Collection of iconic California figure’s papers digitized and housed at Pacific
The George R. Moscone Collection—the career work of a prominent University of the Pacific graduate who was a highly regarded elected official and a champion of diversity, equity and inclusion—is complete and now available digitally to historians, researchers, journalists, students, and the public.
The six-year archival process began in 2015, when the family of Moscone ’53, a legendary California state senator and mayor of San Francisco, chose Pacific to archive and house his official papers.
Tragically, the collection could have been much more in-depth had Moscone’s life not been cut short in 1978 at age 49 in a brazen attack at San Francisco City Hall by a political rival, who also gunned down Supervisor Harvey Milk.
Mike Wurtz, head of special collections at the William Knox Holt Library and Learning Center on the Stockton Campus, said the Moscone Collection has been available for research since the family entrusted it to Pacific. The difference, however, is much of it is now digitized and available online.
“The steps include preserving, or putting the materials in acid-free folders,” Wurtz said, noting they filled 65 boxes in the library’s archives. “Then there is arranging to make sure it’s all in order. You have to describe it, to help people find what they are looking for. And then there is digitization, which makes the material more widely available for sharing. Those parts that are not digitized still can be accessed.”
Pacific roots shaped visionary leader, killed at height of his influence
Moscone was raised by a single mother in the Bay Area and, after starting at Santa Rosa Junior College, he transferred to Pacific on a basketball scholarship. In addition to athletics, he was an active campus leader.
“It was an unusual time to be on campus in some respects,” he said years later in an interview for the Pacific Review publication. “There was the fact that it was a co-ed campus and I was from a very urban area and many of the students I met were not.”
He also admitted to being a “bit of a scalawag” at Pacific.
After law school at University of California Hastings College of Law and a short private practice, Moscone was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisor in 1963. He became state senator in 1966, and later majority (Democratic Party) leader. In 1975, he was elected the 37th mayor of San Francisco.
Moscone’s short mayoral stint was impactful, as he successfully pushed for greater diversity and fairness in government.
That social progress was halted on the fateful day of Nov. 27, 1978. Dan White, who had just resigned from the Board of Supervisors, asked Moscone to give him his job back. Supervisor Harvey Milk lobbied against the request. White snuck into City Hall through a window and shot and killed both Moscone and Milk.
Correspondence between Moscone and White in the weeks and days leading up to the shootings is contained in the Moscone Collection.
Varied collection depicts Moscone’s caring, firm nature
The Moscone Collection includes a showpiece produced by Pacific faculty and students, the 2018 acclaimed documentary “Moscone: A Legacy of Change.” Directed by Nat Katzman and written by Steven Talbot, the 57-minute film was produced by Teresa Bergman, Pacific professor and chair of the communications department. Pacific students were involved in research and photography.
“My students are always blown away when they see the film and learn about Moscone’s life and all that was involved in Bay Area politics in the 1970s,” said Bergman, who uses the documentary in her filmmaking class. “What I really would like is for more people to see the film. With the archives now complete, perhaps that opens doors for the film. So much of what George Moscone was fighting for back in the 1970s is similar to the issues we are facing today.”
One of Bergman’s assignments was for students to make a 5-minute documentary about Moscone’s life. Class videos by students Piper Davis ’20, Katherine Herrera ’18 and Jillian Simpson ’18 in 2018 focused on his impact on people of color, farmworkers and citizens facing challenges.
They were complementary to the larger documentary, which included interviews with elected leaders such as former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and former Gov. George Deukmejian.
“I don’t think George ever measured whether or not he would do something based on if it could be done,” Brown says to open the film. “George was much more interested in doing it because it was the right thing to do.”
Bergman recalls a moment during a screening of the film in San Francisco when she glanced at Moscone’s widow, Gina, and saw her shedding tears.
“The family’s positive reaction meant a lot,” Bergman said.
Wurtz and those working on the overall collection meticulously put together what archivists call a “finding aid,” an inventory and guide to the collection.
There are special sections about Moscone’sdays at Pacific, including interviews with campus publications and his time as a basketball player. Also included are sections on his service as a state senator and as San Francisco mayor. Moscone’s successful efforts to keep the San Francisco Giants from moving to Toronto also are chronicled.
There are dozens of oral histories or snippets of conversations about Moscone culled from interviews with governors, senators, federal and state representatives and others. The more in-depth interviews are available upon request.
Why Moscone and his legacy remain relevant today
Moscone’s sons—Jon and Chris—are pleased the collection has been completed. They would like to see the archives and documentary bring light to many of their father’s efforts—and how they mesh with current social issues.
“The story is that of a man who continued to develop his power to help provide opportunities for others to have power,” Jon Moscone said. “This is not just a story about him. It’s a story about what he did.”
Added Chris Moscone: “The hard work has been done and, in a lot of ways, the question now is ‘what’s next?’ I would like to see if there is a way my father’s work could be woven into public school curriculum.”
The current emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion throughout education and society could be a fit with the Moscone Collection, Wurtz said.
“The first African-American sheriff in San Francisco was hired when Moscone was mayor,” Wurtz said. “The first woman to lead the board of supervisors. The first openly gay supervisor. All of those and so much more happened when Moscone was mayor.”
The potential for diversity, equity and inclusion work and studies focusing on their father’s legacy is intriguing to his sons.
“DEI could be a very interesting path,” Jon Moscone said. “There is so much that we are fighting for moving forward that is reflective of the issues he faced in the legislature and in San Francisco City Hall.”
Learn more about the George R. Moscone Collection
Contact Mike Wurtz at (209) 946-3105 or firstname.lastname@example.org