Skip to main content

James G. Patton papers

Identifier: COU:1247

Scope and Contents

The Patton Collection contains various correspondences, professional and personal documents, photographs, audio tapes, and personal items from before his presidency to during his presidency in the National Farmers Union. A large portion of the collection is correspondence that can be found throughout the entire collection by date. Patton’s personal files can be found in boxes 1 to 30. They include correspondences with Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson. There are five scrapbooks that contain personal photographs and article clippings, and can be found in boxes 6 and 7. Awards and personal items can be found in boxes 8 to 11 and oversize folder 4.

This collection is organized into twelve sections.

I. PERSONAL AND FAMILY ITEMS contain biographical materials, clippings, memorabilia from between 1921 to 1985, also containing tributes after his death. Box 9 to 11 contains plaques and awards from 1966 to 1984. It also contains interview cassettes and family correspondence from 1943 to 1984. Clippings are about Patton from 1930’s to 1980’s. There are yearbooks from 1921 to 1930. There are also five scrapbooks of his trip to South America, NFU affairs, Charles Brannan, Farmer’s Union Award for Outstanding Service and Patton’s retirement in 1966.

II. PERSONAL FILES contain personal and business correspondence listed alphabetically by name in boxes 14 to 20 and chronologically from 1940 to 1981, boxes 20 to 27. Notable individuals include Brannan, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson can be found in boxes 28 to 30.

III. NATIONAL FARMS UNION GENERAL FILES contain reports from 1942 to 1984; information regarding NFU conventions such as programs, reports, letters, press releases, and speeches from 1952 to 1984. It also includes mutual life association and miscellaneous documents and books from the NFU.

IV. SPECIAL SUBJECTS contain correspondence, studies, expense records, memos, papers, accounting records and articles from corporations (listed alphabetically) from 1940 to 1981 such as the International Diatoms Industries, Ltd, Monopolies, agricultural association, post war conference, defense mobilization, safety council, Senior Citizens, trips and etc. It also contains family correspondence from 1977 to 1980 and speeches and statements, pamphlets, bulletins, graphs and clippings.

V. INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE, PROJECTS AND ORGANIZATIONS contain preparation and follow up data generated by the consulting firm, James G. Patton and Associates. A large portion of the documents in this section are from after Patton’s retirement as President of the NFU. Many are related to him as an international agricultural consultant. Most of the conferences take place outside of the U.S. in places such as Peru, Japan Venezuela, India, Africa, Mexico, and Hungary between the years 1946 and 1977.

VI. PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTRE FILES contains correspondence, reports, and programs from 1971 to 1975 when Patton was consultant to Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, James A. McHale. Also contain assorted related items, clippings, news releases, reports and projects prepared by Patton.

VII. SPEECHES AND REMARKS contain speeches and remarks made before audiences in the U.S. by Patton from 1938 to 1983; however, this does not include all the speeches made by Patton. These speeches are generally about improving agriculture in the U.S. and some about post war food production, and employments. Also contains research materials, notes, and drafts for speeches. There are also radio addresses, panel discussions, interviews and tape recordings. VIII. PRESS RELEASES, TESTIMONY AND STATEMENTS are listed chronologically from 1942 to 1976 and also contains undated press releases, testimony and statements.

IX. ARTICLES, COLUMNS AND COMMENTS are sorted chronologically by year from 1943 to 1965 and undated. It contains articles, journals, comments/correspondence from 1941 to 1957 about the published articles and columns, and articles by others.

X. PUBLICATIONS contain agriculture related books, NFU publications such as reviews and newsletters, pamphlets, journals, booklets, newspapers (1951 to 1981) and bulletins. It also contains clippings from 1940 to 1984 and undated. However, general books and government publications have been pulled from this collection.

XI. PHOTOGRAPHS AND AUDIO TAPES contain photographs of Patton from 1928 to 1984, family pictures, and photographs of other people listed alphabetically. Audio tapes include Green Thumb 1980, tapes, Patton’s personal history 1981 to 1982, 1985 tribute by the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and Washington D.C. tribute to Patton 1985.

