Oglethorpe University now is home to thousands of pieces of political and campaign memorabilia dating back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Some of the campaign buttons in the James and Camilla Comerford Collection at Oglethorpe University. (Photo Dyana Bagby)

The James and Camilla Comerford Collection opened Sept. 19 on the second floor of the Weltner Library after Sen. Johnny Isakson spoke at the university’s celebration of Constitution Day.

Since he was a small boy, Comerford has collected political buttons, posters and literature, and over nearly 50 years has amassed a collection of 20,000 pieces.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Iskason, left, spoke at the school’s celebration of Constitution Day, and James Comerford’s collection opened that same day, Sept 19. Comerford, right, wears a 1990 “Iskason for governor” button. (Photo Dyana Bagby)

A sizable piece of the collection, from 1932 to 2012, hangs from the university library’s walls and is encased in glass-covered shelves as part of a permanent exhibition. From Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama, the collection is a visual history of American politics.

Comerford, managing director of Proscenium Capital, is the chair of the Sandy Springs Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Committee. He’s served as chair for the campaign of U.S. Rep. Tom Price and on the transition team of Gov. Sonny Perdue.

He told a group gathered at the opening that he started his collection in elementary school with a Dwight D. Eisenhower button.

Campaign posters in the James and Camilla Comerford Collection. (Photo Dyana Bagby)

“I was interested in history … and this collection was a means of teaching myself on a myriad of subjects,” he said. “In politics you get everything from economics to psychology.”

A University of Virginia graduate and University of Georgia law school graduate, Comerford said he wanted his collection at Oglethorpe University “where it could make a difference.” His oldest son graduated from Oglethorpe.

Campaign posters for John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson in the James and Camilla Comerford Collection. (Photo Dyana Bagby)

“The mission as a liberal arts college is centered on the development of leadership,” Comerford said. “Here it can really make a difference in teaching leadership and history and economics … and all disciplines you find in politics.”

Comerford has not stopped his own collecting, but he said he hopes students at Oglethorpe will add to the collection with memorabilia from their home states.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.

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