In the 1950s and 1960s, during the height of the Cold War, the United States performed a number of atmospheric and below ground nuclear weapons tests, most of them in supposedly remote locations across the Southwest and Colorado Plateau. At the same time, uranium mines covered the region, employing thousands of workers and sometimes giving rise to entire towns. In the name of national security, military and government officials often ignored safety regulations, gave little credence to scientific studies documenting the health hazards caused by radiation, and continued to promote and fund uranium mining and atomic testing. Within years, miners, military personnel, and residents in the area showed signs of various diseases and cancers related to radiation and fallout. After decades of legal wrangling and failed lawsuits against the federal government, Congress passed a bill establishing the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program in 1990 to compensate individuals and families impacted by nuclear development. Now referred to under the banner term "Downwinders," many individuals or their families journey to Special Collections seeking proof of residence in Downwinder areas to support their claims, navigate bureaucratic red tape, and receive what usually amounts to $50,000 in compensation.[1]

1955 Flagstaff Directory cover (left) and page seven (right) featuring Platt Cline.

Local phone directories, like the 1955 Flagstaff Directory (above) and voting ledgers, including the election signature register for the 1952 General Election (below), found in the archives help patrons mount stacks of evidence to prove that atomic testing adversely impacted their health. Look for Cline Library's namesake, Platt Cline, in both the directory and the voting register. As a resident of Flagstaff in the mid-1950s, he was a Downwinder.

Election Signature Register, 1952 General Election (note Platt Cline's signature next to #132), Coconino County Records Collection, AHSND.MS.50, Series IV, Box-Folder 370, Cline Library Special Collections and Archives, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona.


[1]Peter H. Eichstaedt,If You Poison Us: Uranium and Native Americans (Santa Fe: Red Crane Books, 1994), 102-22.

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