XII. OVERSIZE contains scrapbooks, photographs and awards. In box 101, it contains letters and newspaper clippings from the 1930’s (materials removed from scrapbook oversize 1, due to the damage, the scrapbook, it has been transferred). Oversize 1 is a scrapbook of the 1940’s. Oversize 2 contain photographs of Patton in the 1940’s to 1965 (with other people). Oversize 3 contain photographs of others and oversize 4 contain awards: Honorary Texas Citizen 1972, National Council of Senior Citizens 1965, Santa Clara Organizing Committee Resolution of Commendation 1984, Santa Clara County Organizing Committee Resolution October 26, 1984 and Patton’s High School Diploma, June 9, 1921.


  • Creation: 1921 - 1984

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Limited duplication of materials allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Biographical Note

James George Patton was born in Bazaar, Kansas, on November 8, 1902, the son of Ernest Everett and Jane Alice (Gross) Patton. His father, an electrical engineer, was a follower of the Populist Party and of William Jennings Bryan. When Jim Patton was two years old the family moved to Amity, Colorado, where his father worked as an electrician in the coal mines, operated a small farm, and was one of the first members of Nucla (New Utopia Cooperative Lands Association), a cooperative enterprise that brought water into the area and consumer cooperatives. During his senior year Patton took a full year course in teacher training under the High School Principal H. G. Hirons. At the end of the course, the County Superintendent of Schools gave an examination which Patton passed and was issued a Teachers Certificate authorizing him to teach in the Colorado Public Schools. Patton had planned to attend Western State College in the fall of 1921. However, the terminal illness of his Father caused Patton to secure a job teaching at Mountain View, a one room rural grade school 5 miles from Nucla, where Patton grew up. During the summers, until 1927, Patton attended Western State College. From 1922 through the school year 1926-1827, Patton taught junior high school students and served as high school athletic director and physical education instructor in schools in Colorado and Nevada. In 1927 Patton entered Western State College as a full time student. While going to college he served as assistant business manager while working toward a degree in business administration. He left Western State College in July 1929. He did not finish his work for a degree in business administration. At Western State College he served as student body President, associate editor of the year book, and president (2 years) of Kappa Delta Mu fraternity.

“After leaving Gunnison in 1929, Patton went to Denver, Colorado, where he was a salesman of adding machines and typewriters until the Depression caused him to lose his job. Later, while working as general agent for a life insurance company in 1931, he came into contact with the Colorado Farmers Union and proposed to its officers the establishment of a cooperative insurance program. His plan was accepted, and he was hired to manage it on a commission basis. From 1932 to 1934 Patton set up the insurance program while living on a modest income. (The Farmers Union insurance program has since grown to considerable proportions.) Patton served as executive secretary of the Colorado Farmers Union from 1934 to 1937 and as president from 1938 to 1941. He became a member of the board of directors of the National Farmers Union in 1937 and was elected NFU president in November 1940. Serving at first on a trial basis because of his youth, Patton was soon accepted as president on a more permanent basis. Meanwhile, he also began his role as a government consultant, serving on the Governor’s interim committee on education in Colorado in 1937-38 and on the advisory committee of the National Youth Administration from 1938 to 1943.

“An outgrowth of the Farmers Alliance and the Populist Party, the National Farmers Union, also known as the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union of America, was founded near Point, Texas, in March 1902. It represents some 250,000 farm families, largely in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states, and it controls marketing cooperatives, insurance enterprises, mining developments, oil wells, chemical plants, and printing concerns. Unlike the other three major farm organizations — the conservative American Farm Bureau Federation, the militant National Farmers Organization, and the National Grange—the NFU seeks to preserve the small family-type farm. Its stated objectives are ‘to represent farm families’ interests and seek for them a more just share of the national income; and to help them develop their own self-help institutions,”

“When Patton took over as president, the NFU represented some 78,000 families and operated on an annual budget of about $30,000. Patton set out to revitalize the moribund organization. During his first year in office the NFU launched an expansion program and developed a legislative plan that included demands for an income certificate plan to insure parity income for wheat and other commodities, expansion of crop insurance, a food stamp plan for disposing of surplus products, and provisions for cooperative marketing, insured farm mortgages, rural slum clearance, and extension of Social Security. Most of these provisions were endorsed by the Roosevelt Administration and acted upon by Congress.

