Montana Room

About the Montana Room

What will your find in the Montana Room? Books about the people, places and events that shaped and continue to shape Billings,Yellowstone County and the state of Montana. Microfilm of Billings newspapers from 1882 onward. Yearbooks from city high schools. City directories and old telephone directories. In short, the resources you need to learn about your community. Materials in the Montana Room are not available for checkout, but many of the titles are also available in the nonfiction collection.

We are in search of yearbooks!

We need yearbooks from Billings Central, Senior, Skyview and West High Schools! We are working on digitizing our yearbook collection and adding them to the Montana Memory Project but we have some gaps that we would like to fill.

We are looking for yearbooks that have minimal to no writing in them and do not have missing or torn pages.

The years that we need are:

Central High School – 1945-1946, 1948-1953, 1957, & 1968-current.

Senior High School – 1909-1911, 1913, 1917, 1919, 1943, 1956, 1958, 1972, 1980, 1985, 1994, 1997-1998, 2002, 2011-2012, & 2016-current.

Skyview High School – 2014 & 2016-current.

West High School – 1963, 1967, 1974-1975, 1986, 1990-1992, 1994-1996, 1998-current.

Drop off at the 2nd floor help desk or for more information call Cassie at 657-8258!

Tales From the Archives

These stories come from the archives at Billings Public Library. Buried deep in file cabinets for decades, they are emerging as library staff sort through, re-organize and index them. Some come from newspaper stories from around the state. Some are from correspondence, pamphlets, newsletters or other sources. They tell fascinating stories about the lives and experiences of our fellow Montanans. A new story will be featured most weeks.

Carl McFarland

McFarland_CarlCarl McFarland wasn’t born in Montana, rather in Seattle in 1904. But it was Montana that set him on his path. 

He came to Missoula to attend what is now the University of Montana, but was at that time called Montana State University. He earned his bachelor’s degree there in 1928, and his master’s the following year. Even after the crash and the start of the Great Depression, he was able to continue his education and earned his law degree there in 1930. He left the state long enough to get his doctorate in Law from Harvard.

Returning to Montana in 1932, McFarland moved to Helena as part of the Toomey and McFarland law firm. Only a year later, he received an offer from the Montana State Supreme Court. Montana wanted to revise its legal codes, and enlisted McFarland to serve as commissioner for the codification. He started on this huge task, but didn’t stay through its completion in 1935, though he remained as co-editor.

Instead, McFarland headed for Washington, DC and the federal Justice Department. He started off as an anti-trust attorney, but was also working on other projects. He was instrumental in drafting a great deal of the legislation for Roosevelt’s New Deal. He may also have been key in developing FDR’s ultimately unsuccessful plan to add six new Supreme Court justices, to eliminate the possibility of New Deal legislation being declared unconstitutional. Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him as Assistant Attorney General, working with Attorney General Homer S. Cummings. The two men evidently worked well together, as they co-wrote a history called Federal Justice. McFarland was placed in charge of the enormous Lands Division. 

In 1939, McFarland left the Justice Department. Cummings had already left to go into private practice, and McFarland joined the firm. He was active in the American Bar Association, especially in serving on a legislative committee. Under the aegis of that committee, he was the lead in drafting the Administrative Procedure Act, which outlined the governing of over one hundred governmental agencies and bureaus. The proposed statute was voted into law without dissent in 1946. McFarland received the ABA’s Gold Medallion for this work.

McFarland left Washington for Montana in 1951. He returned to Missoula to take the helm as President of his alma mater, the first time an alumnus had served as president. During his tenure, the university launched an expansion campaign, adding both land and new buildings to the campus. His administration established new degree programs, and emphasized arts for the university, adding the College of Fine Arts and programs in media, drama and dance. His tenure as President generally went well, but ended in major controversy. 

The Board of Education oversaw higher education in the state at that time. It ordered McFarland in early 1958 to cut positions in order increase salaries for full-time faculty by 4% for the coming fiscal year. McFarland objected, saying that a general salary increase would mean he would have to fire 20-30 instructors to be able to fund the increase for the rest. He asked to delay implementation, or to let him take funds out of another budget line. The Board ordered him to proceed as directed. During the controversy, thousands of students at the university held rallies and walkouts to support McFarland, and even agreed to raise their own fees to help defray the costs. It was to no avail. McFarland tendered his resignation in protest, and the Board chose to accept it. The university’s alumni group called on the governor to dismiss all of the Board members (which included the Governor) and reinstate McFarland. The Board merely named a new President for the University.

McFarland left Montana to join the faculty at the University of Virginia Law School. He was a significant contributor in drafting Virginia administrative regulation, and consulted with the Virginia Code Commission. He retired as Professor Emeritus from the University of Virginia in 1975, and passed away four years later.


Billings Gazette, “MSU Alumni Group Restates Stand on Asking McFarland to Resign”. April 30, 1958

Billings Gazette, “Resignation of MSU President Accepted; Castle is Appointed”, May 7, 1958

Missoulian, “Fire Education Board, Governor Told”, May 11, 1958

Missoulian, “McFarland ‘Resignation’ Not Confirmed; MSU in Uproar”, April 16, 1958

United States Department of Justice, “Carl McFarland (1937-1939)”,, retrieved 2/1/2019

University of Montana, “Carl McFarland – 1951-1958”,, retrieved 2/1/2019

University of Montana Archives, Biographical Note for “Carl McFarland Scrapbook, 1928-1937”,, retrieved 2/1/2019

Photo Credit:

US Department of Justice

Previous Tales from the Archives

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