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James E. Dyer Papers

Identifier: MS 052

Scope and Contents

The papers of James Edmund Dyer span the years 1900 to 2008, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1970 to 1990, and primarily document his work while Mayor of Danbury, Connecticut.

The collection is organized into three series: Personal, Western Connecticut State College, and Political and Professional. The collection is organized chronologically then alphabetically within each series and consists of biographical materials, citations, correspondence, fliers, greeting cards, membership cards, newsletters, news clippings, scrapbooks, petitions, posters, postcards, press releases, printed materials, proclamations, resolutions, writings and campaign materials such as bumper stickers, campaign pins, sample ballots and mailing lists. Series 1 contains personal items relating to Dyer’s youth, his mother and father, Mary and Thomas Dyer, his wife Alice Wenzler Dyer, and his four children: Christopher, Brendan, Whitney, and Trevor. Items include diplomas, copies of birth certificates, photographs, blue prints, certificates of appreciation, and press clippings regarding special events, such as birthdays and anniversaries, and audio and visual tapes relating to his family.

Dyer is also a collector of presidential manuscripts and political Americana. He owns one of the largest private collections of Kennedy memorabilia, which has been displayed in many cities and area schools. Series 1 also contains presidential recordings and transcripts of President John F. Kennedy’s meetings with staff and advisors on Integration of the University of Mississippi, Tax Cut Proposals, Peace Corps, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Civil Rights. Comments and correspondence regarding Dyer’s private collection can be found in this series as well as correspondence with Kennedy’s personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln. Dyer was also a frequent speaker at the annual John F. Kennedy memorial service in Danbury as well as in area schools where he spoke on Kennedy’s life and presidency.

Series 2 contains information on Dyer while he was a student at Western Connecticut State College and Trustee on the State College Board. During his years at Wesconn Dyer became more involved in local and state politics. In 1969 Dyer ran for president of the student body and lost the election. With an unsuccessful campaign behind him, he sought and won the vice presidency in 1970. Information regarding his campaigns and elections can also be found in issues of the Echo, published by the student body of WCSC.

In 1970, Governor John Dempsey appointed Dyer to serve on the State College’s Board of Trustees becoming the first undergraduate student in the state’s history to be appointed to a major board of public education.

Dyer also served as the official yearbook photographer during his school years and for several years after graduation.

Correspondence, clippings and speeches during this time indicate Dyer’s belief that change was due on state college campuses. Dyer established and served as chairman of the Keep Tuition Down Committee, established and served as state coordinator to the Coalition Against Tuition Committee, and was a member of Vote 18 Committee.

While Trustee, Dyer held unprecedented public forums on all four campuses so students, and faculty alike, could air issues of concern. Information on the public forums is covered extensively by news clippings, speeches, and press releases during this time. Researchers should also see copies of the Echo for additional information. Dyer’s published report on the open forums is located in box 18/10.

Governor Dempsey also nominated Dyer as a delegate to the 1970 White House Conference on Children and invited to attend by President Nixon. He served on the Connecticut Planning Committee and later on the Education Sub-Committee.

Series 3 contains information on Dyer’s political and professional career. With ten years of experience in government and the political process, Dyer’s political career began in earnest in 1976 when he ran as the Democratic candidate for State Representative representing Danbury’s 110th Legislative District in the Connecticut General Assembly. He won by a two to one margin and ran for a second term in 1978 and won with over 70% of the vote. Information regarding these two elections and Dyer’s activities in local and state politics that eventually led to his nomination and election is covered in depth in the chronological news clippings within this series. A brief summary of legislation, projects, and special concerns that Dyer worked on can be found in Box 48/14 in a copy of a letter to his constituents.

Dyer served four terms as Danbury’s Mayor from 1979 to 1987. Information regarding his campaigns and mayoral duties provides insight into local political campaigning and the varied duties and issues of public office. The chronological filing of this series will give the researcher the opportunity to follow the progression of certain projects from inception to fruition. Two city development projects of interest are the Redevelopment Agency’s plans to revitalize Danbury’s central business district and the controversy surrounding the choice of developer, and the building of the Danbury Fair Mall on the Danbury Fair grounds. Both projects are covered in depth and additional information can be found in news clippings.

During 1987 the FBI conducted a two year investigation looking into allegations of municipal corruption. Fallout from the FBI probe was a factor in Dyer’s loss in the November 1987 election. In December 1988 Dyer announced his intention to recapture the mayor’s office. He withdrew in March 1989, days before his indictment by a federal grand jury on seven counts of racketeering, extortion, and tax evasion. He was acquitted on charges of extortion and racketeering but convicted of filing a false income tax return in 1986. The conviction was overturned when an appeals court said New Haven U. S. District Court Judge Jose A. Cabranes erred when instructing the jury. Also, on a legal technicality, the Second Court of Appeals dismissed the government’s appeal to overturn a federal judge’s decision to bar crucial testimony in a re-trial of Dyer on the tax charge.

The correspondence files within this series are mainly incoming from local constituents voicing their concerns on issues as well as congratulatory notes and well wishes. Pre-trial and post-trial correspondence contain letters and notes of encouragement and well wishes from friends and family, and congratulatory notes and cards upon his acquittal.

