Longtime Louisville legislator Jim Wayne donates his papers to Spalding Archives, School of Social Work

Steve Jones

The professional papers of a long-serving and impactful Louisville legislator are set to become a part of the archives of the Spalding University Library and School of Social Work.

Retired Kentucky state Rep. Jim Wayne, who served the 35th House District in Frankfort from 1990 to 2019 and who is also a mental health professional trained in social work, is donating a trove of his legislative papers,  news clippings and other archives to Spalding in order to make them a public resource and historical reference for research into lawmaking, politics, community organizing, social work and social policy.

Wayne, 73, will introduce the collection during a free, public lecture 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, in the Spalding Library Lecture Lounge, 853 Library Lane. Co-sponsored by the Library and the School of Social Work, Wayne’s lecture is titled, “Against the Grain: The Social Worker in a Broken World.” Any social worker who attends the lecture will be eligible for one continuing education unit (CEU) toward their professional development.

The Spalding collection of Wayne’s papers spans from 1975, when he was a legislative aide in Washington, D.C., working on climate policy, to his retirement from the Kentucky General Assembly. Wayne said all told, he provided Spalding with about 10 boxes of files, plus a number of flash drives.

A friend of Wayne’s who had organized his own writings and archives told Wayne that it’s important to preserve and share one’s life’s work, especially when that work has impacted the public, because it provides historical context for future generations of what life was like, the successes and struggles that took place and how things were or were not resolved.

“It dawned on me that with all these things I had in my file cabinets in Frankfort and some of the things I had in boxes, ‘Perhaps (that friend) is right,'” Wayne said. “Perhaps someone is doing work on social policy and would like to understand how certain projects were undertaken, how coalitions were built, what negotiations were required, who the protagonists were and how things eventually moved  ahead.”

The archive has a range of public information regarding Wayne’s career that was collected by the Legislative Research Commission. That includes legislative committee transcripts and testimony, floor and committee speeches, and the text of bill signings. There are video copies of Wayne’s appearances on KET programs such as “Kentucky Tonight,” and clippings of his Courier-Journal op-eds, including ones regarding the 1980s and ’90s expansion of the Louisville regional airport and the impact it had on residents in neighborhoods surrounding the airport.

Wayne said the archive could serve as a source for research on issues and projects in which he’d played a key role, including state tax reform, the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and the strengthening of laws to protect against child sex abuse.

Viewers can also review examples of political materials from over the years, including clippings of newspaper endorsements he received.

“I think there are even a few yard signs in there,” Wayne said.

Wayne’s papers will be housed in the Spalding Library Archives at 853 Library Lane, and can be viewed in person. Contact [email protected] to make an appointment. The staff is also beginning to digitize the collection so that it will accessible online through the Kentucky Digital Library online database.

Wayne said he is pleased that his papers will be housed at Spalding, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing. In addition, in 2018, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Public Service from Spalding during a celebration hosted by the School of Social Work.

Spalding President Tori Murden McClure presents framed honorary doctorate diploma to Rep. Jim Wayne
Jim Wayne received an honorary doctorate for public service from Spalding President Tori Murden McClure and the School of Social Work in 2018.

“I love Spalding,” Wayne said. “I really feel like a part of the community there, and I think President Tori Murden McClure is really doing an amazing job of understanding how that university needs to serve the vulnerable and the marginalized in our city. The School of Social Work is a really fine school of social work, and I think the faculty at the School of Social Work will understand how to use this collection.”

In addition to his legislative career, Wayne is President and Founder of the Wayne Corporation, which provides Employee Assistance Programs to a range of businesses, hospitals and schools. Wayne also holds master’s degrees in social work and theology.

Two leaders in Spalding’s School of Social Work – Chair Dr. Shannon Cambron and Undergraduate Education Director Dr. Stacy Deck – said Wayne and his work made a lasting impression on them while they students preparing for their careers.

Cambron said Wayne played a pivotal role in her decision to become a social worker. After her mother went to work part-time at Wayne’s firm, Shannon Cambron met with Wayne at her mother’s request. At the time, Cambron had been struggling with choosing the right path for her graduate work.

“I knew I wanted to be a clinician,” she said, “but I also knew that doing that work from a lens of justice and liberation was important to me. I honestly didn’t know that social work could provide that path until I met with Jim. He was gracious and inspiring, and I left his office confident I had found my life’s work. Having the artifacts of his work on Spalding’s campus is a testament to the his legacy of advocacy and change on the personal and community level.”

Deck said that as a graduate student in the 1990s, she drove to Frankfort and “camped out” in an LRC office to review hard copies of Wayne’s legislative work on the Affordable Housing Trust Fund as background for a policy analysis assignment.

“I am delighted that information like that will now be easily accessible via Spalding University’s online archives of Representative Wayne’s papers,” Deck said. “In the same way that the Affordable Housing Trust Fund remains a lasting legacy of Representative Wayne’s social justice work, documentation of the process for achieving that legislative victory will now be available as a guide and inspiration to continue this important work.”