“After the outbreak of World War II the NFU tried to increase production and hold the line on inflation. Patton criticized other farm leaders who demanded higher farm prices and called for ‘parity of sacrifice’ for all segments of the population. Appointed by President Roosevelt to the Economic Stabilization Board in 1942, Patton also served on the advisory boards of the National War Manpower Commission and the War Mobilization and Reconversion Administration and on the National Advisory Board for Agricultural Marketing. In 1943 he proposed that war contracts be concluded between government and individual farmers, and he joined with organized labor in attempts to preserve the Farm Security Administration, which represented the interests of small farmers. He was active in Russian war relief and in efforts to aid refugees and German underground labor organizations. In 1944 he rejected an invitation to join a postwar cartel of ‘major economic and social groups’ sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers, referring to such a plan as ‘potentially dangerous to democracy.”

“The postwar domestic program of the NFU, as guided by Patton, included demands for measures to safeguard the income of the small farmer against the dangers of inflation, such as the continuation of price controls. The program also called for a Reconstruction Finance Corporation for farmers, a Missouri basin plan patterned after the TVA, adequate farm credits for returning veterans, rural electrification legislation, and federal aid to education, universal health care, and a permanent fair employment practices commission. A series of proposals for maintaining full employment and full production in the postwar reconversion of the economy, presented by Patton in 1944, formed the basis for the Employment Act of 1946, which has been called a ‘landmark in economic legislation.’ The act created, among other things, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and the Joint Economic Committee of the Congress, and it provided for the President’s annual economic reports to Congress.

“On an international level, Patton, who had been a delegate to several international conferences during the war, played an important role in postwar efforts to create effective world organizations. In February 1945 he was an agricultural adviser to the Inter-American Conference on War and Peace at Mexico City. He served as a consultant to the United States delegation at the United Nations Conference on International Organization, which opened in San Francisco in April 1945. It was partly owing to his inspiration that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations was established. He served as United States adviser to its first meeting at Quebec, Canada in November 1945 and was a delegate to its subsequent convention. Although United States State Department officials wanted to maintain the FAO as a mere advisory body, Patton took the initiative in seeking to make it an active agency. One of his early proposals was for a commodity credit corporation within the FAO, through which the wealthier nations would supply food to the needier areas of the world.

“Although Patton felt that the postwar reconstruction of Europe should have been relegated to the U. N. rather than to the United States, he generally approved of the objectives of the European Recovery Program, or Marshall Plan. In July 1948 he was appointed by President Harry S. Truman to a twelve-man public advisory board that helped to administer the program. In January 1950 he served on a foreign trade advisory committee under the Agriculture Department, and in September 1950, after the outbreak of the Korean War, he was appointed to the advisory committee on mobilization policy of the National Security Resources Board, headed by Stuart Symington. Patton’s proposals that American encouragement of land reforms should be a basic component of foreign aid programs were accepted in 1951 by the NFU and International Federation of Agricultural Producers. In August 1951 Patton suggested that the United States send farmers and technicians to live abroad and teach their skills to the people of underdeveloped countries—an idea similar to the Peace Corps Program adopted by the John F. Kennedy administration a decade later. In an article in the National Union Farmer (January 1952) Patton wrote: ‘The real war we must wage is not one with guns, tanks, planes, and atom bombs, but a war against poverty, ignorance, disease, landlessness, and hopelessness.’

“During the Eisenhower Administration, Patton continued to act as a government consultant, although he often disagreed with the policies of Secretary of Agriculture Ezara T. Benson. He served on the public advisory board of the Mutual Security Administration (the successor to the European Recovery Program), and in December 1953 he was appointed by Eisenhower to the public advisory board of the Foreign Operations Administration, headed by Harold E. Stassen. An NFU-sponsored ‘trading post’ law, inspired by Patton, under which American surplus foods were to be shipped to needy areas, was passed by Congress in June 1954. Patton proposed a soil bank program in 1955, under which farmers would take portions of their lands out of production and lease them to the government. That same year he was chairman of the Commission on School Support in Rural Areas, which presented a report to the White House Conference on Education in December 1955. Noting the decline in the purchasing power of farmers in his address to the NFU convention April 1956, he called for parity, not only of income, but in all areas, including education. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May 1956 he charged the Eisenhower Administration with conducting a foreign policy that meandered along ‘from crisis to crisis, from brink to brink,’ and demanded that foreign economic aid be kept separate from military considerations.

