Tom Harkin Papers

Tom Harkin

Senator Tom Harkin













Drake University Archives and Special Collections is happy to announce the arrival of Senator Tom Harkin’s papers. Early on January 5, 2015, approximately 800 boxes of materials spanning Tom Harkin’s 40-year (1975-2015) Congressional career arrived at Cowles Library.

Committee Service:

Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Small Business

The Collection:

Approximately 800 boxes plus 2.5 terabytes of electronic records.

Researcher Access:

Select series are open to researchers. For more information contact Hope Grebner Bibens, Political Papers Archivist,, 515-271-2088.


Harkin, Tom. Five Minutes to Midnight: Why the Nuclear Threat is Growing Faster than Ever. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1990.

Biographical Note:

Thomas Richard Harkin was born November 19, 1939 in Cumming, Iowa. His father was a coal miner and his mother was an immigrant from Slovenia. He graduated from Dowling Catholic High School and attended Iowa State University on an ROTC scholarship. Upon graduating with a degree in government and economics in 1962, he joined the United States Navy as an active duty jet pilot. In 1969, Harkin worked as an aide to Iowa Congressman Neal Smith. He received his J.D. from The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law in 1972.

In that same year, he ran an unsuccessful congressional campaign in Iowa’s 5th District against incumbent Republican Congressman William J. Scherle. Harkin ran against Scherle again in 1974, this time defeating the incumbent. He would serve five terms in the House of Representatives.

In 1984, Harkin defeated Republican Roger Jepsen to begin his tenure as the longest-serving Senate Democrat in Iowa’s history. During his time in the Senate, Harkin served as Chairman of the Agriculture Committee as well as the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). He was prominent in the development of federal farm and labor policy. He was also an active voice for improved nutrition in public school lunches and in combating child labor. He is best known for his sponsorship of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a landmark piece of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination based on disability.

Harkin decided not to seek reelection in 2014. He founded the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement at Drake University in 2013 to facilitate collaborative, non-partisan public policy research and to foster active and informed citizen engagement.

Finding Aids:

Legislative Working Files


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