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Oliver F. Atkins

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The Presidential historical materials of Oliver F. Atkins, Chief of the White House Photo Office Staff, and personal photographer to President Nixon, are in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration, under the provisions of Title I of the Presidential Materials and Preservation Act of 1974 (44 U.S.C. 2111 note) and implementing regulations. In accordance with the act and regulations, archivists reviewed the file group to identify private or personal, as well as nonhistorical items. Such items, if found, have been withdrawn for return to the individual with primary proprietary or commemorative interest in them.

Materials covered by the act have been archivally processed and are described in this finding aid. Items which are security classified or otherwise restricted under the act and regulations have been removed and placed in a closed file. A Document Withdrawal Record (NA Form 14021) has been placed in the front of each folder describing each withdrawn item. Employees of the National Archives will review periodically the unclassified portions of closed materials for the purpose of opening those which no longer require restriction. Classified documents may be reviewed for declassification under authority of Executive Order 13526 in response to a Mandatory Review Request (NA Form 14020) submitted by the researcher.

  • Linear feet of materials:  8.7
  • Approximate number of pages:  20,800

Biographical Note

1917 Born Hyde Park, Massachusetts

1938 B.A. Journalism, University of Alabama

1938-1940 Photographer for the Washington Daily News

1940-1945 War Correspondent for the Saturday Evening Post

1945 Photographer for the Saturday Evening Post

1968 Personal photographer to Republican presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon

1968-1974 Personal photographer to President Nixon and chief of the White House Photographic Staff

After graduating from the University of Alabama in 1938, Ollie Atkins embarked on a very successful photojournalism career, beginning with his position with the Birmingham Post. Following this, Ollie moved to Washington, D.C., where he took a position with the Washington Daily News. Shortly after his move to Washington, Ollie began his twenty-eight-year career as a war correspondent and photographer with the prestigious Saturday Evening Post. While with the Post, Atkins traveled throughout Europe, Africa and the Far East, at times chronicling the careers of foreign leaders such as Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, Egypt's Nasser, Charles De Gaulle of France, and Pope Paul VI. In 1968 Richard Nixon was campaigning for the presidency and Atkins was asked to become his photographer. Following the election Atkins became the personal photographer for President Nixon and the chief White House photographer in charge of the White House photography staff.

Atkins was a charter member of the National Press Photographers Association and served as chair of that group's Freedom of Information Committee. In addition he served two terms as President of the White House News Photographers Association.

Scope and Content Note

Oliver "Ollie" Atkins began his association with Richard M. Nixon in 1968 when Nixon was campaigning for the presidency. Then a photographer for the Saturday Evening Post, Atkins left the Post to become Nixon's personal photographer. When Nixon was elected President, Ollie became the President's personal photographer and chief of the White House Photographic staff. Ollie accompanied the president on all of his major trips abroad and was present to photograph Nixon on August 9, 1974 when he resigned and left the White House. The materials of White House Photographer Ollie Atkins and the White House Photo Office are intertwined and therefore should be regarded as one set of materials. These records span the entire presidency of Richard M. Nixon from the first inauguration through the date of his resignation in 1974.

The majority of the materials of the White House Photo Office were not filed by name, subject, or chronologically. In order to facilitate the processing of this collection, materials were placed into folders, given titles, and boxed in their original order. To facilitate research, the folders have been reorganized into a filing scheme similar to that used in the White House. The material within each folder was not organized chronologically so the dates on the folders reflect the span of dates covered within each folder.

For preservation reasons, all photographic prints found within the textual files have been removed to a parallel file and replaced with a photocopy and withdrawal sheet. Researchers can have access to the original photo by requesting the parallel file of the same name from the withdrawn photo file. Duplications of non-White House Photo Office prints can be obtained through any of the approved Archives vendors. When making such a request, please indicate both the folder title and item number.

Textual records of the White House Photo Office detail the primary mission of the office, the photographic record of the presidency of Richard M. Nixon. In addition, these records show the Photo Office's involvement with book projects, traveling photo exhibitions, and other functions relating to Nixon's tenure as president.

The Archives & Manuscript division of the George Mason University Library System holds a collection of materials donated to the University by Ollie Atkins' wife in 1978. This collection contains approximately 10,000 photos taken by Ollie when he served as a photographer for the Saturday Evening Post (1946-1968). In addition, this collection contained thousands of prints from the White House Photo Office, taken by Mr. Atkins and members of his staff.

The Saturday Evening Post photos were donated with a complete set of prints, negatives, contact sheets and 250 matted photographs which have been used in three exhibits in GMU's Fenwick Library Art Gallery. In all, the Atkins collection comprises 80 linear feet.

Series Description

Boxes:   1-6
Series:   Administrative Files | Folder Title List
Spans:   1969-1974
Description:   This series contains the textual documents chronicling the day-to-day operations of the White House Photo Office. The files contain general correspondence, production reports, scheduling information, appointment books, and general office business arranged in alphabetical order. In addition, this series contains a collection of negative and contact sheet logs detailing all of the photos taken during the Nixon administration. These logs contain the photographer's name, date, film format and type, and the name of the photo processor.

Boxes:   7-9
Series:   The President's Schedule | Folder Title List
Spans:   1969-1974
Description:   This file series has a complete copy of the President's daily schedule from his inauguration to the day of his resignation. In addition to the standard information found in any copy of President Nixon's schedule, the Photo Office copy is periodically annotated. This information is extremely valuable in that it establishes which White House photographer took which pictures and gives some insight into how Mr. Atkins used his staff to their fullest potential.

Boxes:   10-12
Series:   Exhibitions and Publications | Folder Title List
Spans:   1969-1974
Description:   This series details the work Atkins did on numerous projects that involved the use of White House photographs. These projects include magazine photo requests, books on Nixon's trips abroad, exhibitions of White House photos that toured the world, and Atkins work on the book, "Eye on Nixon," written and edited by Julie Nixon-Eisenhower. The efforts taken by Atkins to ensure that the work of the photo office staff and images of the President were presented to the public in accordance with his high professional standards is clearly evident in this file.

Boxes:   13-14
Series:   Personalities File | Folder Title List
Spans:   1969-1974
Description:   A collection of alphabetically organized files containing photos and biographical information. The files in this series pertain to White House staff members, political appointees, and politicians allied with the Nixon administration. Some files contained photos and bios, while others contained one or the other or neither. Empty folders were kept within this series because they represent the intent of the administration to keep information on a particular staff member or appointee.

Boxes:   15
Series:   Miscellaneous Photos | Folder Title List
Description:   Found amongst Atkins textual office files were a great number of envelopes, folders, and print sleeves containing photographs and negatives. Most of the photos are from the White House Photo Office collection while some can be credited to outside professional photographers. The vast majority of the photos found in this file are of White House staff and their families.

Folder Title List

Available as a searchable Adobe Acrobat PDFpdf file.

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