“Patton met in February 1961 with Orville Freeman, the Secretary of Agriculture in the newly inaugurated Kennedy Administration. He presented a program that included, among others, proposals for increased price support levels, legislation to eliminate rural poverty, an expanded ‘Food for Freedom’ program, a ‘national family farm policy,’ and closer cooperation between agriculture and labor on economic problems. In June of that same year he became a member of the American Food for Peach Council. The Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Abraham Ribicoff, named him to a panel of consultants on vocational education in November 1961 and to the Committee on the Aged in March 1962.

”Patton’s proposals for a world food bank that would distribute food surpluses to underdeveloped nations were approved by the FAO in December 1961. Other ideas proposed by Patton include a World Economic Union, which would set conditions for trade and the lowering of tariff barriers between democratic countries; a World Development Corporation for aid to poor nations, to be financed by a specific percentage of the gross national product of each member country; and a world land bank to promote land reform in areas where it is needed. In June 1963 Patton served as host to the World Food Congress held under the auspices of the FAO in Washington, D.C., and in the following month he represented American farmers at the inauguration of President Fernando Belaunde Terry of Peru.

“In 1964 Patton served on a U.N. team to study the feasibility of a land bank in Peru, and he was a chief adviser to the Unites States delegation at international trade negotiations in Geneva. Invited by Walter Reuther, he served on the policy and program committee of the Crusade Against Poverty group, and he was appointed to the President’s National Citizens Committee for Community Relations. Although the NFU has maintained an official policy of political neutrality, Patton supported President Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 elections and campaigned against Republican candidate Barry M. Goldwater. In 1965 he served as co-chairman of the National Conference on Natural Beauty and a Conference on the Public School and the Life of the Community. In July 1965 he was named to the Committee for Research on the Development of International Institutions.

“As a means of solving the problem of rural poverty in the United States, Patton has advocated the stabilization of farm populations in rural areas under an anti-poverty program. In a letter to the New York Times (August 23, 1965) he directly attributed the Los Angeles riots of the summer of 1965 to the mass migration of persons from depressed farm areas into overcrowded cities. He has called for a new set of economic principles that base economic rewards on need rather than purely on productivity. Unlike other farm leaders, Patton has endorsed legislative apportionment based on the ‘one man-one vote’ principle. Although he opposes Communism, Patton has worked to improve American-Soviet relations. He was one of the signers of a statement calling for a ‘sane nuclear policy,’ published in the New York Times in November 1957. He supported the 1963 nuclear test ban treaty, and he has favored the sale of surplus wheat to the Soviet Union. At the 1965 NFU convention he suggested a 20 percent reduction in armaments to finance poverty programs, and he declared that he placed the welfare of the people above ‘our overkill capacity’ and efforts to reach the moon.

“Patton has consistently turned down bids to run for political office. President Roosevelt reportedly considered him for the post of Secretary of Agriculture shortly before his death. The Western State College of Colorado conferred an honorary LL.D. degree on him in 1939. In 1962 Patton became the first American to be awarded the Croix d’Officier du Merite Agricole by the French government. He received the Leland Olds Award for distinguished service in natural resources development in 1964 and the Award of Merit of the Council of Senior Citizens in 1965. In 1957 he was cited by the Japanese-American Citizens League for his efforts on behalf of Japanese-Americans during World War II. The Denver Histadrut Council and the Colorado Trade Union Council for Labor Israel honored him with a recognition dinner in February 1965.

