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Mark Plotkin Donates Papers to the George Washington University’s Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library

Historical Documents Will Be Available to Educate Coming Generations

March 30, 2018

Maralee Csellar: [email protected], 202-994-6460
Amelia Thompson: [email protected], 202-994-6460

WASHINGTON (March 29, 2018)— Washington politics commentator and political history expert Mark Plotkin donated his personal collection of commentaries, essays and other works from his more than three-decade career to the Special Collections Research Center of the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library at the George Washington University. Mr. Plotkin officially presented his collection at a ceremony last night that included a who’s who of current and former politicians from the Metropolitan region.

The collection is a treasure trove of materials that will enable future generations of journalists and politicos to research original historical documents about the life, culture and local politics of the District of Columbia. The materials include weekly commentaries complete with handwritten and typed notes from Mr. Plotkin’s time as a political analyst at WAMU-FM radio, Washington’s NPR affiliate, and WTOP-FM, the city’s all-news radio station. The collection also includes published articles from Mr. Plotkin’s “The Local Angle” column for Legal Times from 1991-1999, commentary from The Washington Post, personal photographs and other personal documents.

“I am very happy and extremely grateful to GW for accepting my commentaries and including them in their Special Collections Research Center. It is my hope that students, scholars and anyone interested in D.C. will make wide use of them,” Mr. Plotkin said. “And, I would also like to add that D.C. should be the 51st state. Then and only then will it truly become part of America.”

A native of Chicago and a proud graduate of the University of Chicago High School, Mr. Plotkin graduated from GW in 1969 with a bachelor's degree in American history. He proceeded to teach in public schools in Chicago and Washington, D.C., until 1971 when he shifted his focus to politics. He was a congressional district coordinator for the 1972 campaigns of Edmund Muskie and George McGovern. He did advance work and fundraising in 1976 for Morris K. Udall’s presidential campaign and also served as an aide to Eugene McCarthy’s independent presidential campaign. In 1980, he served as deputy finance director for Ted Kennedy. In 1982 he transitioned from political insider to political analyst, landing a position at WAMU-FM radio, a position he held until 2002. He also held that role at WTOP-FM radio from 1989-2012.

In addition to his ongoing commentary work, Mr. Plotkin had a significant role in negotiating the return of Washington’s city hall, the John A. Wilson Building, to city ownership in 1999. He also was involved in the adoption of the new D.C. license plates with the inclusion of the slogan, “Taxation Without Representation.” Well-known in the region for his passion and love for Washington, Mr. Plotkin’s status as a city insider was cemented in 2001 when New York Times columnist Francis X. Clines described him as someone “who knows this city, rich and poor, better than any of the talking heads in the Sunday TV ghetto.”

While success can be measured by the countless interviews he has conducted during his career, Mr. Plotkin is most proud of two awards presented for his professional accomplishments. In 2014, GW honored him with the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, the highest form of recognition given by the university and the George Washington Alumni Association to a GW graduate in recognition of an individual who has distinguished themselves through notable achievements in their professional and personal lives. In 2010, he earned the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in writing.

“We are so delighted to be adding the Mark Plotkin papers to our special collections,” Geneva Henry, dean of libraries and academic innovation, said. “They will complement our growing contemporary Washingtoniana collection and help tell the story of the evolution of the city. We are thrilled to make them available to researchers and students.”

During the ceremony, current and former politicos, who have gone head-to-head against Mr. Plotkin during one of his political interviews, were on hand to speak about their interactions with him. Speakers included current Washington mayor Muriel Bowser, former Washington mayors Vincent Gray (2011-2015), Anthony Williams (1999-2007), and Sharon Pratt (1991-1995), as well as, former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, and current city councilmembers Mary Cheh and Jack Evans.

‘The Mark Plotkin Papers 1983-2017,’ (collection number MC 2370) is housed within the Washingtoniana collection of the Special Collections Research Center at the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library at GW. The Washingtoniana collection documents the political, economic, social and cultural history of Washington. This history covers the beginning plans for a federal city to the present-day work to achieve D.C. statehood.