Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Louis M. Lyons Papers
Scope and contents of the collection
The Lyons Papers contain a selection of lectures, transcripts of broadcasts, and correspondence relating primarily to the television and radio career of the journalist Louis Martin Lyons. From the McCarthy era through the end of American involvement in Vietnam, Lyons's broadcasts covered topics ranging from local politics, personalities, and places to the major current events on the national and international scene.
The distinction between broadcasts, lectures, and articles is not always clearly marked in the collection, however the broadcasts appear almost exclusively to be associated with WGBH, while the lectures were generally delivered to universities, press organizations, and at many of his awards ceremonies. The broadcasts, the true heart of the collection, address topics ranging from New Hampshire politics to Girl Scouts and the UN, politics in Boston, John F. Kennedy's run for president, nuclear war and Cold War, international politics, the abuse of the press, McCarthyism, civil rights, John Birchers, racism, Black education, Vietnam, and the Du Bois homesite dedication. Includes some correspondence relative to the broadcasts, the deaths of Lyndon Johnson and Earl Warren, anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, television commentary, and the role of the press. Of particular note are materials relating to his emotional broadcast following the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the latter including dozens of letters from the public reacting, pro and con, to Lyons' impassioned words. Most of Lyons' earlier (McCarthy-era) broadcasts were destroyed in a fire at WGBH. Lyons' lectures cover a similar range, but are more typically focused on journalism as craft and responsibility and issues surrounding the media.
The correspondence is relatively sparse, with much of it concerning such mundane matters as arrangements for lectures. While there is no sustained correspondence with any single person, Lyons did correspond with a number of well known individuals (e.g. Archibald MacLeish, Lux Feininger, Gluyas Williams, Arthur Schlesinger, Leonard Lewin, and Felix Frankfurter), and a few letters stand out. A letter from a former MAC student, Walton D. Sproul, for example, contains a vivid description of the final hours of World War I at the front, Senegalese troops, and the first signs of peace in Germany; an emotional letter from friends Charles and Phyllis Paskauskas discusses theur mood and the mood of the nation in the wake of John F. Kennedy's death (in the Kennedy file); and a number of letters from the late 1960s and early 1970s discuss presidential politics and the raging political controversies of the day.