The Casework files contain incoming and outgoing correspondence from the mayor’s office regarding issues of concern from constituents as well as internal correspondence between the mayor’s office and city departments. Dyer often sent handwritten replies that are indicative of his concern regarding certain issues. Interns assigned to the Mayor’s office often researched and replied to these letters as well.

The plaques and certificates which were awarded Dyer by different organizations in recognition of his contributions and services to various fields indicate the diverse range of activities in which he was involved.


  • 1908-2010
  • Majority of material found within


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research without restrictions except: Box 1/10-12, House ID with Social Security NumberBox 19/1-6, Campus Search CommitteeBox 19/7, Correspondence re Stephen FeldmanBox 51/1-2, Personnel Notes & BiographiesBox 83/8-10, NYU Class, Final Papers & Grade Book

Use restrictions

Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the:

Ruth A. Haas Library

Archives and Special Collections

181 White Street

Danbury, CT 06810

Phone: 203-837-8992


Box 1/10-12, House ID with Social Security NumberBox 19/1-6, Campus Search CommitteeBox 19/7, Correspondence re Stephen FeldmanBox 51/1-2, Personnel Notes & BiographiesBox 83/8-10, NYU Class, Final Papers & Grade Book Are closed

Biographical / Historical

James Edmund Dyer was born in Danbury, Connecticut, on September 20, 1946, to Thomas J. and Mary Murphy Dyer.

Dyer was first introduced to politics at the tender age of five by his politically active father who brought him along to party headquarter and door to door canvassing with him.

Dyer graduated from Norwalk Community College in 1968 with an A. S. in Business Administration and Western Connecticut State College in 1972 with a Bachelor’s degree in History. While at Western Connecticut State College, Dyer was active in student government and in yearbook committees.

Dyer entered the political arena in 1970 when Governor Dempsey appointed him to the Board of Trustees for the Connecticut State Colleges (1971-1972). He became the first undergraduate student in the state’s history to serve in that capacity. He was appointed for a second term in 1975 by Governor Ella Grasso.

During this time, Dyer was a delegate to the White House Conference on Children and served on the Education Sub-Committee, and in 1972 went to work as a congressional aide to former Congressman John S. Monagan from Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District. Dyer was also active in community affairs serving as chairman of the Danbury Youth Commission, president of the Danbury Young Democrats, a member of the CSC Alumni Board of Directors and member of the Search Committee for a new WCSC president.

Dyer was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives from the 110th Assembly District in 1976 and re-elected in 1978. While a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives Dyer served on the Education, Judiciary and General Law Committees, and was Chairman of the Higher Education Sub-Committee.

From 1979 to 1987 Dyer served four terms as Danbury’s Mayor. During his tenure, Dyer invested millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements, education, historic preservation and programs benefiting youth and senior citizens services. Improvements on Route 7 and widening of Interstate 84 between exits 3 and 8, as well as the Osborne Street/Garamella Boulevard connector, are among the many road projects that were initiated and completed to alleviate traffic congestion.

Also during his tenure, proposed plans for a mall on the Danbury Fairgrounds by Wilmorite, Inc., were finalized and executed creating jobs and additional revenue for the City.

In 1987 Dyer ran for a fifth term and was defeated by Joseph H. Sauer, a retired school teacher. After losing the election, Dyer joined Applied Data, Inc., in North Haven, Connecticut, as Director of Marketing and Communication. During this time Dyer also taught a night class on urban policy at New York University. In late 1988 Dyer announced he intended to re-enter the mayoral race but withdrew in March 1989 when he learned he was going to be indicted by a federal grand jury for extortion and racketeering. In February 1990, Dyer was acquitted of all charges but one, which the U. S. Court of Appeals reversed.

In 1992, Dyer joined the New Jersey School of Architecture in Newark, New Jersey, as Associate Dean. While there he taught an honors seminar and lectured on the role of the university in community design and planning.

In 1996 Dyer published his memoirs, “when the LEAVES begin to TURN” reflecting on his 50 years in Danbury.

Dyer resides in Danbury with his wife Alice and their four children: Christopher, Brendan, Whitney and Trevor. His hobbies are photography and collecting presidential letters and political Americana.


75 Linear Feet (102 boxes, 14 oversized boxes, scrapbooks and miscellaneous objects)


James Edmund Dyer, graduate of Western Connecticut State College and politician, was born in Danbury, Connecticut, on September 20, 1946. His papers span the years 1900 to 2008, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1970 to 1990, primarily documenting his work as Mayor of Danbury, Connecticut. Information regarding his activities at Western Connecticut State College, his two terms as Trustee of the Connecticut State Colleges, and State Representative for the 110th District is also included.The collection consists of biographical materials, legislative and trustee files, citations, correspondence, fliers, greeting cards, membership cards, newsletters, news clippings, scrapbooks, petitions, photographs, posters, postcards, press releases, printed materials, proclamations, resolutions, writings and campaign materials such as bumper stickers, campaign pins, sample ballots, and mailing lists.


Three series, chronologically and alphabetically:

Series I: Personal and Family PapersSeries II: WestConn MaterialsSeries III: Political and Professional Career

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by James E. Dyer over a period of six months during 2010.

Guide to the James E. Dyer Papers MS 052
Mary Rieke
Description rules
Anglo American Cataloguing Rules
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Western Connecticut State University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Haas Library
181 White St
Danbury 06810 USA US
203.837.8322 (Fax)