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William R. Downs Papers

Identifier: GTM-780127

Scope and Contents

The papers of William R. Downs consist of correspondence, broadcast scripts, clippings, memorabilia, a scrapbook, films, records, photographs, and network election handbooks, pertaining to his career in journalism and broadcast journalism, and to his school years. They are arranged chronologically.

Of special interest to the researcher are the following: -Downs' early correspondence with his family. These letters dating from 1940-1945 are very revealing of his personality and outlook, and document the early days of his career during World War II. -The correspondence with C.B.S. regarding his departure in 1962. It is this processor's opinion that the farewell letters from C.B.S. executives lacked the warmth that might be expected fro someone of 20 years of outstanding service, suggesting that Downs may have had reasons for quitting, other than a desire to write a book. -The broadcast scripts. Since the scripts span four decades, they document the development of Bill Downs from the eager young reporter to Bill Downs, the veteran newsman. In a wider sense, the Downs papers document the development of broadcast journalism. For the researcher who has not lived through a particular period, seeing what was actually reported is an interesting supplement to history texts. -The films, photographs, and tapes add the dimensions of image and sound to the scripts, creating a fuller impression of Downs as an active reporter. -The badges and identifying insignia worn by war correspondents accredited by the US Army. -The file kept on Downs by the Nazis.


  • 1929-1977


Conditions Governing Access

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University 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 Booth Family Center for Special Collections 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

Bill Downs achieved national recognition as a radio and television newscaster in a long career with United Press, the Columbia Broadcasting System, and finally with the American Broadcasting Company.

His career in journalism began while he was at the University of Kansas, where he combined college studies with newspaper work on the Kansas City Star and the Kansas City Kansan. After graduation in 1937 Downs joined the United Press. Assigned first to Kansas City, later to Denver and New York, Downs was sent to London in 1940.

In 1942 he joined the London staff of C.B.S.. Downs distinguished himself at C.B.S. covering such events as the landing in Normandy on D-Day, the surrender of German forces to Field Marshall Montgomery, the atomic tests at Bikini Atoll, the Berlin blockade and airlift, the Glenn space flight, and various presidential campaigns and elections. He was awarded a Headliner Club Award and two Overseas Press Club Awards for his foreign broadcast efforts.

Citing the desire to write a book and a feeling of being in a rut as reasons for his departure, Downs left C.B.S. in a shake-up involving several newscasters, in 1962.

After an 18 month break from broadcasting, Downs signed on with A.B.C. in time to cover the Kennedy assassination. While at A.B.C. Downs had regular spots on radio, as well as television appearances reporting on his Pentagon, Capitol, and ecology beats.

Born William Randall Downs, Jr., on August 17, 1914 in Kansas City, Kansas Bill Downs died in Washington, D.C. on May 3, 1978.


12 Linear Feet (13 boxes)

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations


The collection is generaly arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Rosalind Downs, November 1978.

William R. Downs Papers
Charlotte Christian
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2022: Edited for DACS compliance 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