Image courtesy of Benjamin C. West, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
In this 1968 photograph, Benjamin C. West, superintendent of the House Press Gallery from 1969 to 1986, reviews press releases on a bulletin board in the press gallery.
On this date, Benjamin C. West, the longtime Superintendent of the House Press Gallery, was born. Born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, West grew up and attended school in Washington, D.C. At the age of 15, he worked briefly as an electrician’s assistant and as an elevator operator at the Capitol, before finding employment in the House Press Gallery in 1942. West began his 44-year career in the press gallery as a messenger during the speakership of Sam Rayburn
of Texas. He worked his way up to Superintendent of the press gallery in 1969—a position he retained until his retirement in 1986 during the 99th Congress
(1985–1987). During his tenure as Superintendent, West oversaw the modernization of the gallery and implemented a detailed reference system to facilitate the reporting of Congress. As an eyewitness to historical events such as the 1954 shooting in the House Chamber and the 1974 Nixon impeachment hearings, West relied on his experience and instincts to develop methods to serve Congress and the press. “I think the press gallery and its occupants are an eyewitness to history,” the former Superintendent once said. “And those in the chamber
, walking the House Floor, they are the authors of history. They are the creators of history. I think the two combine for an invaluable asset for the legislative branch.” Throughout his more than four decades as a House employee, West expressed his enduring respect for the institution. “It holds the same awe and majesty that I felt my very first day on the job. I get that same feeling of excitement every time I look up at the lighted dome when I leave work at night.”