The Catholic University of America

March 30, 2009

CUA Archives Papers of America's 'Labor Priest'

Monsignor George G. Higgins

For more than 20 years, staff members in Catholic University's Archives have been organizing a collection of papers, photographs, memorabilia and audiovisual materials related to the late Monsignor George G. Higgins, a CUA alumnus, former faculty member and a champion of human and workers' rights.

On March 17, the Archives staff posted an online finding aid for Higgins' items archived at the university. The finding aid lists most of the items found in 480 boxes that include correspondence, reports, speeches, reference files, publications and photographs dating from the 1940s to 2000s.

"The online finding aid, or inventory, for the papers of Monsignor George Gilmary Higgins will serve as the primary access point for scholars, students, labor activists, and others seeking documentation on the life and work of America's 'labor priest,'" says John Shepherd, CUA's associate archivist and supervisor of the project.

An online exhibit titled "Laboring for Justice: Celebrating the Life and Career of Presidential Medal of Freedom Honoree Monsignor George G. Higgins and his Lifetime of Service to the Cause of Workers' Rights" can also be found on the Archives' Web site.

Monsignor Higgins earned his master's and doctoral degrees from CUA in 1942 and 1944. He was known for his involvement in human rights and economic justice. He was involved in the Bishops' Committee on Farm Labor and United Auto Workers of America and was a member of the Board of the Martin Luther King Jr. Fund of the United Farm Workers. In 2000, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. He passed away in 2002.

The early donations of Higgins' materials came to CUA in the 1980s. Anthony Zito, then the university's archivist, began organizing the materials. After Zito's departure, and with the donation of more of Higgins' writings, the process continued under the direction of John Shepherd, with the assistance of former CUA archivist Jordan Patty, CUA Graduate Library Preprofessional Program student Eben Dennis and numerous other staff, students and volunteers.