Fawcett, out of retirement, filling in at L-M
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · April 13, 2011

West Branch native John Fawcett on April 6 stepped in to temporarily serve as director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum.

He will serve until a permanent replacement is found for Tim Walch, who served as director for 18 years and as assistant director for four years before then.

Fawcett is an older brother of local businessman and farmer Ken Fawcett, a member of the Hoover Association, and is the son of the late Floyd Fawcett, who helped bring the Hoover National Historic Site to West Branch.

Floyd Fawcett was known for telling a story about how John got his start in presidential libraries: Bill Anderson, the first library-museum director, visited the Fawcett farm in 1962 and asked if John would like to help them prepare for the building’s dedication. John was digging post holes at the time and asked a single question: Is there air-conditioning?

“Yes,” Anderson responded. And that was the last time John worked on the farm.

“That’s not exactly true,” John Fawcett said of his father’s story, “but he enjoyed telling it.”

Fawcett had planned to attend the University of Iowa for a degree in physics. Professor and reknown rocket scientist James Van Allen, his advisor, told Fawcett that he hoped he was not going into the field for the money.

“He said he realized that, after all those years, he makes as much money as a bakery truck driver,” Fawcett said.

Fawcett started as a laborer at the Library-Museum, then worked his way up to guard/custodian, museum aide, sales desk, archivist, photographer, librarian, assistant director then director. After that, he moved to Washington D.C. to work for the National Archives and Records Administration as the head of the presidential libraries.

Now retired, he joked that he is probably the “cheapest” person NARA could find to fill the spot — retirement benefits pay him about two-thirds of what he would make in the job, so NARA is only paying him the difference.

While his responsibilities are the same, he is only directed to maintain current projects, not to begin any new initiatives.

He has also been invited to provide background information as NARA seeks a permanent Hoover director, who could be in place by June 1 or June 10.

“It’s not appropriate that I make a reccomendation,” Fawcett said. “But I think I can provide a lot of information on the history of the institution and the character traits that are most relevant here.”

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