“Patton was vice-president of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers from 1955 to 1958 and president from 1958 to 1961. From 1961 to 1964 h was president of the American Freedom from Hunger Foundation. He was also served as president of the Farmers Educational Foundation and as chairman of its National Policy Committee on Pockets of Poverty, which was established in 1961. Patton was one of the founders of the American Council on Race Relations and a sponsor of the Atlantic Council. He has served as a vice-president of CARE and is on the executive committee of the National Committee for the Support of the Public Schools. In October 1963 he succeeded Eleanor Roosevelt as co-chairman of the National Council for Industrial Peace, and in December 1963 he was named to a committee assisting the Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial Foundation. In his book The Case for Farmers (Public Affairs Press, 1959), Patton reviews the problems facing the small farmer and outlines NFU policy.”

In 1966, Patton retired from the NFU and formed a private international agricultural development firm, James Patton & Associates. By 1973 projects were underway in Mexico, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ceylon, Ghana, Argentina, Peru and Portugal. In 1967 he was elected president of the United World Federalists, an organization dedicated to securing world peace. Under the auspices of the UWF, Patton proposed the Peace Keeping Act of 1968. After more than a year as president of the organization, he resigned in March 1969.

During 1968 Patton retired to Tucson, Arizona. After his wife Velma’s death in 1970, he moved to Washington, D.C. to be near the center of legislative activity. On November 8, 1972, Patton married Nathalie Panek.

He and his wife continued to live in Washington while Patton commuted to Harrisburg where he served as consultant to Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture James McHale and as project adviser to Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp (1971-1975).

During 1975 Patton moved to California to take up the position as Director of Retired Members of Department of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. He remained in this situation until 1978.

Patton has remained active in senior citizens’ groups, international and national organization and as an agricultural development expert since that time.

Mr. Patton died Feb. 17, 1985, at Menlo Park, California.

Gift of video cassette of Tribute to James G. Patton by the National Farmers Union, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union has been placed in Box 100 of Patton Coll, instead of the NFU Collection.

- This additional information is supplied by Mr. Dale Walter Patton Mackley, nephew of Jim Patton. (See correspondence in information file)

James George Patton was born in Bazaar, Kansas, on November 8, 1902, the son of Ernest Everett and Jaen Alice (Gross) Patton. His father, “a jack of all trades”, was a follower of the Populist Party and of William Jennings Bryan. When Jim Patton was two years old the family moved to Holly, Colorado, where they lived for a short time before moving to Aguilar, Colorado, where Jim’s father worked as an electrician in the coal mines. Later, the Patton family moved to Nucla, Colorado, where Jim’s father joined the New Utopia Cooperative Lands Association, a cooperative enterprise that brought water into the area and provided consumer cooperatives.

During his senior year of high school in Grand Junction, Colorado, Jim took a short course in teacher training which was taught by the Principal, H.G. Hirons. Patton earned a Teachers Certificate authorizing him to teach in the Colorado Public Schools. He had planned to attend Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado, during the fall of 1921. However, the terminal illness and death of his father made in necessary for Patton to secure a job teaching at Mountain View, a one room rural grade school five miles from Nucla. During the summers, until 1927, Patton attended Western State College. From 1922 through the school year1926-1927, Patton taught in several schools in Colorado and Nevada, and functioned as high school athletic director and physical education instructor. In 1927 Patton entered Western State College as a full time student where he worked as assistant business manager of the College while studying for a degree in business administration. During his attendance at Western State he served a Student Body President, associate editor of the year book, and president of Kappa Delta Mu fraternity. He left Western State College in July 1929 without completing the work for his degree.  


50.5 linear feet (105 boxes)

Language of Materials



James George Patton was the President of the National Farmers Union from 1940 to 1966. He was the Executive Secretary of the Colorado Farmers Union, he also a member of the National Advisory Committee, Youth Administration before he was elected President of the NFU. He was the US delegate to the Second Inter – American Conference on Agriculture in Mexico, member of the Economic Stabilization Board, Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion Advisory Board, advisor to the Food and Agricultural Organization, vice – then president of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers, president of the United World Federalists of the US Consultant to the FAO. This collection contains persona and family items and files, National Farmers Union files, documents of International Conferences, projects and organizations, speeches, media clippings, photographs, audio tapes and publications.



Processed by Doris Mitterling,1980 Reprocessed by Harvey N. Gardiner,1986 Re-housed by Carissa To, 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States