Bill Nelson

Then-U.S. Rep. Bill Nelson aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986. This photo and the bumper sticker Nelson is holding in it are part of the collection of papers and other items he has deposited with UF’s Smathers Libraries.

An Army veteran, lawyer, astronaut and politician.

They’re not four different people. It’s just former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

After an extensive political career, Nelson deposited his collection of papers from his public life in a UF library.

About 800 boxes and 260,000 electronic files were delivered to UF’s Smathers Library in early January, said UF Spokesperson Steve Orlando.

“This is a research resource for historians when they go and put together different pieces of history and what was important,” Nelson said. “In my case, my work is shown not only in Florida, but on the national level as well.”

Nelson’s roots in Florida stem from as early as 1829, when his family settled shortly after Florida was acquired from Spain as a territory, he said.

Nelson was once a Gator himself in the early 1960s before transferring and graduating from Yale University with a degree in political science.

“I’ve been a lifelong Gator, so this was a natural place to deposit these documents,” Nelson said.

The documents include speeches, press releases, letters, photographs and correspondence with constituents during his term in Congress, he said.

A space collection will also be among the documents, which describe his training and flight on the space shuttle Columbia through photographs and other reports, he said.

Nelson and library staff are reviewing the documents to determine which will be made public, Orlando said. The reviews could take several months, as some documents cannot be released until cleared by Nelson and other librarians and archivists. Once they are, they will be released a little at a time.

Orlando said students can use the documents for research in academic papers or for looking to uncover information. The process will take a few months and will be done in segments with files being both digital and physical.

R. Matthew Barocas, the UF College Democrats treasurer, said he is interested in learning about Nelson’s political dealings with College Democrats of America chapters across the country. He also wants to use the documents to understand the role of students in his past campaigns.

“Any resources on politics and history in the state of Florida are good for student review, especially because his tenure in office was so recent,” said Barocas, a 19-year-old political science sophomore. “There'll be a lot of illuminating documents on the current workings of the Senate.”