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Oral History


  
 
 

Oral History Project

Of the Senate Historical Office

List of Interviews Open for Research

List of Available Audio Clips


About the Project

Since 1976 the Senate Historical Office has interviewed Senate officers, parliamentarians, clerks, police officers, chiefs of staff, reporters, photographers, Senate pages, and senators. These interviews cover the breadth of the 20th century and now the 21st century, and include a diverse group of personalities who witnessed events first-hand. Darrell St. Claire, Assistant Secretary of the Senate, offered reminiscences of senators from Huey Long to Lyndon Johnson. Ruth Young Watt, Chief Clerk to the Subcommittee on Investigations under Joseph McCarthy and "Scoop" Jackson, candidly described fellow staffers Roy Cohn and Robert Kennedy, and reminisced about witnesses such as Howard Hughes and Jimmy Hoffa. Jesse Nichols, clerk and librarian for the Finance Committee from 1937 to 1971, was the first African-American hired on the Senate’s clerical staff. He spoke of the long, slow transition from a segregated city to an integrated workplace.

Senate historians interview those individuals who can offer a unique perspective on Senate history but may otherwise be missed by biographers, historians, and other scholars. Steeped in the literature and folkways of the Senate, the Senate historians also have ready access to Senate records.

The Historical Office has also received strong institutional support from the Senate and its members. In 1984, for instance, the Appropriations Committee chairman, Senator Mark Hatfield, literally ordered the retiring Secretary of the Senate William Hildenbrand to give an interview. Hatfield humorously threatened to suspend Hildenbrand’s salary "until that oral history is either arranged or has been completed." Hildenbrand complied with the request.  

Many of the earliest interviewees were men and women who began their Senate career when the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 mandated a larger nonpartisan and professional staff. They described the evolution of the Senate from a small community or "inner club," often closed and mysterious,  to a complex, modern institution increasingly conducting its business in full public view.  

The interviews follow a biographical format, beginning with the subject’s family background, education, and pre-Senate work experience. They explore how Senate service began, and then trace those careers from senator to senator, office to office, and committee to committee, frequently making comparisons among these many settings and personalities. Senate historians interviewed the first three chiefs of staff for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, covering the period of 1945 to 1977. The first, Francis Wilcox, remembered chairman Arthur Vandenberg stopping by his desk, cigar in hand, and engaging him in extensive discussions of foreign policy.  Wilcox’s successors, Carl Marcy and Pat Holt, carried  the behind-the-scenes action to ninety-one-year-old Theodore Francis Green, maneuvered out of his chairmanship by majority leader Lyndon Johnson, and then to  Green’s successor, J. William Fulbright, who used his position as chairman to battle President Lyndon Johnson over the Vietnam War. Reporter of Debates Francis Attig observed the change in Senate oratory from the 1950s to the 1970s.  Others commented on the influence of social and cultural changes on the work environment.

Transcripts of the interviews are deposited in the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the appropriate presidential libraries and senatorial manuscript collections. Some interviews are now available on the U.S. Senate Web site.  

List of Oral History Interviews Open for Research

Online Oral History Collection

Francis J. Attig

attig

Official Reporter of Debates (1952-1974)
 
Leonard H. Ballard

Leonard H. Ballard

Inspector, United States Capitol Police (1947-1984)
 
Dennis Brezina

Photo of Dennis Brezina

Staff, Science Policy Research Division, Legislative Reference Service; Staff, Senate Subcommittee on Government Research; Legislative Assistant to Senator Gaylord Nelson
 
Roy L. Elson

Roy Elson

Administrative Assistant to Senator Carl Hayden and Candidate for the United States Senate (1955-1969).
 
Martin Gold

Martin Gold

Counsel to Senator Mark Hatfield, 1972-1976; Counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 1976-1977; Counsel to the Senate Rules Committee, 1977-1979; Counsel to the Senate Republican Leader, 1979-1982, 2003-2004;
 
William F. Hildenbrand

hildenbrand2

Assistant to Senator J. Caleb Boggs (1961-1969); Administrative Assistant to Senator Hugh Scott (1969-1974); Secretary to the Minority (1974-1981); Secretary of the Senate (1981-1985)
 
G. William Hoagland

Bill Hoagland

Staff Director of the Senate Budget Committee and Advisor to the Senate Majority Leader
 
F. Nordy Hoffman

hoffman

Sergeant at Arms (1975-1981)
 
Pat M. Holt

holt

Chief of Staff, Foreign Relations Committee (1974-1977)
 
J. Keith Kennedy

Keith Kennedy

Staff Director/Clerk of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Deputy Senate Sergeant at Arms
 
John D. Lane

John Lane

Administrative Assistant to Senator Brien McMahon (1949-1952)
 
J. Franklin Little
Senate Page (1910-1912)
 
Chuck Ludlam

Chuck Ludlam

Counsel; Subcommittee on Administrative Practice and Subcommittee on Separation of Powers, Senate Judiciary Committee (1975-1979), Joint Economic Committee (1982-1985), Senate Small Business Committee (1985-1993), Senator Joseph Lieberman (2001-2005)
 
Carl M. Marcy

Carl M. Marcy

Chief of Staff, Foreign Relations Committee (1955-1973)
 
Stewart E. McClure

Photo of Stewart McClure

Chief Clerk, Senate Committee on Labor, Education, and Public Welfare (1949-1973)
 
Christine S. McCreary

mccreary1

Staff of Senators Stuart Symington (1953-1977) and John Glenn (1977-1998)
 
Jesse R. Nichols

nichols

Government Documents Clerk and Librarian, Senate Committee on Finance (1937-1971)
 
Warren Featherstone Reid

Image of Featherstone Reid

Assistant to Warren G. Magnuson, 1949-1981
 
Floyd M. Riddick

Floyd M. Riddick

Senate Parliamentarian (1964-1974)
 
William A. Ridgely

Photo of William Ridgely

Senate Financial Clerk and Assistant Secretary of the Senate (1949-1981)
 
Arthur J. Rynearson

Arthur J. Rynearson

Office of the Senate Legislative Counsel, 1976-2003
 
Dorothye G. Scott

"Photo of Dorothye Scott"

Administrative Assistant to the Senate Democratic Secretary and to the Secretary of the Senate (1945-1977)
 
Howard E. Shuman

Photo of Howard Shuman

Administrative Assistant to Senators Paul Douglas and William Proxmire (1955-1983)
 
George A. Smathers

Photo of Senator George Smathers

United States Senator from Florida (1951-1969)
 
George Tames

George Tames, Photographer

Washington Photographer for The New York Times (1945-1985)
 
Francis R. Valeo

Frank Valeo

Secretary of the Senate, 1966-1977; Secretary to the Majority, 1963-1966; Administrative Assistant to Senator Mike Mansfield, 1958-1963
 
J. Robert Vastine

Image of J. Robert Vastine

Staff Director, Senate Republican Conference, (1985-1991)
 
Jerry T. Verkler

Photo of Jerry T. Verkler

Staff Director of the Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee (1963-1974)
 
Ruth Young Watt

Photo of Ruth Young Watt

Chief Clerk, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, 1948-1979
 
Francis O. Wilcox

Photo of Francis O. Wilcox

Chief of Staff, Foreign Relations Committee (1947-1955)
 
 
  

Senate Historical Office

Historical information provided by the Senate Historical Office.


Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

Information about any senator, representative, vice president, or member of the Continental Congress.  

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Historical Statistics

Explore Senate history through historical tables and statistics.


Photo Exhibits

Selected photos from the collection of the Senate Historical Office.