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Mel Steely papers

Identifier: POL-0016

Scope and Contents note

Papers include clippings, research files, photographs, artifacts, audio, videos, a framed image of the Great Seal of the United States (which hung in Steely's congressional office in Carrollton from 1979 to 1993), and other materials which document Steely’s long-term work for Newt Gingrich as an administrative aide, campaigner, and biographer, especially regarding the early years of Gingrich’s political career. Also included are files related to Steely’s teaching career.


  • 1943-2014


Conditions Governing Access note

Open to all users.

Conditions Governing Use note

Copyright has been transferred to the University of West Georgia's Ingram Library.

Biographical/Historical note

Melvin Thomas Steely was born on May 9, 1939, in Cedartown, Georgia, where he was raised. He first became interested in politics in 1946 when his father campaigned for Eugene Talmadge's gubernatorial run. Steely graduated from Carson-Newman College, and he earned his master’s degree and PhD in history at Vanderbilt University. He taught for one year at Lambuth College before coming to West Georgia College.

Steely taught history at the University of West Georgia from 1964 until his retirement in 2004. He served on the search committee which hired Newt Gingrich as a professor of history in 1970. The two men became friends.

Steely campaigned for Carl Sanders in 1970 for governor and he worked on the unsuccessful Gingrich congressional campaigns of 1974 and 1976. Gingrich won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978 and Steely worked as a congressional aide from 1978 to 1992. He served as the head of the advisory committee on matters of campaign and policy during the beginning of Gingrich’s congressional career. He also communicated the goals and ideas of Gingrich to the local Carrollton office. In 2000, he published a biography of Gingrich titled The Gentleman from Georgia.

Steely founded the Georgia’s Political Heritage Program (GPHP) in 1983 with the deposit of Newt Gingrich’s congressional papers and lead the program for the next three decades. Oral history interviews, largely conducted by Steely, are centerpiece of the GPHP. The oral histories began with a series of interviews with former Governor Herman Talmadge. Interviews focus on former politicians, including members of congress, governors and state legislators. The University of West Georgia Ingram Library’s Special Collections holds the Georgia’s Political Heritage Program records.

Mel Steely died on January 13, 2019, in Carrollton, Georgia.


60.2 Linear feet (106 boxes, 6 OV boxes, 5 map folders, 1 OV LP box, and 4 OV items)




Papers of professor emeritus of history and Newt Gingrich biographer, Mel Steely. Steely taught at the University of West Georgia from 1964 to 2004 and worked as a congressional advisor for Newt Gingrich from 1978 to 1992.

Arrangement note

Arranged in fifteen series. Series I. West Georgia College Series II. Gingrich Campaign Series III. Oral History Interviews and Recordings Series IV. Gingrich Biography, The Gentleman from Georgia Series V. Newt Gingrich Miscellaneous Series VI. Earning by Learning Series VII. Newspaper Clippings Series VIII. Political Memorabilia Series IX. Political Videos Series X. Miscellaneous Series XI. Political Souvenirs Series XII. Additions 2015 Series XIII. Additions 2016 Series XIV. Additions 2017-2018 XV. Additions 2020.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Mel Steely, 2007. Additions to papers were semi-annual ending in September 2020.

Processing Information note

Originally processed by Suzanne Durham, 2012. Papers fully processed in 2014 by Julie Bogle and Cody Doegg. Additions processed by Candice Larson in 2015, Richard Foster in 2017, Catherine Hendricks in 2018, and Lalah Manly in 2020.

Guide to the Mel Steely Papers POL-0016
Finding aid prepared by Cody Doegg
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English

Repository Details

Part of the University of West Georgia Special Collections Repository

Special Collections, Ingram Library
University of West Georgia
1601 Maple Street
Carrollton GA 30118-2000 United States