The personal correspondence in this series covers the years 1959 to 2007, though there are no letters for the years 1992, 1993, and from 1997 to 2006. From 1959 to 1963, the correspondence consists of letters, postcards, and the occasional Christmas or birthday card sent to Professor Urban. Thereafter, and especially after Professors Richards and Urban met in 1967 and moved in together, the correspondence is more or less evenly divided between the two. In addition to their parents, siblings, grandparents, and various aunts and uncles, many of whom were prolific letter writers, the two men had a wide circle of friends, both gay and straight, with whom they maintained contact over the years. Some wrote only occasionally either by letter, postcard, or Christmas card, but their close friends wrote often and at length. Photographs accompanying the letters have been selectively retained and are appended to the letters themselves, except in the few cases where they are numerous.
There is a noticeable decline in the number of letters after 1979 – the number of letters fell slowly through the 1980s and by two-thirds in 1988 and 1989, with none for March to July 1990 – followed by a dramatic fall after 1990. There are only about 20 for the years 1991 and 1994-1996 and two for 2007. The initial decline has been attributed to both professors being very busy and having less time for personal correspondence, and fewer letters from their parents and other family members, partly due to aging and deaths. Some of Professor Richards’ and Urban’s most prolific gay correspondents had succumbed to AIDS or other illnesses by 1990, while letters from some of their most prolific correspondence declined in number. There are, for example, few letters after 1981 from Stirling Cook, perhaps the most consistent correspondent of their gay friends, but also fewer from their faithful letter writing straight friends, especially David and Christine Drake (after1982).
The principal family correspondents on Professor Richard’s side were his parents, Byron and Virginia, his paternal grandmother Irene Richards, his brother Roger, and his sister Pam, with the occasional letter from his material grandmother, Iva Wright. Professor Urban’s core family correspondents were his mother, his brother John, his sisters Jean Brosseau and Mary Balducci, and his aunts Ella Urban and Betty Murray. Other aunts and uncles and nephews and nieces wrote sporadically and/or dutifully sent Christmas and birthday cards.
Professor Richard’s parents and his grandmother Irene Richards enclosed press clippings on a regular basis. These covered local events and some of state and national politics, the weather (mostly notable winter storms), Byron Richards’ interest in the Cumberland County covered bridge and anything about architecture or design, especially relating to Ball State University where Professor Richards was briefly employed. The clipping relating to family and friends (especially those annotated), and to design and architecture have, for the most part, been retained and are appended to the letters (some in oversized folders, B2009-0005/002); the other clippings have not been kept. This also applies to the clippings sent to Professor Richards by his friends, especially David Drake.
Both Larry and Fred made long lasting friends at school and at college who proved to be their most prolific correspondents. Straight friends included David and Christine Drake, Vikky Alexander, Fred Clough, Robbie Dreicer, Eric Fiss and Nan Legate, Jim French, Richard Kibbey, Alain Langlois, Dan Leclerc , Don Matheson, Mike Opleger, Vladimeer Oustimovitch, Arlene Pitlick, Thalia Poons, Rob Price, Edward G. Roddy, Jr., Tim Rose, Jim Sink, Ross Smith, and Harriet Wright. Gay ones included David Anderson, George Ashley, Martin Brook, Paul Chaisson, Sterling Cook, Jim Dumont, Don Fritz, Welyn ‘Lynn’ Harris and Ruth Parsons, Frank Hebb, Donnie Josephson, Larry Klekota, Claude Lalonde, Walter Lichenstein and Jack Vanek, Scott MacNeill, Philip McAleer, Charles ‘Chic’ Maloney (a Boston lawyer), Don Matheson, Ed McQuarrie, Claudio Santon, Michael Stewart, Theobold Volker, and Manuel Yanez.
Professor Richards wrote that “Fred and I have both been rather open on all fronts as individuals and as a couple over the past nearly 44 years, and with very few negative repercussions,” though for a number of years his parents found it difficult to accept their relationship (for Professor Richard’s statement on the latter, see Appendix 1). This openness is reflected in their correspondence, especially with friends (both gay and straight), in which they candidly discussed their sexuality, their relationship, and a variety of issues, including political ones, affecting gays and lesbians. Their friends responded in kind. Many other ideas and issues were discussed as well, especially ones relating to their professional and aesthetic interests, but their sexuality remained a strong current throughout their correspondence.
Correspondence in the B2019-0009 accession includes letters from family members, between Larry and Fred, and from friends including Sterling Cook, Brian McKay Lyons, David and Chris Drake, Adele Freedman, and George Baird. Additionally, the material covers art purchases, pastor and advocacy letters that reflect concerns around homophobia and politics.