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Donald Ray (Billy) Matthews Papers

Identifier: Ms 068

Scope and Content

During Matthews' tenure in Congress, the 8th District embraced the following counties: Alachua, Baker, Columbia, Dixie, Flagler, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns, Suwannee, Taylor, and Union. It was a largely rural district and that is evident from the many records related to agricultural pursuits and projects. The collection's primary strength is in the documentation related to district projects that received federal support. Among the many local projects documented in the collection are the Cross-Florida Barge Canal and the Suwannee River - Wild Rivers Bill. Given Matthews' long association with the University of Florida, it is not surprising to find considerable information on higher education and the University itself. Matthews' opposition to federal civil rights legislation is also well documented. Less expected is the correspondence from Cuban refugees seeking assistance. Matthews' administrative assistant was Edith Pitts who served as administrative assistant to three University of Florida presidents before joining Matthews' staff. Pitts had lived in Cuba and was fluent in Spanish.

Much of what appears in the collection could be termed constituent mail although it was not filed as such. Instead, correspondence from constituents was often filed under specific topic headings along with other records.

The collection also contains a small number of films and audiotapes. These have not been reformatted.


  • 1952-1967



The collection is open for research. The presence of constituent mail in this collection requires mediated access. Researchers must consult with Special Collections staff before using the collection and must agree in writing to the following conditions: Congressional constituent mail is considered a type of privileged correspondence. Reproduction of constituent mail in any format is prohibited. Further, researchers using constituent mail must agree not to divulge the names or addresses of constituents or provide information that could conceivably identify constituents.

Biographical/Historical Note

Donald Ray "Billy" Matthews served as the Representative from Florida's 8th Congressional District from 1953 to 1967. Matthews was born in Micanopy, Florida, on October 3, 1907. His family moved to Hawthorne in 1912 and he attended schools there before being admitted to the University of Florida. At UF, he was prominent in campus politics serving as Vice President and President of the Student Body, Chancellor of the Honor Court, and President of Florida Blue Key. He earned Bachelor's (1929) and Master's (1930) degrees in Education.

After graduation, Matthews taught in public schools in Leesburg, Orlando and Newberry and was active in Florida 4-H. Matthews served one term in the Florida House as the representative from Alachua County in 1935. In 1936, he returned to UF as Director of the Florida Union. In 1947, he was named Director of Alumni Affairs. During World War II, he served in the infantry and was discharged with the rank of Captain.

In 1952, Matthews was elected to Congress. During his time there, Matthews was a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, the House Committee on Agriculture and, in his final years, the House Committee on Appropriations as a member of the Subcommittee on Labor - Health, Education and Welfare. He was defeated in the 1966 Democratic Primary by Congressman Don Fuqua whose 9th district was combined with Matthews' 8th district to create a new 2nd district. Matthews returned to Gainesville in 1967 and briefly taught political science at Santa Fe Community College. He died on October 26, 1997.


48 Linear feet (48 cartons)

Language of Materials



The papers of Billy Matthews (Democrat - Florida) documenting his service in the U.S. House of Representatives.


The Matthews collection is divided into nine series: Education Files, Federal Agencies and State Organizations Files, Florida and 8th District County Files, Legislation Files, General Correspondence Files, Political Campaign Records, Public Relations Records, Project Files, and Speeches. Records in the first four series are arranged first by Congress and Session and then by file heading. For that reason, files on a particular subject are often separated.

Physical Location

Please note that this collection is housed in the Auxiliary Library Facility off campus and will require advance notice for timely retrieval. Please contact the Special and Area Studies Collections department prior to your visit.

Acquisition Information

The Matthews Collection was donated to the University of Florida by Congressman Matthews before he left office in 1967. The collection was opened to researchers shortly afterwards, but no attempt was made to appraise or adequately describe the records until 2010.

Processing Information

This finding aid was revised in August 2022. Recognizing that historical terms do not always completely or directly map to contemporary terms, that historical terms can be offensive or inaccurately describe a person or group, and that the presence of both historical and contemporary terms may be useful for researcher discovery, the archivist has attempted to employ historical terms as they originally appear in the context of the collection, in the description, along with contemporary terms in brackets.

A Guide to the Donald Ray (Billy) Matthews Papers
Finding aid created by Carl Van Ness
July 2011
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America