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Michael Lynn "Mike" Synar Collection

Identifier: CAC-CC-051
The greater part of the Synar collection, some 97,000 items, consists of legislative and research materials used by the Synar office during his years as a Congressman from Oklahoma. These materials range in date from 1979 to 1994 and include, but are not limited to, internal memos, drafts of bills, hearing materials, and background research.

The materials cover a variety of topics relevant to Congress and Oklahoma but provide particular focus on issues that galvanized the Synar office such as the advertisement and distribution of tobacco, campaign finance reform, Native American interests, and multiple environmental concerns.

The collection also includes nearly 60,500 items of constituent correspondence related to legislative issues or requesting assistance from the Synar office, received by Synar throughout his time in office. Other, less extensive series in the collection include: campaign materials (some 1,025 items) which include internal memos and debate notes, departmental materials (some 4,000 items) related to the relationship between Synar’s office and various government agencies and Native American tribes, office materials (nearly 30,500 items) containing administrative and scheduling materials, and copies and drafts of speeches given by Synar (some 1,700 items) and photographs (some 750) maintained by the office.

Of particular note is the court case series which contains some 1,100 items related to prominent court cases Synar participated in including Bowsher v. Synar and the impeachment of Judge Alcee Hastings.


  • 1979-1996


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Certain series of this collection are stored off-site and require prior notice to access. If you wish to view these materials, please contact the Congressional Archives staff to arrange an appointment.

The following series are stored off-site: Campaign, Subject, Office, Press, Speeches, and Correspondence.

Conditions Governing Use:

The University of Oklahoma asserts no claim of copyright over photographs in this collection taken by private citizens. Any publication of such photographs requires the consent of the copyright holder.


480.83 Linear Feet (379 containers- includes 4 oversize folders in Drawer 6 of Map Case 1)

0.000002564 Terabytes (324 files)

Biographical Information:

Michael Lynn "Mike" Synar was born in Vinita, Oklahoma on October 17, 1950. His father, Edmond Synar, served in the Air Force during World War II and was a cattle rancher in Vinita.

Synar attended Muskogee Public Schools, graduating from Muskogee High School in 1968. He was extremely involved in speech and debate and 4-H and won several national 4-H awards. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1972 and was a Rotary Scholar at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland before earning his master’s degree in management from Northwestern University. Synar then returned to the University of Oklahoma, earning his law degree in 1977. In addition to practicing law in Muskogee, Synar worked as a rancher and real estate broker in the area.

At the age of 27, Synar won his first election to Congress, representing Oklahoma’s Second District. Dedicated to what he saw as the public good, Synar championed many controversial causes while serving in the House. He introduced legislation to restrict the advertising and sale of tobacco products, called for public land reform, supported the Brady Bill and other anticrime initiatives, and championed many environmental issues. Synar was also known for his involvement in high-profile court cases including his successful challenge of a key portion of the Gramm-Rudman Act in Bowsher v. Synar and his role as lead prosecutor in the impeachment of Federal Judge Alcee Hastings. Often at odds with his constituents and the target of special interests, Synar failed to win re-election in 1994, losing the Democratic primary to Virgil Cooper. In the year following his defeat, Synar served as chairman of the National Bankruptcy Review Commission and started the nonprofit Campaign for America Project which focused on reforming campaign finance laws. In early 1995, he was awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

Synar passed away on January 3, 1996, at the age of 45, from cancer.

Arrangement of Materials:

The Synar Collection is arranged into twelve series:

1. Court Cases

2. Campaign

3. Departmental

4. Subject

5. Office

6. Press

7. Speeches

8. Photographs

9. Legislative

10. Correspondence

11. Personal

12. Digital Materials

Each series features either a chronological or alphabetical arrangement.

Preservica Internal URL

Preservica Public URL Preservica Access

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Synar Collection was gifted to the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents in 1996. It was subject to embargo for 20 years.


Duplicates and all items containing information protected by Federal law were identified during processing. Archivists deaccessioned all duplicate items. The National Archives and Records Administration (Center for Legislative Archives) assisted archivists with the declassification of documents featuring information related to National Security. Contituent casework was retained when possible, though only redacted copies will be available to patrons.

Processing Information

Leading Processing Archivist: Nathan Gerth

Processing Archivist: Rachel Henson

Archives Graduate Assistants: Heather Bateman, Heather Walser, Andrew Gourd, Elizabeth Peterson, Nicole Umayam, Lindsey Marshall

Student Archivists: Ashley Hosek, Pabel Vivanco-Cardenas, Kaley Rains

Completed in a total of 16 months, the Synar processing project represented a departure from earlier processing projects at the Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives. By collecting metadata electronically via online forms, the workflow significantly reduced the amount of time previously dedicated to first typing up the data and then consolidating the individual files into a single finding aid. The forms also gave the archivists increased control over the vocabulary and syntax of the metadata.

Processing of the collection proceeded in two phases, during which materials were rehoused and metadata was collected. Each phase culminated in the movement of folders from the boxes in which they had been placed after rehousing to long-term storage boxes. The arrangement of materials was dictated by the sorting of series data according to specific criteria, e.g., chronological or alphabetical order. This arrangement reflected, when possible, the original order of the collection at the folder level. During the shifting of these folders, the staff physically matched the data collected to the physical markings on the folders, rearranged folders improperly sorted in the data, and rehoused any materials that had been improperly placed in folders.
Guide to the Michael Lynn "Mike" Synar Collection CAC.CC.051
Finding Aid Author: Nathan Gerth
  • TypeCollection

Repository Details

Part of the Carl Albert Center Congressional and Political Collections Repository

630 Parrington Oval
Room 202B
Norman Oklahoma 73109 United States