The Center for Legislative Archives

Senate Oral History Program

About the Program

Since 1976, the Senate Historical Office has collected a series of oral history interviews with former senators and retired members of the Senate staff. The interviews have been both geographical and institutional, including individuals' personal recollections of their careers with the Senate, and discussions of how Congress changed during their tenures. The Historical Office uses information gained through these oral histories for its own reference work, and also makes it available to researchers by depositing copies in the Senate Library, the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, and a microfiche edition distributed by Scholarly Resources, Inc.

The project has focused more on staff members rather than senators because the latter generally give oral history interviews to universities and historical societies in their home states. The Senate Historical Office encourages such private projects, and keeps a record of all resulting transcripts. For its own project, the Historical Office generally concentrates on staff whose service spanned more than two decades, and whose experience has included work on committee staffs as well as with individual senators.

Faced with a large pool of prospective interviewees, the Historical Office chose to interview a few representative individuals in depth, rather than to produce a great quantity of short interviews. The typical oral history in this series consists of six to eight interview sessions, each session about an hour and a half in length. Transcripts were produced immediately following each session for the interviewees to review. Interviewees were encouraged to speak fully and candidly, and their transcripts remain closed until specifically opened for research under the terms of a deed of gift. Once opened the interviews become part of the public domain and may be reproduced and cited without additional permission.

In 1998 the Senate Historical Office began putting their interviews on their website. Links to these interviews are provided here, and they are identified as such.

About the Interviewer: Donald A. Ritchie

Donald A. Ritchie is associate historian of the Senate Historical Office. A graduate of C.C.N.Y., he received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Maryland. He has published articles on American political history and oral history, including "Oral History in the Federal Government," which appeared in the Journal of American History. His books include:

  • James M. Landis: Dean of the Regulators (Harvard University Press, 1980)
  • Heritage of Freedom: History of the United States (Macmillan, 1985)
  • The Senate (Chelsea House, 1988)
  • Press Gallery: Congress and the Washington Correspondents (Harvard University Press, 1991)

He also edits the Executive Sessions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Historical Series) (Government Printing Office, 1978--). A former president of the Oral History Association and Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region (OHMAR), he received OHMAR's Forrest C. Pogue Award for distinguished contributions to the field of oral history.

Pagination Indicators

The transcripts of the oral histories of the Senate Historical Office have been available to researchers in paper at:

  • the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress
  • the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives and Records Administration
  • the various presidential libraries
  • the Senate Library
  • other institutions the Senate Historical Office has deemed appropriate since 1976

In addition, microfiche copies of the interviews have been published through Scholarly Resources, Inc., of Wilmington, DE.

Because these transcripts have been widely used and cited in this form, their original pagination is indicated by these page indicators in the online edition. When citing these transcripts, these pages should be used.


Attig, Francis J. Senate Reporter of Debates, 1952-1974 (1978).

Ballard, Leonard. Inspector, U.S. Capitol Police, 1947-1984 (1984).

Caldwell, Charles Sargent. Staff Assistant to Senator Ralph Yarborough, 1957-1970 (1996).

Detwiler, Donald J. Senate Page, 1917-1918 (1985).

Elson, Roy L. Administrative Assistant to Senator Carl Hayden and candidate for the U.S. Senate, 1952-1969 (1990).

Ensley, Grover W. Executive Director, Joint Economic Committee, 1949-1957 (1986).

Hallen, Brian. Senate Enrolling Clerk, 1986-1995 (1996).

Hildenbrand, William F. Secretary of the Senate, 1961-1981 (1985). U.S. Senate website

Hoffmann, F. Nordy. Sergeant at Arms, 1947-1981 (1988).

Holt, Pat M. Chief of Staff, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1950-1973 (1980).

Little, J. Franklin. Senate Page, 1910-1912 (19xx).

Marcy, Carl M. Chief of Staff, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1950-1973 (1983).

McClure, Stewart E. Chief Clerk, Senate Committee on Labor, Education, and Public Welfare, 1949-1973 (1983).

McGhee, Roy L. Superintendent of the Senate Periodical Press Gallery, 1973-1991 (1992).

Nichols, Jesse R. Government Documents Clerk and Librarian, Senate Committee on Finance, 1937-1971 (1994). U.S. Senate website

Peek, Scott I. Administrative Assistant to Senator George A. Smathers, 1952-1963 (1992).

Reid, Warren Featherstone. Chief Aide to Senator Warren Magnuson, 1964-1981 (1981).

Riddick, Floyd M. Senate Parliamentarian, 1947-1974 (1979).

Ridgely, William. Senate Financial Clerk, 1949-1981 (1982).

Scott, Dorothye G. Administrative Assistant to the Senate Democratic Secretary and to the Secretary of the Senate, 1945-1977 (19xx).

Shuman, Howard E. Administrative Assistant to Senators Paul Douglas and William Proxmire, 1955-1983 (1987). U.S. Senate website

Smathers, George A. U. S. Senator from Florida, 1961-1969 (1989). U.S. Senate website

St. Claire, Darrell. Assistant Secretary of the Senate, 1933-1977 (1978).

Tames, George. Washington Photographer for the New York Times, 1945-1985 (1988).

Valeo, Francis R. Secretary of the Senate, 1966-1977 (1986).

Vander Zee, Rein J. Administrative Assistant to the Majority Whip and Assistant Secretary of the Majority, 1961-1964 (1992).

Verkler, Jerry T. Staff Director of the Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, 1963-1974 (1992).

Watt, Ruth Young. Chief Clerk, Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, 1947-1979 (1979).

Wilcox, Francis O. Chief of Staff, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1947-1955 (1984).