Historic Staff Spotlight: Mildred B. Berry

We are taking a look at past staff and their many contributions to the National Archives throughout its history. Today’s Historic Staff Spotlight features Mildred B. Berry, who worked at the Federal Register where she oversaw two major publications: the U.S. Government Manual and the Public Papers of the Presidents. 

Mildred Van Valkenburgh Bunch was born in 1904 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. She attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville from 1921 to 1923, and was an instructor at Pine Bluff Junior High School from 1924 to 1929. She moved to Washington, DC, to work for the National Education Association (NEA) while she attended George Washington University. In 1937 she married Capt. John Banks Berry of the U.S. Marines Corps Reserve.

In 1942, Mildred Berry left NEA for the Office of War Information, where she was in charge of compiling the United States Government Manual, the official handbook of the U.S. Government. During the mid-to-late 1940s, the responsibility to publish the manual moved around the government, and Berry moved with it. Finally, in 1948, the manual’s publication was transferred to the Division of the Federal Register within the National Archives, and Berry came with it as its editor. 

The U.S. Manual Section of the Federal Register issued its first manual on August 4, 1949. It sold for $1.00. Berry soon became the Chief of the Presidential Documents and Government Manual Branch of the Federal Register, and during her tenure she helped transform the manual into one of the Government Printing Office’s best-selling publications. 

Berry’s other major publication came into existence during the mid-1950s. The National Historical Publications Commission, the precursor to today’s NHPRC, reported that there were no standard compilations of public messages and papers of Presidents and recommended that an official series of Presidential writings, addresses, and remarks be published annually. In 1957, The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States was created, and the staff at the Federal Register was tasked with compiling and publishing it. 

The office went to work on their first volume, which included President Dwight Eisenhower’s public messages and statements for 1957. Staff collected material that was scattered throughout the Congressional Record, newspapers, transcripts of news conferences, press releases, and other sources. On May 15, 1958, a small delegation from GPO and the National Archives, including Berry, presented the very first volume to President Eisenhower.

During her career, Berry edited 19 volumes of the Public Papers of the Presidents including volumes for Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson. She received numerous awards for her work, including a National Archives Achievement Award for Outstanding Performance in 1958 and, in 1961, a Meritorious Service award from the General Services Administration, the agency that oversaw the National Archives at that time. 

Berry died unexpectedly on August 31, 1967, of a heart attack. At that time she was Chief of the Presidential Documents and Government Manual Branch in the Office of the Federal Register. The National Archives employee newsletter announced her death to staff, remarking that she was a skilled and much-admired worker and would be greatly missed. Mildred B. Berry is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The Office of the Federal Register is still in charge of publishing the Public Papers of the Presidents and the United States Government Manual. For more information, visit their website.

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