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John G. Ramsay Papers

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John G. Ramsay:

A Guide to His Papers at Georgia State University Library

Georgia State University
Georgia State University
Special Collections and Archives
100 Decatur St., SE
Atlanta, GA 30303-3202
Fax: 404-413-2881

June 2001

Profile Description

Creation: Text converted and initial EAD tagging provided by Apex Data Services, June 2001.
Language: English

Collection Summary

Repository: Georgia State University Library, Special Collections and Archives, Atlanta
Creator: Ramsay, John, 1902-
Title: John G. Ramsay Papers
Dates: 1928-1979
Quantity: 15 linear feet
Abstract:John Gates Ramsay, born 1902, was a steelworker early in his career, serving as a vice-president and president of local unions. He joined the new Steel Workers Organizing Committee of the CIO in 1936. From 1940 he was a member of the organizing staff of the USWA, serving in their Southern organizing drive in 1946-1953. He then worked in the national CIO office in Washington. Ramsay's unique emphasis was to develop contacts with religious leaders and groups that might be useful in the labor organizing drives. With the CIO's merger with the AFL in 1955, Ramsay moved to the Washington office of the Steelworkers, retiring in 1964. The John G. Ramsay papers, 1928-1979, include labor-related and personal files. The bulk of the Papers concern Ramsay's community relations work for the CIO during its "Operation Dixie" organizing campaign in the South from 1946 to 1953.
Identification: L1980-05

Scope and Content of the Papers

The Papers, 1928-1979, of John Gates Ramsay include labor-related and personal files. The Papers are composed of six series of files: Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), 1939-1955; American Federation of Labor-CIO (AFL-CIO), 1955-1967, 1979; Community Relations Departments, CIO, AFL CIO, and United Steelworkers of America (USWA), 1936-1964, 1974; various international unions, 1937-1969, 1977; the National Religion and Labor Council of America (NRLCA), 1942-1971, 1978; and personal papers, 1928-1979. Each series is predominantly correspondence, with related newspaper clippings, programs, leaflets, reports, minutes, or financial documents attached. The Community Relations Departments series also contains a large sub-series identified by subject.

The bulk of the Papers concern Ramsay's community relations work for the CIO during its "Operation Dixie" organizing campaign in the South from 1946 to 1953. Ramsay's unique emphasis was to develop contacts with religious leaders and groups that might be useful in the labor organizing drives. His usual technique was to establish "Religion and Labor Fellowship" groups in localities where labor organizing efforts were being mounted. Lucy Randolph Mason, who was on the CIO staff as a Public Relations Representative in the South, assisted Ramsay in establishing many of these discussion groups. Prominent among Ramsay's correspondents are CIO President Philip Murray and other top CIO officers, notably John Riffe; USWA presidents Philip Murray, David McDonald, and I.W. Abel; Lucy R. Mason; Witherspoon Dodge, Clair Cook, and Willard Uphaus of the National religion and Labor Council of America, and Jesse Beder, Cameron Hall, and others of the National Council of Churches. the Community relations series contains extensive correspondence arranged chronologically and by state (thirty-four states are represented).

The Papers also reflect Ramsay's long and deep involvement with religious groups other than those with which he was related through his work. Most notably he functioned in many committees of the National Council of Churches and in several bodies of the United Presbyterian Church, including the Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations (CEMR), Presbyterian Men, and the Laymen's Movement. In conjunction with the CEMR, Ramsay in 1965 organized a program known as "Vacation With A Purpose," which recruited senior members of the USWA to use their long sabbaticals to visit industrial plants in Mexico and speak with religious leaders and laymen about the welfare of industrial workers in that country. Also in 1965, Ramsay spent three months in South Korea setting up the structure for grass roots "Committees for Industrial Evangelism." Another strong interest of Ramsay's that is reflected in the Papers is "Moral Re-Armament," an evangelistic movement that grew out of the "Oxford Group" in England in the mid-1930's. Moral Re-armament referred to the belief that an economic recovery in the Western democracies and the achievement of world peace would have to be preceded by a moral and spiritual awakening.

The Papers are completed by extensive series of photographs, periodicals, and pamphlets.

Biography of John G. Ramsay

John Gates Ramsay was born in Howe, Oklahoma, in 1902. His family moved first to Tennessee, then to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, during World War I. Ramsay worked for seventeen years in a steel plant in Bethlehem, and served as a vice president of a local union of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers. In 1936 he joined the new Steel Workers Organizing Committee of the CIO and soon became president of Local 1409 of the United Steel Workers of America.

In 1940 Ramsay joined the organizing staff of the USWA. In 1942 he became an assistant to John Riffe in a USWA organizing drive in Columbus, Ohio. Shortly later, USWA President Philip Murray asked Ramsay to devote full time to community relations activities, particularly to the creation of a better understanding between organized labor and organized religion. The need for this effort had become apparent to the USWA leadership in 1943 during an organizing drive in Buffalo, New York, when many clergymen of the city openly opposed the unionization campaign after having been entertained by officers of the National Association of Manufacturers. It was with this mandate that Ramsay served in the CIO's organizing drive in the South from 1946-1953. When the drive ended in 1953, USWA President McDonald appointed Ramsay to continue this work in the national CIO office in Washington. When the CIO merged with the AFL in December, 1955, Ramsay moved to the Washington office of the Steelworkers, where he remained until his retirement in 1964.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the Georgia State University Library online catalog (GIL). Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Abel, I. W. (Iorwith Wilbur), 1908-1987.
Bader, Jesse M. (Jesse Moren), 1886-1963.
Cook, Claire, 1955-
Dodge, Witherspoon.
Hall, Cameron.
Liphaus, Willard E. (Willard Edwin), 1890-1983.
Mason, Lucy Randolph, 1882-1959.
McDonald, David J. (David John), 1902-1979.
Murray, Philip, 1886-1952.
Riffe, John, 1904-1958.
Congress of Industrial Organizations (U.S.)
Congress of Industrial Organizations (U.S.)--Community Relations Dept.
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
United Presbyterian Church of North America.
United Steelworkers of America.
Labor unions--Southern States--Officials and employees.
Church and labor--Southern States.
Iron and steel workers--Southern States.
Labor leaders--Southern States.
Labor unions--Iron and steel workers--Organizing--Southern States.
Southern States--Labor--Trade-unions.


Restrictions on Access

Unrestricted access.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

To quote in print, or otherwise reproduce in whole or in part in any publication, including on the Worldwide Web, any material from this collection, the researcher must obtain permission from (1) the owner of the physical property and (2) the holder of the copyright. Persons wishing to quote from this collection should consult the reference archivist to determine copyright holders for information in this collection. Reproduction of any item must contain the complete citation to the original. All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Administrative Information


[item], [folder title], [series title], John G. Ramsay Papers, L1980-05, Southern Labor Archives. Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University, Atlanta.

Acquisition Information

Donated by John Ramsay, February 26, 1980; March 31, 1980.

Processing Information

Inventoried by Alice Gernazian, June 17, 1983. EAD finding aid created by Apex Data Services, June 2001; revised by William Hardesty, December 2005.

Related Material

Related materials in this repository: Brian Abrams, John Ramsay and the Evolution of Church Labor Relations in the CIO, Thesis (M.A.), Georgia State University, 1985.

Separated Material

Separated material: During processing, oversize records, photographs, artifacts, and printed material were separated to other Southern Labor Archives collections. See List of Separated Material following Detailed Description of the Collection.

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