Office of Policy Development: Deputy Assistant Director for Legal Policy

c16471-15, William Barr shakes hands with President Reagan during an NSC meeting in the Oval Office, 8/9/83.


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This collection is available in whole for research use. Some folders may still have withdrawn material due to Freedom of Information Act restrictions. Most frequently withdrawn material is national security classified material, personal privacy, protection of the President, etc.


William Pelham Barr is an American attorney who served as the 77th Attorney General of the United States. Barr served as Attorney General from 1991 to 1993 during the administration of President George H. W. Bush. On December 7, 2018, President Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Barr to serve again as the Attorney General of the United States replacing Attorney General Jefferson Sessions.

Barr was born in New York City on May 25, 1950. The son of Columbia University faculty members Mary and Donald Barr, he grew up on the Upper West Side, attended the Corpus Christi School and Horace Mann School. He received his bachelor's degree in government in 1971 and a master's degree in government and Chinese studies in 1973, both from Columbia University. He received his J.D. with highest honors in 1977 from the George Washington University Law School

From 1973-1977, he worked at the General Counsel’s office of the Central Intelligence Agency. Barr was a law clerk to Judge Malcolm Wilkey of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1977 through 1978. He was also in private practice for nine years with the Washington law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge.

On May 3, 1982, Barr joined the Office of Policy Development staff at the White House reporting to Roger Porter and Michael Uhlmann. He was the Deputy Assistant Director for Legal Policy. His responsibilities included civil rights (fair housing, women’s equality issues, affirmative action, desegregation in education, etc.), crime, and immigration. Barr left this position on September 5, 1983 to return to Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge.

At the beginning of his administration, President George H. W. Bush appointed Barr to the U.S. Department of Justice as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, an office which functions as the legal advisor for the President and executive agencies. In May 1990, Barr was appointed Deputy Attorney General, the official responsible for day-to-day management of the Department. In August 1991, when then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh resigned to campaign for the Senate, Barr was named Acting Attorney General.

Three days after Barr accepted that position, 121 Cuban inmates, awaiting deportation to Cuba as extremely violent criminals, seized 9 hostages at the Talladega federal prison. He directed the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team to assault the prison, which resulted in rescuing all hostages without loss of life.It was reported that President Bush was impressed with Barr's management of the hostage crisis, and weeks later, President Bush nominated him as Attorney General. Barr remained as Attorney General until the final day of the George H.W. Bush administration.

Barr then spent more than 14 years as a senior corporate executive. At the end of 2008 he retired from Verizon Communications, having served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of GTE Corporation from 1994 until that company merged with Bell Atlantic to become Verizon. Barr currently serves with several corporate boards.

Barr has lived in Virginia since arriving in Washington in 1971. In 1994 then-Governor George Allen appointed Barr to co-chair a commission to reform the criminal justice system and abolish parole in the state. He served on the Board of Visitors of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg from 1997 to 2005.

Barr is an avid bagpiper, an avocation he began at age 8, and has played competitively in Scotland with a major American pipe band; he was a member for some time of the City of Washington Pipe Band. Barr is married to Christine Moynihan, and they have three grown daughters. He is a resident of McLean, Virginia.



Scope Note

This collection covers William Barr’s 18 months working in the White House at the Office of Policy Development. As the Deputy Assistant Director for Legal Policy he reported to Michael Uhlmann and worked in a team with Stephen Galebach. His material is concentrated around major changes or introduction of legislation and/or regulations ongoing during his tenure at the White House. His file folders are grouped around these bills such as the Crime Bills introduced in 1981, 1982 and 1983; the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1983 and the introduction of the Tuition Tax Credit Bill in 1982 and 1983. It also focuses on Executive Order 12336 of 1981 which created the Task Force on Legal Equity for Women. This task force was charged with eliminating or altering rules and regulations within the federal government which were not gender-neutral. It served as an umbrella group for all civil rights issues for women in the Reagan Administration.

The majority of the remainder of his material deals with other civil rights issues such as fair housing, equality opportunity, affirmative action, and desegregation in education.

Barr did not generate a lot of original material. While there are some memos and hand-written notes and comments, these are usually on material generated by someone else. Barr was assigned follow-up work from Uhlmann and often completed requests from White House Office of Records Management Subject File case files on behalf of Uhlmann. It appears his most personal involvement was with the efforts to introduce and pass a Tuition Tax Credit Bill, the Indian policies and policy statement, and the legal equity issues for women.

This collection consists of two series: SERIES I: Subject File; and SERIES II: Chronological File.

SERIES I: SUBJECT FILE (3.8 l.ft.; Box 1-10)

This series consists of material related to the proposed cap on attorney fee’s in suits against the U.S. government; the overhaul of the Bankruptcy Courts done in 1983; the Bob Jones University controversy over withholding non-profit tax status from an institution which practices discrimination in violation of federal statutes; suggestions for anti-crime policy and anti-crime legislation; crime bills involving the insanity defense, reform of habeas corpus and the death penalty; the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1983; Fair Housing Act Amendments proposed by the Administration; the efforts to enact the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1983; Native American Indian policy including background material and composition of the President’s Statement on Indian Policy on January 24, 1983; review of Legal Services Corporation 1982 reform legislation; editing and assistance in creating the 1982 Tuition Tax Credit Bill; creating and editing the anti-discrimination aspects of the Tuition Tax Credit Bill; working with religious schools, particularly Catholic schools to refine the Tuition Tax Credit Bill; efforts to pass the Tuition Tax Credit Bill in Congress; and all women’s legal equity issues which includes: comparable work; equal pay for equal work issues; child support; the “50 States” project; legal equity issues; Executive Order 12366, and the Task Force on Legal Equity for Women.

SERIES II: CHRONOLOGICAL FILE (0.6 l.ft.; Box 10-11)

This series consists of material related to legal policy initiatives, legal policy advice, and Office of Policy Development issue alerts of the Reagan Administration, 1982-1983. The material is a combination of actions or comments requested by the Office of Policy Development or the White House Staff Secretary on specific topics. The material is mostly memorandums from Mike Uhlmann to Edwin Harper (Assistant to the President for Policy Development) and/or memos from Stephen Galebach and/or William Barr to Harper/Uhlmann on particular topics.  It also includes background papers on certain issues and some policy alerts from the Office of Policy Development. The subjects are heavily concentrated in the same subjects as the Subject File: civil rights, crime, immigration, Indian policy, tuition tax credits and women’s issues. Many are duplicates from these folders but some are originals on the topic and they add to the general background information from the subject files.

This series is not a typical “Chronological file” although that is how Barr filed and identified it. The material was kept in a three-ring binder, referred to as “the book” on filing notations. Barr had a single folder entitled “Memos 1982” which consisted of this exact same material with 3-hole punches and was a time period gap from the Chron folders. The Library integrated the “Memos 1982” material with the chron folders to create the full series on this material. It appears that Barr was maintaining this “book” of nearly all outgoing memos from the Legal Policy group: himself, Michael Uhlmann and Stephen Galebach.

Last Updated: 08/06/2021 04:12PM

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