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William E. and Barbara Colby Papers

Identifier: GTM-960101

Scope and Contents note

The William E. and Barbara Colby Papers comprise the personal papers of William E. Colby, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1973 to 1976. A series of letters to Colby dating to the 1980s and 1990s touches on his opinion about various books concerning the history of intelligence in America. Also included are reproduced reports deriving from his service as head of the C.I.A. A fair amount of printed materials are also present. The bulk of the collection is composed of newspaper clippings documenting Colby's career collected in scrapbooks and loose newspaper articles. The documents span from the 1940s to 1994, and the bulk of the documents date between 1973 and 1991.


  • 1940s-1994
  • Majority of material found within 1973 - 1991


Conditions Governing Access

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Special Collections Research in advance in advance of any visit.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Biographical Note

William E. Colby (1920-1996) was a U.S. intelligence officer and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1973 to 1976. Colby was born on January 4, 1920 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He graduated from Princeton University in 1940. Enlisting in the U.S. Army, Colby saw action in World War II as a paratrooper for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor of the Central Intelligence Agency. After the war, Colby received a law degree from Columbia University in New York in 1947.

In 1950, Colby joined the CIA. He held posts in Stockholm (1951-1953), Rome (1953-1958) and Saigon, South Vietnam (1959-1962). He eventually directed CIA operations in all of Asia (1962-1967). He was involved with CIA operations during the Vietnam War. In 1971 Colby returned stateside. He became head of the CIA in 1973. During his tenure, CIA operations came under scrutiny of the U.S. Congress and American citizens. Colby often testified before Congress to defend the CIA's policies. President Gerald Ford forced Colby to retire from the CIA in 1976.

Colby authored two books: "Honorable Men: My Life in the CIA." (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), and "Lost Victory: A Firsthand Account of America's Sixteen-Year Involvement in Vietnam." (Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1989).

Colby died on April 27, 1996 at Rock Point, Maryland.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica Online].

Biographical Note

Barbara Heinzen Colby (1920-2016) was the wife of William E. Colby, who served as Director of Central Intelligance from 1973-1976. She served with her husband and their family during his long CIA career in Sweden, Italy, Vietnam, and Washington, DC. She served on the Agency's Family Advisory Board, and played an important role in the passage of legislation guaranteeing a share of lifetime benefits to former spouses of Agency employees. She received the CIA Director's Award in 2002 for her "untiring efforts on the part of former Agency spouses" and her "constant concern for the welfare of Agency families." Mrs. Colby was born Barbara Ann Heinzen in Springfield, Ohio on December 25, 1920. Her father, Karl, was a journalist, businessman, and president of the Bayer Aspirin Company in the mid-1930s. Her mother Annette was a fashion coordinator for the Montgomery Ward Company. Barbara received a B.A. in History from Barnard College in 1942 and was an advertising copywriter before marrying William Egan Colby in 1945. Their marriage ended in divorce. In 1992 she received an M.A. in the Humanities from Georgetown University. She was a Dame of the Order of Malta.

[Source: Washington Post obituary]


20.25 Cubic Feet (24 boxes)

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Barbara Colby, 1996. Additional materials donated by the Colby family in 2018.

William E. and Barbara Colby Papers
Scott S. Taylor
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2023: Edited for DACS compliance by John Zarrillo
  • 2023: 15 boxes added to Series 5: Printed Materials by John Zarrillo

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057