Staff Secretary's Office


Materials accumulated by the Special Files Unit on President Ford's preparations for his debates with Jimmy Carter, his review of federal agency budget requests, and selected issues considered sensitive.

4.8 linear feet (ca. 9,600 pages)

Gerald R. Ford (accession numbers 77-102 and 78-69)

Open. Some items are temporarily restricted under terms of the donor's deed of gift, a copy of which is available on request, or under National Archives and Records Administration general restrictions (36 CFR 1256).

Gerald Ford has donated to the United States of America his copyrights in all of his unpublished writings in National Archives collections. The copyrights to materials written by other individuals or organizations are presumed to remain with them. Works prepared by U.S. Government employees as part of their official duties are in the public domain.

Prepared by Paul Conway, May 1984
[s:\bin\findaid\white house special files unit.doc]


These files of the Special Files Unit consist of miscellaneous items accumulated by Gertrude B. Fry on President Ford's preparations for his debates with Jimmy Carter, his review of federal agency budget requests, and selected issues considered sensitive by Fry. Also included is a small file on the administration of the Special Files Unit. The Presidential Handwriting File and other files of the Office of Staff Secretary, originally maintained in the Special Files, are separate collections and not included here.

Functions of the Special Files Unit
Nixon assistant John Dean established the Special Files Unit in September 1972 and appointed Trudy Fry as supervisor. Dean expected the Special Files to be secure storage area for politically and administratively sensitive files, including retired files of senior level staff, the core of an eventual presidential library, and an aide to President Nixon in writing his memoirs.

While the Nixon administration Special Files Unit functioned as a high level storage facility, it fell far short of this goal in the Ford administration. Instead of retaining senior staff files and the most significant papers handled by President Ford, Fry and her assistant Hazel Fulton spent much of the fall 1974 reviewing the files of departing Nixon staff, providing secure storage for Nixon papers and tapes, and searching Nixon files in response to subpoenas. Throughout the Ford administration, Fry logged material from the President's outbox, retaining many items containing presidential handwriting or initials (the Presidential Handwriting File) or items considered by Fry to be sensitive. Until June 1975, she also maintained the staff secretary office files, presidential confidential chronological files, and the appointment forms of the Executive Protective Service, the gatekeepers of the White House.

In mid­1975, the White House Central Files (WHCF) was given greater authority for storing presidential papers, limiting Fry's duties to the President's outbox and the Presidential Handwriting File. This reorganization did not result in a more concentrated file of presidential handwriting.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Files
The files of the Special Files Unit consist of bulky or detained files on selected issues that Trudy Fry considered sensitive or wanted to "keep together" for possible quick retrieval. Sensitive information, vaguely defined and subjectively interpreted by Fry, may have included briefing papers with "restricted talking points, information prepared exclusively for the President, or politically sensitive material," among other criteria.

Of particular value are the extensive debate briefing materials given to the President by Michael Raoul­Duval and other senior advisers. Many items were extensively annotated by Ford in detailed preparation for his three debates. Also of interest are budget decision books, many containing the President's line­item changes in agency program requests of personnel levels. The highly selective collection of issue decision papers, some of which were never forwarded to the President, largely document White House staff differences of opinion or the way the staff handled suddenly urgent issues. The small administrative file clearly documents the extent to which the Special Files Unit administered high level presidential papers.

Related Materials (May 1984)
The Special Files debate files complement similar materials available in the Michael Raoul­Duval Papers, the Raoul­Duval Files, and in the White House Central Files (PL 7). Collections containing material on the 1976 presidential campaign are described in the Ford Library handout " The 1976 Presidential Election: A Guide to the Manuscript Collections Available for Research."

The Ford Library has available sometimes extensive materials related to the issue decision papers and budget review papers filed here. See especially the files of the Domestic Council staff and the Office of Economic Adviser (L. William Seidman).

While much of the Presidential Handwriting File is not yet available for research, the handwriting items dated before mid­June 1975 are available in the WHCF via cross references in categories PR 5­2, RS 3, and other appropriate subject headings.


Ford ­ Carter Debates Files, 1974-76. (Boxes 1-3, 1.2 linear feet)
Briefing papers on potential debate issues, flash cards containing concise response suggestions, memoranda from advisers, notes by the President, and others materials given to Ford in preparation for his three debates with Jimmy Carter. Most items are marked with the stamp "The President Has Seen..." and many contain marginalia and underlinings in Ford's hand.

Arranged by debate and thereunder by subject.

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Issue Decision Papers for the President, 1974-77. (Boxes 4-7, 1.6 linear feet)
Decision memoranda with supporting White House staff comments and background reports on eleven selected issues considered by Trudy Fry to be politically or administratively sensitive. A judicially restricted videotape of Ford's testimony in the case against Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme was part of this file, but it has been transferred to the Library audiovisual unit. Not all of the decision memoranda filed here went to the President for action.

Arranged alphabetically by subject and thereunder chronologically.

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Budget Review Decision Papers, 1974-76. (Boxes 8-11, 1.3 linear feet)
Briefing books, each containing program funding requests and recommended OMB changes, for several large federal agencies and related small agencies. The President used these books in his annual series of meetings to make final decisions on federal budget proposals to Congress. Also included are background papers for selected agencies or issues and briefing papers for meetings to hear agency appeals. Several books contain the President's handwritten comments or pencilled changes in specific dollar amounts or personnel levels.

Arranged by fiscal year (FY) and thereunder chronologically by date of meeting.

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Special Files Administration, 1970-75. (Boxes 11-12, 0.7 linear feet)
Logs and lists of incoming materials, correspondence, memoranda, reference materials and rubber stamps used by Trudy Fry in administering the Special Files Unit of the Staff Secretary prior to its reorganization in June 1975.

Arranged by subject.

View container list for this series


The Library has digitized the bulk of this collection. Click on folder titles to view contents.

Box 1 - Ford-Carter Debates File

Box 2 -Ford-Carter Debates File

Box 3 - Ford-Carter Debates File

Box 4 -Issue Decision Papers for the President

Box 5 - Issue Decision Papers for the President

Box 6 - Issue Decision Papers for the President

Box 7 -Issue Decision Papers for the President

Box 8 - Budget Review Decision Papers

Box 9 - Budget Review Decision Papers

Box 10 - Budget Review Decision Papers

Box 11 - Budget Review Decision Papers

Box 11 (Continued) - Special Files Administration

  • Chronological File
  • Confidential File Box Lists, A­Z
  • Confidential File Oversize Attachments
  • Diebold Files Handbook
  • President Ford's Outbox ­ List of Items Received
  • President's Ford's Outbox ­ Log of Material Received
  • President Ford's Staff ­ Press Release Biographies (1)
  • President Ford's Staff ­ Press Release Biographies (2)
  • President Ford's Staff ­ Press Release Biographies (3)

Box 12 - Special Files Administration

  • Presidential Libraries (1)
  • Presidential Libraries (2)
  • Presidential Libraries (3)
  • Presidential Libraries (4)
  • Security Classification Procedures
  • Special Files ­ Boxed Files Received
  • Special Files ­ Box Log
  • Special Files ­ Classified Cases Received
  • State Department Foreign Affairs Manual (1)
  • State Department Foreign Affairs Manual (2)
  • White House Staff Memos
  • Rubber Stamps for Special Files