Using oral history techniques to document California state government began in 1969 with the Earl Warren Era Oral History Project. It was initiated by the Regional Oral History Office of the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, and centered on key developments in politics and government administration at the state and county level, innovations in criminal justice, public health, and social welfare from 1928-1953.

Interviews in the second phase, Goodwin Knight–Edmund G. Brown Era, continued the earlier inquiries into the nature of the governor's office and its relations with executive departments and the legislature, and explored the rapid social and economic changes in the years 1953–1966, as well as preserving Brown's own account of his extensive political career. Among the issues documented are the rise and fall of the Democratic party; establishment of the California Water Plan; election law changes, reapportionment and new political techniques; education and various social programs.

In 1979, work began on the Ronald Reagan Gubernatorial Series, covering the period 1966 through 1974. Interviews in this series deal with the efforts of the administration to increase government efficiency and economy and with organizational innovations designed to expand the management capability of the governor's office, as well as critical aspects of state health, education, welfare, conservation, and criminal justice programs. (Source: preface, Governmental History Documentation Project – Ronald Reagan Gubernatorial Era)

Initial funding came from the National Endowment for the Humanities with additional support from public and private sources. The three series collectively became the Governmental History Documentation Project.

Eventually, the California State Legislature established the State Government Oral History Program (Chapter 965, Statutes of 1985) "to provide through the use of oral history a continuing documentation of state policy development as reflected in California's legislative and executive history." Under the administration of the California State Archives, oral history programs at the Claremont Graduate School, the California State University (Fullerton and Sacramento), and the University of California (Berkeley and Los Angeles) conduct the interviews. The interviews offer insights into the actual workings of both the legislative and executive processes and policy mechanisms. They also offer an increased understanding of the men and women who create legislation and implement state policy. Further, they provide an overview of issue development in California state government and of how both the legislative and executive branches of government deal with issues and problems facing the state.

Interviewees are chosen primarily on the basis of their contributions to and influence on the policy process of the state of California. They include members of the legislative and executive branches of the state government as well as legislative staff, advocates, members of the media, and others who played significant roles in specific issue areas of major and continuing importance to California.

The program is one of the most significant commitments made by any state toward the preservation and documentation of its governmental history. It supplements the often fragmentary historical written record by adding an organized primary source, enriching the historical information available on given topics and allowing for more thorough historical analysis.


The intent for the guide is to organize the interviews of over 400 individuals conducted through both the Governmental History Documentation Project and the State Government Oral History Program. The guide is divided into two parts: Interview Summaries and Subject Index.

The interview summaries are arranged in alphabetical order by the interviewee's surname. It is followed by an accession number which indicates its location at the California State Archives. Information in the interview summaries include: title of the transcript, title of the volume (if it more than one transcript), year(s) the interview occurred, interviewee's affiliation and years in that capacity, and a synopsis of the interview and/or biography.

Complete sets of transcripts are available at UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library, UCLA's Dept. of Special Collections,  and the California State Archives in Sacramento.

Sample Entries

Single Interview Volumes

1 FitzRandolph, John A. 2 (OH 90–7)

4 Oral History Interview with John A. FitzRandolph. 5 (1989). 6 Staff Attorney, California Constitution Revision Commission, 1966–1968.

7 FitzRandolph discusses many aspects of a decade of Sacramento (1964–1974), his experience as staff attorney to the California Constitution Revision Commission and as chief consultant to the California State Assembly Democratic party caucus, and provides detail about his service on the staff of Assembly Speaker Robert Moretti and as a staffer for United States Senator John V. Tunney.

Multi–Interview Volumes

1 Bodovitz, Joseph E. 2 (OH R–41)

3 "Management and Policy Directions," 4 The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, 1964–1973. 5 (1984). 6 Executive Director, 1966–1973.

7 Bodovitz directed the commission's study of problems inherent in filling the bay and to recommend legislation for protecting the public interest. The McAteer–Petris Act in 1965 created the SF Bay Conservation and Development Commission granting this agency three years to come up with a plan which would balance conservation and development. Permanent status was accorded the commission in 1969.


1 Name of Interviewee

2 Accession Number

3 Title of Transcript

4 Title of Volume

5 Year(s) interview took place

6 Affiliation and years served*

7 Synopsis of interview and/or biography


*Affiliations on governor's task forces, commissions, and ex–officio positions are not listed.

Summaries and Subject Index

Interview summaries are arranged alphabetically by surname. Clicking on the letter will take you to the surname page. If a transcript of an interview is available, the summary will have a link to a downloadable PDF file.

-A- -B- -C- -D- -E- -F- -G- -H- -I- -J- -K- -L- -M- -N- -O- -P- -Q- -R- -S- -T- -U- -V- -W- -X- -Y- -Z-

Subject list uses Library of Congress subject headings.

Subject list