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William F. and Catherine D. Norrell Papers

Identifier: MC 1236

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains some personal materials, including correspondence between the Norrells and their daughter, their obituaries, and funeral memorials. However, the bulk of the collection relates to the professional lives of the Norrells. Especially noteworthy are items pertaining to Mr. Norrell's activities as a member of the Subcommittee on Military Appropriations. These include first-hand materials from Operation Crossroads in 1946; the ships sunk in that operation included the battleship Arkansas. Materials pertaining to Mr. Norrell's trip to the Far East in 1949 not only offer a look at postwar Japan, but also illustrate changes in American foreign policy during the early years of the Cold War. Other materials illuminate aspects of the Cold War in the 1950s and early 1960s.

In addition to materials relating to her career in Congress, the collection includes speeches made by Mrs. Norrell and materials relating to her activities as president of the Congressional Club. The collection also includes materials dating from her tenure with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, including files of materials accumulated during her trip to Europe and the Middle East in 1963. Other files contain background literature on various countries and materials discussing the bureau's organization and purpose.

The collection includes a wealth of materials relating to flood control in Arkansas. These materials include correspondence to and from Mr. Norrell, government publications, and numerous maps of Arkansas's waterways. The collection also contains materials on Arkansas Post, including several maps.

The collection contains a wide range of materials, including letters, funeral memorials, scrapbooks, maps, and photographs. Twenty scrapbooks cover Mr. Norrell's career as a congressman, dating from 1938 to 1961. The other four scrapbooks contain materials dating from Mrs. Norrell's term in Congress as well as her involvement with the Congressional Club and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The collection includes over four hundred photographs. Many images portray either Mr. Norrell's work with the Subcommittee on Military Appropriations or Mrs. Norrell's work with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Especially noteworthy are several autographed pictures, including images of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson, Jacqueline Kennedy, Orval Faubus, Joseph T. Robinson, Hattie Caraway, and Sam Rayburn. The collection also contains several letters bearing the signatures of notables such as John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower, Harry S. Truman, and Adlai Stevenson. Also included in the collection are a pen used by President Eisenhower to sign the act making Arkansas Post a national memorial, and a wax impression of the seal of the President of the United States.


  • 1932-1981


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Access Information

Please call (479) 575-8444 or email at least two weeks in advance of your arrival to ensure availability of the materials.

Use Information

Restrictions apply. All materials bearing presidential and other noteworthy signatures have been removed to the Special Collections vault. Photocopies have been substituted for these items. The pen used by President Eisenhower and the wax impression of the presidential seal have also been removed to the vault. These items may be viewed only by permission of the head of the Special Collections Division.

No Interlibrary Loan.

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical Note

William Frank Norrell was born on August 29, 1896, in Milo in Ashley County, Arkansas, the son of John H. and Elvie Richardson Norrell. He attended the Arkansas Agricultural and Mechanical College at Monticello and the College of the Ozarks at Clarksville. He received a law degree from the University of Arkansas Law School in Little Rock. Norrell's future wife, Catherine Dorris, was born on March 30, 1901, in Camden, Arkansas, the daughter of William Frank and Rose Catherine Dorris. She graduated from Monticello High School, and attended Ouachita Baptist University and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Trained as a pianist and organist, she taught music in public schools and served as director of the music department of Arkansas A and M College in Monticello. Catherine and William F. Norrell married in 1922; they had one daughter, Julia.

Mr. Norrell was elected to the Arkansas state senate in 1930, serving through 1937. In 1938 he was elected representative from Arkansas's Sixth Congressional District. In Congress he was a longtime member of the House Appropriations Committee, serving on the Subcommittee for Military Appropriations. In that capacity he made several trips. He was present during the first phase of Operation Crossroads, the nuclear bomb tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946. In 1949 he traveled to the Far East, inspecting progress made in rebuilding postwar Japan and Korea. With the onset of the Cold War, he displayed a keen interest in America's nuclear energy program. He inspected nuclear-powered American naval vessels, viewed experimental aircraft, and in 1959 toured NATO defenses in Europe. In addition to his work concerning Cold War armaments, Mr. Norrell compiled an extensive legislative record promoting flood control in Arkansas and the development of the state's waterways. His legislative accomplishments included the designation of Arkansas Post as a national memorial.

In 1954 Mr. Norrell suffered a stroke, which left him partially paralyzed. The sixty-four-year-old Congressman died on February 15, 1961, two days after suffering another stroke.

While her husband served in Congress, Mrs. Norrell acted as his staff assistant. She was also active in Congressional women's organizations, serving as president of the Congressional Club of Congressmen's wives in 1959-1960. After her husband's death, Mrs. Norrell entered the special election in April, 1961, held to fill his seat. Facing four opponents, she emerged the winner, out polling the second-place opponent by a 2-1 margin. In Congress she continued her husband's work, concentrating on the economic prosperity of her district. Concerned about the status of women, she was a sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment. She also sponsored legislation prohibiting the importation of goods from Cuba into the United States. In January, 1963, she became Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. She continued in this post until June, 1965, when she became director of the State Department's reception center in Honolulu, Hawaii. She retired from that post in 1969 and returned to live in Monticello. She died in Warren, Arkansas, on August 26, 1981, at the age of eighty.


28.25 Linear Feet (51 boxes and 12 OV folders)

Arrangement of the Papers

This collection is organized into four series:

Series I. Documents

  1. William F. Norrell
  2. Catherine D. Norrell
  3. Bureau of Cultural Affairs
  4. Flood Control
  5. Arkansas-Related and Other Topics

Series II. Scrapbooks and Bound Items

  1. Scrapbooks
  2. Bound Items

Series III. Images and Artifacts

  1. Images
  2. Artifacts

Series IV. Oversize Materials

  1. Boxes 33-39
  2. Oversize Manuscript Drawer Folders 1-12

Acquisition Information

The bulk of the Norrell Papers was donated by Julia J. "Judy" Norrell on April 27, 1993. Additional materials were received from the Old State House in Little Rock on August 2, 1993.

Processing Information

Processed by Todd E. Lewis, Special Collections Division, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas, February 1999.



William F. and Catherine D. Norrell Papers
Todd E. Lewis
February 1999
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Department Repository

University of Arkansas Libraries
365 N. McIlroy Avenue
Fayetteville AR 72701 United States
(479) 575-8444