The National Archives Museum’s Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery is home to temporary exhibitions that draw from the billions of records in the National Archives’ holdings nationwide, allowing visitors to explore such topics as the government’s effect on food, photography from the 1970s, the Civil War, and the inside story of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Many exhibits created by the National Archives exhibition team premiere in the O’Brien Gallery, then travel to museums around the country.
The gallery, which was created in partnership with the Foundation for the National Archives, is named for Presidential advisor, political strategist, and cabinet secretary Lawrence F. O’Brien (1917 — 1990). A longtime advisor to President John F. Kennedy and his Special Assistant for Congressional Relations, O’Brien was in Dallas on November 22, 1963, riding in the motorcade in which President Kennedy was killed. After the assassination, he continued with Lyndon Johnson as the new President’s congressional liaison. His knowledge of the political and lawmaking process helped to guide landmark Great Society legislation such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Medicare, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act through Congress.
President Johnson appointed O’Brien to his Cabinet as Postmaster General in 1965. In 1968, he resigned to run Robert F. Kennedy’s campaign for President and was in Los Angeles for the California Democratic primary the evening Kennedy was assassinated there. Elected Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 1968 and again in 1970, O’Brien featured prominently in another historic event. On June 17, 1972, burglers broke into his Washington, DC, office at the DNC headquarters in the Watergate complex, beginning a series of events that led to the 1974 resignation of President Richard Nixon.
In 1975, O’Brien was elected Commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Upon his retirement in 1984, the NBA permanently named its world championship trophy, “The Larry O’Brien Trophy.” He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991.
In his honor, the Lawrence F. O’Brien family helped create the O’Brien Gallery and continues to generously support exhibitions.