, James H. Lincoln, Walter Reuther, George Romney, August Scholle, Neil Staebler, Robert E. Waldron, and G. Mennen Williams.


Because of the heterogeneous nature of this collection, with its inclusion of some extraneous papers and because of the scope of subject matter, the original alphabetical filing system was retained, with letters from constituents scattered throughout, filed as most of them were, along with the subjects about which they were concerned. This puts an emphasis on the power of constituent opinion, which may not be misplaced. The concern which Joseph Kowalski felt for the ideas and opinions of the people, is evident in the collection. Some knowledge of the committee system and the departments in state government would be useful in any research.


The papers of Joseph J. Kowalski were deposited with the Labor History Archives in October, 1967, by Mrs. Joseph J. Kowalski.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by [Walter P. Reuther Library] on [Month Day, Year].
Guide to the Joseph J. Kowalski Papers
Processed by DM.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA