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Leonard Woodcock Papers

 Collection
Identifier: LP001053
The Leonard Woodcock Papers primarily cover his time spent in China and his various East Asian-related activities. The earliest of these materials document his efforts working for the US government, first leading a commission in Vietnam, then as Chief of the US Liaisons Office in China, and finally as the first American ambassador to the PRC. These records consist of many official government documents, but they also encompass Woodcock’s personal notes, photographs, and mementos he kept. Records from additional visits made to China in the following years, usually to lecture on Sino-American relations, are the last of the materials from his time spent in Asia. Other records reflect Woodcock’s later career as a renowned Sinologist, teaching courses at the University of Michigan and guest lecturing around the nation. Besides Woodcock’s China records, other sections in the papers include materials from his time as president of the UAW, general correspondence, his years on the Board of Governors at Wayne State University, his efforts for the Democratic Party, and business affiliations from the 1980s.

The donor has included annotations to the materials for greater context and information. Accompanying notes found in the collection, including typed-out versions of handwritten materials and transcripts of audiocassettes, can be attributed to her.

Complementing the manuscript materials on Woodcock's diplomatic career in China are 37 oral history interviews on this topic conducted between him and fellow Sinologist Michel Oksenberg.
For the 1981-1982 Woodcock-Oksenberg oral history interviews: The oral histories consist of transcripts and audio recordings of the 37 interviews. Michel Oksenberg (also known as Michael Oksenberg), a China expert and former senior National Security staffer under the Carter Administration, conducted a series of interviews with Leonard Woodcock between October 1981 and July 1982, focusing on Woodcock's time as ambassador to China. The two of them went through their datebooks and chronicled the events in Beijing and Washington, DC, everyday during their tenures in their positions. Some of the interviews extend to multiple tapes.
Important Subjects:

United States. Embassy (China); United States--Relations--China Normalization; Beijing (China); Yangtze River (China); Hong Kong (China); Shanghai (China); China; United States; Vietnam; Brunei; Japan; University of Michigan. Center for Political Studies; Wayne State University; Ambassadors--United States--Biography; Most Favored Nation Status; POW/MIA mission; Black Lake Conference Center (Onaway, Mich.); International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America. President

Important Names:

Blanchard, James J., 1942-; Bluestone, Irving; Brzezinski, Zbigniew, 1928-; Carter, James Earl, Jr., 1924-; Chai, Zemin, 1916-; Deng, Xiaoping, 1904-1997; Fraser, Douglas, 1956-2008; Jiang, Zemin, 1926-; Kennedy, Edward M. (Edward Moore), 1932-2009; Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963; Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968; Kissinger, Henry, 1923-; Mondale, Walter F., 1928-; Reuther, Walter, 1907-1970; Trudeau, G.B., 1948- Doonesbury; Tyler, Patrick; Woodcock, Sharon; Zhao, Ziyang
Series Description: Series 1: Trips and Missions to China, 1977-1999 This series consists of materials related to trips Leonard Woodcock made to the People’s Republic of China and neighboring nations for diplomatic, business, and personal purposes. A variety of record types are included, notably correspondence, personal notes, embassy records, ephemera from dinner banquets, reports from the State Department, souvenirs from trips around China, news articles Woodcock kept for personal reference, and much more. The major subjects covered in the collection are Woodcock’s initial diplomatic mission to release POW’s in Vietnam, his time spent as Chief of the US Liaison Office in China, his ambassadorship to the PRC, negotiations over normalization, hosting visiting dignitaries, and attendance of conferences and special events held in China.

Series 2: Special Events and Honors, 1968-2008 Over the years, Leonard Woodcock was invited to share his expertise on both Sino-American relations and the labor movement, receiving numerous recognitions for his contributions to both fields. The Special Events and Honors series documents these official functions, specifically ones Woodcock took part in outside of China. Typical events Woodcock took part in included accompanying Chinese heads-of-state during visits to America (notably Deng Xiaoping), receiving honorary degrees from dozens of American institutes of higher education, and special lectures and panel discussions at conferences. Also of note are materials from special events and celebrations honoring Woodcock for his charitable contributions and years of service to the state and the UAW.

Series 3: Correspondence, 1977-2001 The Correspondence comes from Woodcock's general correspondence files. Unlike correspondence related to specific subjects found in other series, these materials cover a broader and more personal range of topics.

Series 4: Personal Materials, 1911-2001 The Personal Materials series encompasses a variety of materials from Leonard Woodcock’s personal and everyday life. Notable sections include vital records from throughout his life, personal reference materials regarding China, materials for his memorial service, appointment books from the 1950s and 1960s, and transcripts of oral histories he made.

Series 5: Professional Career, 1969-1999 Three subseries make up the Professional Career series. The subseries consist of materials from Woodcock’s time as an executive for the UAW, his teaching materials from his career as an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan, and other business affiliations of his.

Subseries A: United Auto Workers, 1969-1999 The UAW subseries involves materials from Woodcock’s time spent serving in the upper echelons of the union in the 1960s to his continued involvement years after retirement. Materials documenting several high-profile events are included in the series, such as the UAW’s fiftieth anniversary celebration, the creation and promotion of the UAW’s Black Lake Center, and Woodcock’s retirement tribute in 1977. Record types found in the collection range from correspondence, event programs, promotional pamphlets, newspaper clippings, to commemorative scrapbooks.

Subseries B: Teaching Materials, 1981-1998 Woodcock’s various teaching materials from time spent as an adjunct professor of political science at the University of Michigan comprise the largest part of this subseries. These files include his personal lecture notes, a map of China to hang in class, syllabi, and news articles he kept for reference. His courses covered modern Chinese politics and history. Records for other teaching opportunities he participated in, such as guest lectures for other courses and a class he taught senior citizens, make up the rest of the teaching materials.

Subseries C: Affiliations, 1983-1990 Woodcock participated in several significant business ventures in the 1980s, and this subseries documents the several corporations he was affiliated with. Record types include his personal notes, promotional materials for the general public, internal memos, general accounting information, and some correspondence.

Series 6: Audiovisual, Oversize, and Commemorative Materials, 1940s-1995 Contains photographic prints, slides, audiocassette tapes, large items, and commemorative objects, stored separately due to preservation and size constraints. The bulk of these records are photographic items from time spent in China and photographic prints from various UAW events Woodcock participated in as Vice-President and President. The rest of the materials encompass large items and memorabilia, including posters, photographic portraits, political buttons, and other miscellaneous items. Several photographs with personal messages from American presidents and other prominent figures were removed and taken to the vault, with photocopies taking their place in the collection.

Dates

  • 1911 - 2008
  • Majority of material found within 1972 - 1993

Creator

Language of Materials

Material is mostly in English, with some Chinese.

Access

Collection is open for research, with the exception of closed correspondence in Box 30 and in President Nixon's enemies list materials in Box 34. Permission of donor is required to view box 30, folders 4-24 and box 34, folder 1. Items in the vault are available at the discretion of the archives.

Use

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.
Due to the personal nature of oral history, the Library prohibits use of the material in any way that infringes on individual right to privacy, or results in libelous statements or slander, in accordance with U.S. law.

Extent

38.5 Linear Feet ((66 MB, 5 OS). ) : Includes 78 audiocassettes and 37 printed transcripts.

46.05 Megabytes ((138 files). ) : Includes WAVs and MP3s.

Abstract

Leonard Woodcock was a longtime labor figure who rose to the level of President of the UAW in 1970 and held the position until 1977. He then embarked on a renowned diplomatic career, first leading a mission to recover POW's and remains of those missing in action in Vietnam in 1977, and then serving as Chief of the US Liaison Office to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). While in China, he negotiated with PRC leaders to establish full diplomatic relations between China and the US, officially achieved in late 1978. President Carter appointed Woodcock as the nation’s first ambassador to the PRC in 1979. After leaving the State Department, Woodcock would become a professor at the University of Michigan and was invited around the world to lecture on Sino-American relations and the labor movement.

The Leonard Woodcock Papers primarily cover the subject’s time spent in China and his various China-related activities. The earliest of these materials document his efforts working for the US government in Beijing, though also included are records related to visits made to China in the following years to speak on Sino-American relations. Other records reflect Woodcock’s later career as a renowned Sinologist, teaching courses at the University of Michigan and guest lecturing around the nation. Besides Woodcock’s time in China, other topics included are materials from his time as president of the UAW, general correspondence, and serving on the Board of Governors at Wayne State University. Complementing the manuscript materials on Woodcock's diplomatic career in China are 37 oral history interviews on this topic conducted between him and fellow Sinologist Michel Oksenberg.

History

Leonard Freel Woodcock (1911-2001) was an iconic union leader and international diplomat, most notably serving as President of the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the first American ambassador to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Woodcock’s family moved to Germany and then England before eventually settling in Detroit, Michigan in 1926. He attended secondary school in the United Kingdom but began university in the States, enrolling at Wayne State University (then called Detroit City College).

Dropping out of college due to the economic struggles of the Great Depression in 1933, Woodcock became a machine assembler at the Detroit Gear and Machine Division of Borg-Warner Corporation. This led to the beginning of his active career with the labor movement, where he helped form the AFL Federal Labor Union at his workplace. The AFL Federal Labor Union developed into a section of the UAW, and Woodcock would eventually go to work for the union as an administrative assistant for International President Walter P. Reuther in 1946.

Woodcock rose in prominence at the UAW, becoming a member of the International Executive Board as Regional Director of Western and Northern Michigan in 1947 and serving as International Vice-President of the UAW from 1955-1970. Other positions he held at that time within the UAW included leading the Agricultural Implement Department, Aerospace Department, and the General Motors Department. After the passing of Reuther in 1970, Woodcock was elected as the President by the executive board of the UAW. He was re-elected as President in 1972 and 1974 before he finally retired from the position in May 1977. He was designated as International President Emeritus that same year.

Woodcock began his career in international relations traveling the world as President of the World Automotive Council of the International Metal Workers’ Federation from 1970 to 1977. President Jimmy Carter then chose Woodcock to head a Presidential Commission to Hanoi regarding American soldiers missing in action. This led to his appointment as Chief of the US Liaison Office to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in July 1977. During his tenure, Woodcock led negotiations with the PRC to establish for the first time full normalization of diplomatic relations between the two governments. Normalization was achieved between Woodcock and Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping on December 15, 1978. When it came time to appoint the first American ambassador to the PRC, President Carter again turned to Leonard Woodcock. He officially became ambassador after Senate approval in February of 1979. He held the position until 1981.

Other notable accomplishments and positions held by Woodcock include Chairman of the Board of Governors of Wayne State University, member of the Executive and Central Committees for the International Metalworkers’ Federation, and professor of political science at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He is the recipient of 17 honorary degrees from American universities and colleges.

Leonard Woodcock had three children with Loula Martin, whom he married in 1941. They eventually divorced and he later remarried Sharon Tuohy in 1978, an American nurse he met while serving in China. Woodcock passed away on January 16, 2001, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
1911: Born in Providence, RI. Family soon moves to Europe. 1927: Family moves to Detroit. Woodcock attends Detroit City College, now Wayne State University. 1933: Drops out of school due to the Great Depression and begins work at the Borg-Warner Corporation’s Detroit Gear and Machine Division. 1940: Becomes UAW staff member. 1941: Marries Loula Martin, having three children with her. They later divorce. 1946: Becomes UAW president Walter P. Reuther’s administrative assistant, resigning a year later to become a regional director in the organization. 1955: Becomes International Vice President of the UAW. 1959-1972: Elected to the Wayne State University’s Board of Governors. Elected Chairman five times. 1962: Appointed by President Kennedy to the Organizing Board of the Communications Satellite Program. May 1970: Following Reuther’s death, Woodcock is elected president of the UAW. 1970: Woodcock leads 67-day strike against General Motors, personally directing negotiations. 1970-1977: Member of the International Metalworkers’ Federation’s Executive and Central Committees. 1977: Retires from UAW presidency. March 1977: Travels to Hanoi at the request of President Carter to discuss the release of Americans missing in action and prisoners of war. March 1977: Appointed by President Carter to go serve in China as Chief of the United States Liaison Office. Later designated as principle negotiator to normalize diplomatic relations between the US and PRC. 1978: Meets Sharon Tuohy in China, and the two soon marry. July 1978: Begins secret negotiations with Chinese leadership towards normalization of diplomatic relations. This leads to meetings with Deng Xiaoping, then the effective head of state in China. January 1979: After normalization officially achieved in late 1978, Woodcock appointed as first American ambassador to the PRC. February 1981: Woodcock resigns as ambassador. 1981: Becomes adjunct professor of political science at the University of Michigan. 1980s-1990s: Woodcock travels the world lecturing and discussing matters of China, international relations, and labor issues. 1991: The Leonard Woodcock Wing of the Walter P. Reuther Library opens at Wayne State University. 2001: Passes away in Ann Arbor, MI.

Arrangement

The donor personally pre-arranged the collection, scanning and grouping similar materials together by subject matter. Aside from placing materials by series or subseries, materials are ordered and described according to the donor's provisional arrangement.

The collection is arranged into six series. Series 5 is divided into three subseries.

Series 1: Trips and Missions to China, 1977-1999 (Boxes 1-16) The series is arranged by either record type or subject, with chronological order loosely followed for the secondary arrangement.

Series 2: Special Events and Honors, 1968-2008 (Boxes 17-24) The series is arranged chronologically by the dates the events took place.

Series 3: Correspondence, 1977-2001 (Boxes 25-30) The series is arranged alphabetically by the name of the individual or organization listed in the folder heading. In addition, the restricted files are grouped together and then arranged chronologically.

Series 4: Personal Materials, 1911-2001 (Boxes 31-49) The series is arranged by either record type or subject, with chronological order followed for the secondary arrangement.

Series 5: Professional Career, 1969-1999 (Boxes 45-46) The series is divided into three subseries.

Subseries A: United Auto Workers, 1969-1999 (Boxes 45-46) The subseries is arranged chronologically.

Subseries B: Teaching Materials, 1981-1998 (Boxes 47-48) The subseries is arranged by either record type or subject/name of lectures.

Subseries C: Affiliations, 1983-1990 (Box 49) The subseries is arranged by company/program name.



Series 6: Audiovisual and Oversize Materials, 1940s-1995 (Boxes 50-70) The series is arranged by record type, with a secondary arrangement of grouping materials by subject. Finally, a tertiary arrangement of ordering the files chronologically within their respective subjects is employed. Oversize items are arranged by size in their box.
For the Woodcock-Oksenberg oral history materials: audiocassettes are arranged chronologically by interview date in Boxes 67-69. Transcripts are also arranged chronologically, within the "Woodcock-Oksenberg interivew" section of Boxes 34-35.

Acquisition

The Leonard Woodcock Papers were donated to the Walter P. Reuther Library by Sharon Woodcock in several accessions from August 2003 to April 2014.

Other Copies

Portions of the collection have been digitized as AIFFs, TIFFs, PDFs, and Word documents. Duplicate audiocassette recordings of the Woodcock-Oksenberg oral history interviews can be found in Box 72. The Woodcock-Oksenberg oral history interviews have been digitized and are available as MP3s and WAVs.

Related Materials

UAW President’s Office: Leonard Woodcock Records, UAW Vice-President’s Office: Leonard Woodcock Records

Transfers

Materials from Series 6 including slides and negatives (Boxes 64-66), audiotapes (Boxes 67-69) and photographic prints were transferred to the Reuther's Audiovisual Department.
Originals of the following items have been moved to the vault (Box 71) and photocopies left in corresponding boxes: Letters of condolence from Gerald Ford, Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger (Box 31); oversize photographs each signed by Robert Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter (Box 56); letters from Ronald Reagan (Box 9), Walter Mondale (Box 27), Henry Kissinger (Box 26), Ted Kennedy (Box 26), Bill Clinton (Box 28), Jimmy Carter (Box 25), and George H.W. Bush (Box 25). A single photograph of Jimmy Carter, Leonard and Sharon Woodcock, signed by Carter (Box 55).

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Gavin Strassel on April 1, 2014.
Oral history materials processed and finding aid revised by Rebecca Bizonet on July 20, 2016.

Creator

Title
Guide to the Leonard Woodcock Papers
Status
completed
Author
Processed by Gavin Strassel.
Date
2014-04-01
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Sponsor
Description made possible by funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Revision Statements

  • 2016-09-29: Corrections per donor Sharon Woodcock made by Alexandra A. A. Orchard.
  • 2016-07-20: Oral history information added and expanded by Rebecca Bizonet.

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

Contact:
5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA