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Herbert G. Klein papers

Identifier: 0345

Scope and Contents

These papers document the long career of journalist, editor, and media professional, Herbert G. Klein (1918-2009). Klein's importance as a media professional lay in his appointment by Richard M. Nixon as the first Director of Communications for the Executive Branch and his long career with Southern California-based Copley Newspapers. The papers contain calendars, correspondence and memorandums, clippings, ephemera, financial documents, moving images, notes, photographs, realia, schedules, and sound recordings, 15th-17th centuries, 1932-2009, and undated, collected, created, and used by Klein and members of his staffs in the course of his daily professional and personal lives, which were often intertwined. The majority of the papers document Klein's relationship with Richard Milhous Nixon and the perception of Nixon by the media; Klein began collecting Nixon-related material from the time they met in the mid-1940s. Working variously as press secretary, special assistant, and communications director, Klein's daily business involved acting as a conduit for information between Nixon and the media, and the records contain detailed information about Nixon's relationship with the media as filtered through Klein, as well as Klein's own relationship with the media. Of particular note are:

--the daily memorandums between H.R. Haldeman and Klein;

--reports on press coverage and biases;

--information on and transcripts of the Nixon-Kennedy debate;

--notes and memorandums regarding the planning and press coverage of Nixon's trip to Russia and texts of speeches made in Russia and Poland;

--memorandums between Nixon and Klein;

--press releases issued by Klein and his staff, and other organizations working in support of Nixon;

--notes, recordings, and films for and of Klein's speaking engagements during Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign and presidency;

--campaign research subject files;

--information and public relations materials for Nixon's Key Issues Committee and its members;

--schedules for the Nixon family;

--information for press logistics, particularly at the 1968 Republican National Convention;

--political cartoons and caricatures;

--campaign ephemera;

--Klein's Cabinet, Congressional Leadership, and Saturday planning committee meeting notes;

--communications policy information;

--photographs and film that document Nixon's long political career and Klein's role in it.

As a journalist and editor with Copley Newspapers, the papers record much of Klein's journalistic and editorial output. Of note are the copies of Klein's articles, columns, and editorials, dating from the 1940s to the years just before his death; his many speaking engagements from the years immediately after his departure from the Nixon administration; information on Copley Newspapers' Borrego Springs editorial and publishers conferences; and the multiple edited copies of chapters of his 1980 memoirs, Making it Perfectly Clear. Klein also participated in many philanthropic activities, which are documented in his papers. His work with the Kiwanis and San Diego Rotary Clubs is notable, as was his involvement with the San Diego business community, the founding of an Olympic training center in San Diego, and his relationship with the University of Southern California. Much of this activity is documented through ephemera and realia, including certificates, awards, and plaques.


  • 15th-17th centuries, 1932-2009 (bulk 1960-1973)



COLLECTION STORED OFF SITE. Advance notice required for access. The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Biographical note

Herbert G. Klein (1918-2009) enjoyed a long and successful career in the fields of journalism and communications. He worked as a newspaper journalist and editor, media consultant and executive, and most famously, as the first Director of Communications for the Executive Branch under President Richard M. Nixon.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Klein graduated from the University of Southern California in 1940 with a degree in journalism. Upon graduation he joined the reporting staff of Copley Newspapers' Alhambra (California) Post-Advocate where he worked as a reporter and feature editor until 1950, with the exception of four years (1942-1946) spent in the United States Navy. His first editorial was written in support of Richard Nixon's campaign for Congress in 1946. In 1950, he joined the editorial staff of another Copley newspaper, the Evening Tribune, and in 1952 moved to the San Diego Union, where he served in a variety of editorial assignments, culminating in his appointment as editor in 1959. Amongst his many assignments during these years was covering the atomic tests held on the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Klein first met Nixon in 1946 when he was assigned by the Post-Advocate to cover the latter's campaign for Congress; before the campaign was over he had agreed to serve as Nixon's Press Agent for the remainder of the campaign. Klein went on to assist Nixon in all of his subsequent campaigns, serving as Press Agent to Nixon during the 1948 Congressional campaign (during which time he also spent three months in Washington, D.C., as correspondent for Copley Newspapers), Press Agent for Nixon's 1950 Senate campaign, California Director of Information for the 1952 Vice-Presidential campaign, and Assistant Press Secretary during the 1956 Vice-Presidential campaign. In 1959 he rejoined Vice-President Nixon's staff as Staff Advisor and Press Secretary in order to organize press activities for Nixon's trip to Russia; for that trip, he convinced the Soviet authorities to rescind both their censorship directive and limits on the number of correspondents that could travel with the Vice-President, thus allowing the Nixon party to travel with relative freedom in the Soviet Union. He remained on Nixon's staff to serve as Press Secretary for the 1960 Presidential campaign, and he served in this capacity until the end of the Eisenhower administration in 1961. He also served as Press Secretary for Nixon's 1962 California Gubernatorial campaign, and rejoined Nixon's staff in August 1968 as Manager of Communications for the 1968 Presidential campaign. Nixon appointed him the first Director of Communications for the Executive Branch, a post he occupied from January 1969 until July 1973. He returned to the White House briefly in May 1974 to help coordinate the release of the transcripts of the White House tapes to the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment inquiry.

As Director of Communications, Klein was charged with bridging the "credibility gap" that was perceived to exist between the White House and the American public. His duties included coordinating all public relations activities of the Executive Branch, and to provide a free flow of information between the White House and the press. As such, he worked with the President, Cabinet, and senior members of the White House staff in public relations activities for all aspects of Administration policies and activities. Often called "the press man's press secretary," Klein enjoyed collegial and friendly relationships with members of the media and developed a reputation for straightforwardness; conversely, his relationships with other members of Nixon's staff, namely H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and Chuck Colson, were not so cordial. In an interview with the New York Times in 1974, Klein stated that there was a basic difference in philosophy between Nixon and himself when it came to dealing with the press. Nixon advocated a hard line; Klein did not. As a result of this difference of opinion, and despite his sweeping responsibilities, Klein was soon overshadowed by other members of the administration, including Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler. In interviews, Klein admitted that he would have left the administration earlier than July 1973, but did not want to give the impression that his departure was in any way connected with the deepening Watergate scandal. However, in his 1980 memoirs, Making it Perfectly Clear, Klein stated that he quit after being told his staff was to be cut in half and he would report to Mr. Ziegler.

Klein was instrumental in ensuring that the news flowing from the Nixon administration was not limited to interpretations by the White House press corps. He organized regional editorial backgrounders, or information sessions, for journalists and editors across the country. He traveled to Vietnam and Cambodia in 1970 as part of a Presidential fact-finding mission on the status of military operations in Vietnam. He was instrumental in implementing the newly-enacted Freedom of Information Act, serving as a conduit between the administration and the news media on many FOIA requests.

As a journalist, Klein enjoyed a long and successful career. With the exception of leaves of absence to work on Nixon's campaigns, Klein worked, from 1950-1968, as an editorial writer, editorial page director, associate editor, executive editor, and Editor (1959-1968) of various Copley Newspaper publications. After his resignation from the Office of Communications, Klein joined the staff of Metromedia, Inc., as Vice President for Corporate Relations (1973-1977). From 1977 to 1980 he worked as an independent media consultant in Los Angeles, and finally, from 1980 until his retirement in 2003, as Editor-in-Chief of the Copley Press. His 1980 memoirs detail his time spent with Nixon and the love-hate relationship between the media and the White House. Among his many journalistic achievements was service as a juror for the 1968 Pulitzer Prize in Journalism, member of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (1966-1968), active member of the National Editorial Writers' Association, the Associated Press Managing Editors' Organization, and United Press International Editors. He was an active officer of Sigma Delta Chi, the national journalism society.

Klein was also actively involved in public service and philanthropic pursuits. He served, at the invitation of Governor Ronald Reagan, on the Commission of the Californias beginning in 1967. He was a Life Trustee of the University of Southern California and an active alumnus (he was a recipient of the University's Distinguished Achievement award in 1969 and an honorary doctorate in 2006, and served as president of the General Alumni Association). He was a trustee of the UC San Diego Foundation, a member of the director's cabinet of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and a trustee of the Scripps Foundation for Medicine and Science. He was an officer of the American Legion, president of the Alhambra Junior Chamber of Commerce, member of the San Diego chapter of the American Red Cross, Kiwanis Club, and Rotary, and in 1971 received the Greater Los Angeles Headliner of the Year award. He was also on the board of the National Presbyterian Church. After his retirement from Copley Newspapers, he continued to write articles and grant interviews about the state of American politics and the media and hosted a local weekly current events television program on San Diego's KUSI until the day before his death.


293.66 Linear Feet (257 boxes, 1 flat file drawer)

Language of Materials



The Herbert G. Klein papers contain detailed records of the day to day activities of Herbert G. Klein, University of Southern California alumnus and trustee, journalist, editor and first White House Director of Communications. Included are records from all phases of Klein's long career: his early career as a journalist with Copley Newspapers in Alhambra and San Diego; his work with Richard Nixon, beginning with the Vice Presidential campaign of 1956; and his subsequent career as a media professional and author.


The collection is organized into eight series:

1. Richard Nixon's early political career

2. Richard Nixon's 1962 gubernatorial campaign and election

3. Richard Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign and election

4. Richard Nixon as president-elect

5. Richard Nixon's presidency

6. Herbert G. Klein's career in journalism and communications

7. Herbert G. Klein's work in public and community service

8. Herbert G. Klein personal material

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

The collection contains audio (reel to reel and cassette) tapes, video tapes, and film. Appropriate equipment is required to listen to/view these materials.


Gift of Klein family, 2008.

Related materials

See the Herbert G. Klein materials housed in the Nixon Presidential Library, Yorba Linda, California,

Materials created by Klein and his office staff can also be found in White House Staff Member and Office Files (Nixon Administration), 01/20/1969 - 08/09/1974, National Archives, College Park, Maryland.

Klein, Herbert G., Making it perfectly clear (NY: Doubleday, 1980).

Separated Materials

Klein's papers contained many published works, most of which have been separated from the papers and cataloged individually.

Processing Information

The collection was originally arranged somewhat haphazardly. The collection's overall original order was difficult to ascertain, as boxes were generally labeled with somewhat cryptic notations (e.g., Miscellaneous; File cabinet #1; 1968 Campaign; Media; etc.). An initial order based on the dates of materials in individual boxes (which tended to be consistent) and general subject matter was imposed in order to set processing priorities. The collection was processed in general chronological order, and where possible, Klein's original file order has been maintained, but an intellectual order has been imposed as well--material has been intellectually arranged in this finding aid to represent the various phases of Klein's long career, and to reflect the different kinds of materials produced and collected and the purposes to which those materials were originally put. Klein's filing system was also idiosyncratic; he filed documents either chronologically (and sometimes in reverse) or alphabetically, and interfiled correspondence with other kinds of documents, including clippings, press releases, and publications of various kinds. He also interfiled personal and non-Nixon business materials with materials produced while working for Nixon, and this material has been intellectually separated. Also included in the collection are some of the files created and maintained by various members of Klein's Nixon-era staff--Susie Low, Margita White, Ginger Savelle, Tina Burkheit and Jeni Brown--as well as book research materials culled and collected by Klein's research assistant Tom Searson. These materials both complement and duplicate material found elsewhere in the collection. In addition, many of the original boxes contained a lot of loose (i.e., unfiled) material upon which a physical and intellectual order was imposed. Processing was undertaken by Sue Luftschein from November 2009 to June 2010.

Finding Aid for the Herbert G. Klein papers
Sue Luftschein
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States