Duke University officials have approached former president Richard M. Nixon about building a presidential library at the Durham, N.C., campus to house his personal papers.
Duke President Terry Sanford said in a telephone interview yesterday that he discussed the project with Nixon at his home in New York City a few weeks ago and the former president "was very much interested in talking" about the proposal. "I think President Nixon's papers are a great resource that ought to be preserved," Sanford said. A firm commitment could come within a week.
Sanford, a former Democratic governor of North Carolina, said the university board of trustees had approved the idea of donating land adjacent to the Duke campus for the library. Construction, which could cost more than $25 million, would be financed by private contributions, he said.
Duke spokesman Bob Wilson said opposition to the plan already has been expressed by some members of the university faculty who question the appropriateness of Duke sponsoring a project with the president driven from office for his role in the Watergate scandal. "There are people here who just don't like Richard Nixon," Wilson said.
Sanford expects some opposition. "There will be a few people reacting politically instead of academically," he said. "You have to separate the political from the archival value of the papers. Of course, the Watergate period will be studied, too."
E. Roy Weintraub, incoming chairman of the Duke faculty council, said professors are trying to find out more about the proposed library because they first heard of it last week in a memo from Sanford. "We have to try to find the real positives and negatives associated with a presidential library," Weintraub said. "I'm sure that everyone has some feeling it would be nice were it another president."
There are libraries for presidents going back to Herbert Hoover.