Part Three, The History and Donor Relations:
The other part of the process, in addition to preservation, was to determine how and why the books were found in the attic. This led to the Honors Program gaining permission to contact Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr., a grandson of Judge Rush Limbaugh, Sr., and in January a letter sent and signed by the Honors Program Director, my fellow Co-Chair, and I was sent. The first week in February we received a response by phone and the judge said he wanted to come by that afternoon. I rushed over after receiving word to move books I cataloged back to the shelves with the help of two other Honors students. Then I took the most important books, those with names, letters found in, and rare and laid many out on the library’s table open to the place of significance. Judge Limbaugh, Jr. came and was amazed at what he saw. He took the time to listen to the story of how we found and preserved the books, adding information on individual books as we went along. He also kindly took the time to inquire about each student present. This visit was also a landmark, as our new provost attended and it was only his second day on the job! Judge Limbaugh, Jr. promised to come back later with his father and a biographer of his grandfather.
The next visit came exactly one week later. Judge Limbaugh, Jr. was able to bring his father, Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Sr. and the biographer, Dr. Dennis Boman*. Again, all three were amazed at the findings. Judge Limbaugh, Sr. finally was able to solve the mystery of where the books came from. Upon his father’s death, the book collection was split between the members of his family. What the Honors Program had were the ones the family did not save. A now-retired professor from the English Department asked the family if they would donate the books for a project she had in mind, but they did not know what the project was. After contacting the professor in question, we found out the books were meant for the Honors Program from the start. While one cannot be sure why the books were placed in the attic under a former Honors Program director, it may have been due to space issues at the Old Honors House. Dr. Boman made plans to return to conduct research with the collection for his book. The book, The Original Rush Limbaugh: Lawyer, Legislator, and Civil Libertarian, was published in June, 2012 and did feature references to the collection.
Once we thought all had been discovered, more would be found in October, 2010. The special collections librarian went through old library records and found further documentation on some of the books. Found were two letters, one written to Judge Rush H. Limbaugh, Sr. by the then director of Kent Library and its return letter from 1987. The former library director’s letter was a response to one sent by Limbaugh earlier that contained a list of books he had sent the director to see if the library needed them. With his letter, the director included a list of 146 titles, some multi-volume, Kent Library didn’t have and would accept. Limbaugh responded that for now his library would remain intact for his sons and grandsons to divide later. As we now know, fifteen of those titles now reside at the Honors House, including two multi-volume works.
Once the entire Limbaugh collection was inventoried and preserved, we had approximately 320 books and about two dozen documents. We also found a framed eight by ten photograph of Rush Hudson Limbaugh, Sr. with a story of its own. It was found buried in the closet in the director’s office at the Old Honors House about two weeks before the books were located. At the time, we wondered why we had it and thought maybe he had donated money in the past. Now we think the photo may have come with the books, but was spared from the attic.
Added comments: Meeting with all the dignitaries was initially nerve-wracking! However, I didn’t let it show. Without the help of the Limbaughs, we never would have been able to understand how we acquired the collection. And to me, this was the mystery I wanted solved. Not knowing was driving me crazy! Meeting everyone was just icing on the cake, as I figured the response would have been at letter! Also, did anyone else catch which political party was in the book title? It wasn’t what you were expecting, was it?
Also, now that the story has been told, everyone can see while I organized and led the effort, it was a team project. I had the help of at least eight other honors student and several faculty members. My main contributions were the discovery and cataloging, but many outside the project thought I did all the organization and preservation myself. I didn’t. I wish they also had received the same recognition I did. No amount of my speaking up them led to them receiving much recognition. Without them, I don’t know if the entire project would have been the success it was. To those that helped (you know who you are), Thank You!
Note: Titles used for Southeast students and faculty instead of names to preserve privacy. Also, this three-part arc was created from a report/finding aid combination I wrote about the project. It was edited and abridged for this. That’s why I have the “added comments” sections for my thoughts.
Would you have gone to the lengths I did to solve this mystery?
* Dr. Boman is the Assistant Director of the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Law at Saint Louis University Law School. He has also written Lincoln and the Citizens’ Rights in Civil War Missouri: Balancing Security and Freedom and several other works.