Former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has deposited a collection of his papers and other historical materials covering his 46-year career in public office with the University of Florida’s George A. Smathers Libraries, the university is announcing today (2/12).

The collection includes 800 boxes of papers and more than six terabytes of electronic records.

It covers aspects of Nelson’s youth and early political career and his training and flight aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1986, including the flight suit he wore and a Florida Gators bumper sticker he took to space.

Nelson said he is “honored to have my papers and space collection deposited at the University of Florida, especially as a lifelong Gator … My papers will join UF’s strong collections of Florida history.”

Nelson attended UF in the early 1960s, but transferred to Yale, where he graduated in 1965.

Most of the materials will be available to the public after review by Nelson and processing by library staff, but some internal committee documents and constituent correspondence must be withheld for a period of time under federal law.

Nelson’s papers will become the sixth Senate collection in the P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History along with those of Spessard Holland, George Smathers, Lawton Chiles, Connie Mack III and Bob Graham.

Some 60 other collections related to Florida politics include the papers of members of Congress, governors and political advocacy groups.

UF President Kent Fuchs said the university “is honored that Sen. Nelson is archiving his political papers here … because of his extensive service to our state and the nation.”

Nelson earned a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1968.

After serving in the Army and starting a law practice, he was elected to the state House in 1972; the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978; state treasurer and insurance commissioner in 1994; and then to the U.S. Senate in 2000, where he served three terms, losing re-election to Rick Scott in 2018.