Warner, Robert M. 1927-2007 (Robert Mark Warner)

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Warner, Robert M. 1927-2007 (Robert Mark Warner)


See index for CA sketch: Born June 28, 1927, in Montrose, CO; died of heart failure, April 24, 2007, in Ann Arbor, MI. Archivist, educator, college administrator, and author. Warner was a former head of the National Archives, helped establish the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, and was a professor and dean at the University of Michigan. Completing his undergraduate work at Muskingum College in 1949, he studied American history at the University of Michigan, earning his Ph.D. in 1958. While still in college, he worked for the Michigan Historical Collections, beginning as a research assistant in 1953. He served as director from 1966 to 1980. Meanwhile, Warner also taught at the University of Michigan from 1961 to 1980. Here he was professor of history from 1971 to 1980 and professor of the School of Library Science from 1974 to 1980. It was at the Michigan Historical Collections that he met then-Congressman Ford and the two became friends. Ford agreed to send his papers to Warner, and this eventually led to Warner serving on the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library Building Commission in the late-1970s. In 1980, Warner took the office of archivist at the National Archives. At the time, the archives were viewed by government officials as merely a place to store documents, even though some of those documents were as important as the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. The lack of respect for the National Archives meant that many important documents were in danger of disintegrating or being destroyed by fire. Warner, however, worked for the next five years to make the Archives a more accessible resource for researchers. This often meant butting heads with government bureaucracies, such as the U.S. Information Agency, which wanted to keep papers such as phone transcripts a secret. The situation improved when Warner was able to gain the Archives' independence from the control of the General Services Administration's oversight. Leading the way toward modernizing the Archives, Warner inspired President Ronald Reagan to reorganize it as the National Archives and Records Administration. Warner left the Archives in 1985 to return to the University of Michigan. He was dean of the School of Information from 1985 to 1992, and during this time worked to digitize the university's collection. He remained a professor there until his 1997 retirement as professor emeritus. The recipient of Distinguished Service awards from Muskingum College in 1990 and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission in 1992, Warner was honored in 2005 when the renovated Archives building was named after him. He left behind several books, including Guide to Manuscripts in the Michigan Historical Collections of the University of Michigan (1963), Chase Salmon Osborn, 1860-1949 (1969), Diary of a Dream: A History of the National Archives Independence Movement, 1980-1985 (1995), and Frost-Bite and Frost-Bark: Robert Frost at Michigan (1999).



Chicago Tribune, May 2, 2007, Section 3, p. 10.

Los Angeles Times, May 4, 2007, p. B11.

New York Times, May 3, 2007, p. C16.

Washington Post, April 28, 2007, p. B6.