Bill Goodwin

Bill Goodwin Image courtesy of Bill Goodwin, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
“That’s something you just don’t forget. To this day, I can still hear those bullets going phht-dut, phht-dut alongside of me, those two bullets that one landed above Bill Emerson, and one alongside Bill Emerson, which was just eight feet away from me, to my right. I can still hear those bullets hitting that mahogany wall. Phht-dut, you know? What a sound. And the thing is, I saw that it was a gun, you know? I saw it right from the start of it. Saw the guy stand up.”                                                                         — Bill Goodwin, October 20, 2005

Abstract & Transcript

Bill Goodwin’s eyewitness account of the March 1, 1954, shooting in the House Chamber is a rare perspective of a significant event in congressional history. His recollection of the startling attack—most especially the response of the Pages and other House employees—adds a layer of personal detail to the history of that tragic day. Goodwin also provides invaluable information about the daily routine and education of the House Pages. His interview encompasses a range of topics concerning the House and reveals an efficient institutional system that was dependent on the cooperation and a collegial relationship between Members and Pages.

Biography

William (Bill) Goodwin was born in Oakland County, Michigan, near Pontiac, on November 2, 1936. Raised on a farm in Michigan, he attended Waterford Township High School. At age 15, Goodwin jumped at the chance to help support his four siblings and widowed mother when asked by Michigan Representative George Dondero to serve as a House Page. He reported to the Capitol (after a long train ride from Detroit) at the beginning of the 83rd Congress (1953–1955) as a bench Page on the Democratic side. After a brief stint on the House Floor, Goodwin was reassigned to the Democratic Cloakroom—where he worked for two years. During his time as a Democratic Page, Goodwin answered phones in the cloakroom and ran errands for the Members of the House. He later helped guard the lobby doors and access to the floor.

Goodwin’s activities extended beyond his duties assisting Members of Congress: He attended morning classes before the beginning of House sessions, participated in the Page glee club, and sang at two Page graduations, including his own in 1955. Despite his busy schedule, Goodwin managed to find time for fun—going to the movies, riding horseback, and participating in a series of Page pranks. In 1954, Goodwin and his fellow Pages witnessed one of the most violent events in the history of the House when four Puerto Rican Nationalists fired hand guns in the House Chamber; five Members were struck by gunfire. In the aftermath of the shooting, Goodwin helped carry the wounded Representatives on stretchers to waiting ambulances.

After graduating from the Capitol Page School, Goodwin returned to Michigan to study veterinary medicine at Wayne University. He left school to help support his family, taking a job as a technician for National Cash Register (NCR). After eight years at NCR, he started his own cash register business. He later established a hovercraft business, designing numerous patents for the vehicle. Partially retired, Goodwin now resides in Merritt, Michigan, where he runs a landscaping business, enjoys hunting, and sings in his church choir.

Video

Arriving at the Capitol

Memories of arriving at the Capitol for Page service in 1953.

Bill Goodwin, Page, U.S. House of Representatives
Interview recorded November 2, 2009 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Recollections of the 1954 Shooting in the House Chamber: Part One

Eyewitness account of the shooting in the House Chamber on March 1, 1954.

Bill Goodwin, Page, U.S. House of Representatives
Interview recorded November 2, 2009 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Recollections of the 1954 Shooting in the House Chamber: Part Two

Eyewitness account of the shooting in the House Chamber on March 1, 1954.

Bill Goodwin, Page, U.S. House of Representatives
Interview recorded November 2, 2009 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Singing in the House Chamber

Recollections of the frivolity on the House Floor before adjournment of the first session of the 84th Congress (1955–1957).

Bill Goodwin, Page, U.S. House of Representatives
Interview recorded November 2, 2009 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Audio

Answering Phones in the Democratic Cloakroom

Recollections of the duties of a House Page during the 1950s.

Bill Goodwin, Page, U.S. House of Representatives
Interview recorded October 20, 2005 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Eyewitness to History

Eyewitness account of the shooting in the House Chamber on March 1, 1954.

Bill Goodwin, Page, U.S. House of Representatives
Interview recorded October 20, 2005 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Famous 1954 Photograph

Detailed description of a photograph taken on March 1, 1954, in which House Pages are bearing a stretcher carrying wounded Michigan Congressman Alvin Bentley down the steps of the Capitol to a waiting ambulance.

Bill Goodwin, Page, U.S. House of Representatives
Interview recorded October 20, 2005 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

First Days as a House Page

Memories of coming to Washington, D.C. and the first few days as a House Page in 1953.

Bill Goodwin, Page, U.S. House of Representatives
Interview recorded October 20, 2005 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Images & Artifacts

Yearbook Picture
<em>Yearbook Picture</em>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_goodwin_homepage.xml
Bill Goodwin 1954 Page yearbook picture.
Image courtesy of Bill Goodwin, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
1954 Chamber Shooting Image of House Pages
<em>1954 Chamber Shooting Image of House Pages</em>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_goodwin_1954_shooting.xml
On March 1, 1954, Bill Goodwin’s image appeared in national newspapers as he helped to evacuate wounded Representatives from a shooting that occurred in the House Chamber. In this image Goodwin is seen on the left, carrying a stretcher bearing Representative Alvin Bentley of Michigan to a waiting ambulance on the East Front of the Capitol. Two other Pages who later served as U.S. Representatives are Paul Kanjorski of Illinois and Bill Emerson of Missouri (located in the center of the image and the right, respectively).
Image courtesy of Bill Goodwin, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
House Page Appointment Telegram, 1953
<em>House Page Appointment Telegram, 1953</em>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_goodwin_western_union.xml
In 1953, Bill Goodwin received this Western Union telegram confirming his Page appointment and instructing him about the Page dress code.
Image courtesy of Bill Goodwin, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
Letter from Congressman Robert Ashmore of South Carolina to Bill Goodwin
<em>Letter from Congressman Robert Ashmore of South Carolina to Bill Goodwin</em>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_goodwin_knutson_letter.xml
A talented vocalist, Bill Goodwin occasionally performed for House events, sometimes accompanying Representatives. In this letter, Congressman Robert Ashmore of South Carolina remarked on Goodwin’s duet with Congresswoman Coya Knutson of Minnesota.
Image courtesy of Bill Goodwin, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
Bill Goodwin’s House Page School Certificate, 1955
<em>Bill Goodwin’s House Page School Certificate, 1955</em>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_goodwin_school_certificate.xml
On June 16, 1955, Bill Goodwin received his Page School graduation certificate.
Image courtesy of Bill Goodwin, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
House Pages Assigned to the Democratic Cloakroom Telephones, 1953
<em>House Pages Assigned to the Democratic Cloakroom Telephones, 1953</em>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_goodwin_democratic_phones_1953.xml
Assigned to the Democratic Cloakroom, Bill Goodwin (second from left) answered the telephones and ran errands for Members.
Image courtesy of Bill Goodwin, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives