Society of North Carolina Archivists                 

Senator John Porter East’s Papers Now Open for Research at ECU

2 Aug 2023 21:21 | Courtney Bailey (Administrator)

Contributed by Jonathan Dembo

The Manuscripts & Digital Curation Department of J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC announces that the papers of former ECU faculty member and U. S. Senator John P. East (R-NC) are now available for research. 

Researchers may access the finding aid online at:

Researchers may select items of research interest to access through the online finding aid and may make appointments to visit the repository or obtain copies of documents in the collection through the Special Collections Division’s website at:

Senator East’s election marked a significant change in North Carolina politics and reflected changes in most of the rest of the Southeastern states.  Before he was elected to the Senate in 1980, the Democrats had held the seat since Andrew Jackson won the presidency in 1828, with only two, one-term, interruptions, in the 1840s and the 1890s.  After East won election in 1980, no Democrat has won reelection to the seat. 

The John P. East Papers (1908 – 1986, undated [bulk: 1964 – 1986]) consist of 607 archival containers and 7 oversized folders and contain over 258 cubic feet of manuscript materials.  The papers include biographical, genealogical, and historical materials relating to his life (5 May 1931 – 29 June 1986); his marriage to Priscilla Sherk East and their children; his service as an officer in the U. S. Marine Corps; his battle against poliomyelitis and the paralysis it caused; his graduate studies in political science and as a professor of Political Science at East Carolina University (1964 – 1980), including his teaching files for each of his classes, his academic and professional publications, speeches, and interviews; and also his conservative Republican political beliefs and affiliations and political career, including his several unsuccessful attempts to win political office in North Carolina (1966 – 1976), culminating in his successful campaign for and election to the United States Senate in 1980; but the bulk of the collection focuses on his service in the Senate, where he was aligned with Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) and a member of Helms' political organization, the Congressional Club; including his mailing lists, correspondence and constituent cases and projects files; his office and staff files, including files of this administrative assistants, press secretaries and legislative assistants; his political patronage and nomination files, committee and legislative activities; his voting records, newsletters, voluminous clipping files, press and public relations files, including publications, audio and video of interviews, speeches, and political events; his frequent bouts of ill health due to poliomyelitis, hyperthyroidism, urinary tract blockages, and depression, and their side effects which may have contributed to his decision not to run for reelection and his death by suicide in 1986; also including photographic prints and negatives, microfilm of committee records, correspondence, case and general files, voter registration files; and also oversized materials (1981 – 1986, undated).

For more information, please feel free to contact Prof. Jonathan Dembo, who processed and cataloged the collection.  You may reach him by email or at the address below.

Jonathan Dembo

Professor Academic Library Services

Manuscripts & Digital Curation Department

J. Y. Joyner Library, Room #4014

East Carolina University

Greenville, NC 27858-4353

Phone: (252) 328-2661


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