Branch's Bill Clinton book source materials go to UNC

CHAPEL HILL — On Jan. 4, a new window into Bill Clinton's presidency will open at UNC-Chapel Hill.

That's when a trove of source material Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch used for his new book on the Clinton presidency will become publicly available at the Southern Historical Collection at UNC-CH.

Branch, a 1968 UNC-CH graduate, has a long relationship with the historical collection. The source materials — interviews, transcriptions, correspondence — that led to his prize-winning writings on Martin Luther King Jr., are already in the university's possession. Now, too, are the Clinton records.

Historians are "going to be looking at the firsthand reflections of a seasoned and wise historian on what was going on then. I think that's worth something," said Tim West, the Southern Historical Collection's curator.

"It's different from what President Clinton was saying himself," he said. "It's not just a sort of verbatim record that he was making of what he remembers hearing Clinton say, but also what he noticed happening around the White House. There's going to be interesting stuff."

Clinton and Branch were friends as young politicos working on the George McGovern campaign in Texas in 1972. They reconnected when Clinton won the presidency and wanted to create a historical record. These materials are the result of dozens of secret meetings Clinton held with Branch during his presidency.

But they're not the recordings of the interviews themselves, or even transcriptions. Clinton kept those tapes — squirreled away in his sock drawer, according to a story this week in USA Today — and Branch was left to re-create the interviews and observations on his own audiotapes. He often did so immediately after leaving a meeting with Clinton as he drove back home to Baltimore, according to the USA Today report.

Branch gave 80 or 90 audio tapes to UNC-CH along with reams of transcriptions, letters and other paperwork he used while working on the book, "The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History With the President."

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