Joe Bartlett

Joe Bartlett began his 38-year career with the House of Representatives in 1941. In this undated image, he is seen at the Reading Clerk's desk. Image courtesy of Joe Bartlett, provided by Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
“And William Tyler Page was a splendid man. He had that claw-hammered coat, you know. He dressed a fashion—a formality—100 years earlier. But he and Senator [Clyde] Hoey continued to do this into the 20th century. I enjoyed visiting with William Tyler Page. And I must confess, if I ever had an ambition in the process of my career—and I didn’t really have very many, because I thought how unrealistic it was for me to presume that fate might favor me that way, and I wasn’t kidding myself—but I so admired William Tyler Page and his knowledge of Congress that, yes, I said, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be wonderful to follow in his footsteps.’ And so I must say, when I finally was elected to that job, it had much more significance for me than many people knew.”
— Joe Bartlett, April 7, 2006

Abstract & Transcript

In the summer of 1941, just before his 15th birthday, Joe Bartlett left the family farm in rural West Virginia to work as a Page on Capitol Hill. But what he expected would be a one-month position became a House career that spanned 38 years. Bartlett eventually served as the chief of Pages, then as a reading clerk and, in the 1970s, as Clerk to the Minority, the senior Republican staff officer in the House. In his series of interviews, he provided many details on House proceedings and insights on how each of his positions fit into the day-to-day operation of the institution. Bartlett witnessed and described many historic events during his long tenure on the Hill, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech on December 8, 1941 and the 1954 shooting in the House Chamber. He also spoke about the daily routines, customs, and traditions he observed in the U.S. House. Bartlett's recollections of the House Page program, the Congressional Baseball Game, the renovation of the House Chamber from 1949 to 1951, and his personal memories of the era's leading Representatives and House Officers, such as Sam Rayburn, Joe Martin, William Tyler Page, Joe Sinnott, and South Trimble, all provide an invaluable and unique perspective on the institution.

Biography

Dorsey Joseph Bartlett was born on August 7, 1926, in Clarksburg, West Virginia. He was the sixth of ten children of Flavius Dorsey Bartlett, an efficiency engineer in the glass business, and Blanche (Hacker) Bartlett. Bartlett lived on the family farm in central West Virginia and attended local schools. After being named "America's Typical Schoolboy Patrolman," he was awarded a 30-day appointment as a HousePage on August 1, 1941,  with the help of Representative Wright Patman of Texas. Later, having impressed Doorkeeper Joe Sinnott and House Clerk South Trimble, Bartlett received Page appointments while serving as Page Overseer and attending the Capitol Page School. Upon graduating in 1944, Bartlett enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was honorably discharged as a Private First Class in September 1945.

Returning to the Capitol after his service in World War II, Bartlett was appointed the Republican chief of Pages by Speaker Joe Martin of Massachusetts. He oversaw the work of several dozen House Pages, some as young as 11 years old. Commissioned from the ranks of the Marine Corps Reserve, Bartlett was recalled to active duty in January 1951 and served until June of 1952. From 1953 to 1971,Bartlett was a House reading clerk, sharing duties on the rostrum and working with the Speaker's and the Clerk's offices on numerous floor-related and administrative tasks. Bartlett also served as chief reading clerk for six Republican National Conventions. From May 1971until he retired, Bartlett served as Minority Clerk.

In January 1979, a year after retiring from the Marine Corps as a Brigadier General, Bartlett retired from the House. During his career, Bartlett received honorary law degrees from the Atlanta Law School and Salem College. He was also awarded the Legion of Merit, and in 1982 he was the Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Federal Executive Institute. Joe Bartlett died on March 1, 2013, at his home in Richmond, Virginia.

Video

"The Clinic"

Description of Indiana Congressman Charlie Halleck's office space, "The Clinic."

Joe Bartlett, Clerk to the Minority, U.S. House of Representatives
Interview recorded October 12, 2006 Deed of Gift

Competition for House Reading Clerk

Personal account of the competition which took place for House Reading Clerk in 1953.

Joe Bartlett, Clerk to the Minority, U.S. House of Representatives
Interview recorded October 12, 2006 Deed of Gift

The House Assembles in the Ways and Means Committee Room

Recollections of the 81st Congress (1949-1951) which met in the House Ways and Means Committee Room.

Joe Bartlett, Clerk to the Minority, U.S. House of Representatives
Interview recorded October 12, 2006 Deed of Gift

Audio

Capitol Page School

Memories of the Capitol Page School during the 1940s.

Joe Bartlett, Clerk to the Minority, U.S. House of Representatives
Interview recorded April 7, 2006 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

House Page Responsibilities

Information on the duties and responsibilities of House Pages during the 1940s.

Joe Bartlett, Clerk to the Minority, U.S. House of Representatives
Interview recorded April 7, 2006 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Pages on the House Floor

Description of the responsibilities of Pages assigned to the House Floor during the 1940s and 1950s.

Joe Bartlett, Clerk to the Minority, U.S. House of Representatives
Interview recorded May 17, 2006 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Patronage in the U.S. House

Background on House patronage and appointments during the 1940s and 1950s.

Joe Bartlett, Clerk to the Minority, U.S. House of Representatives
Interview recorded April 7, 2006 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Images & Artifacts

House Reading Clerk
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Pictured here in the House Chamber, Joe Bartlett served as a House reading clerk from 1953 to 1971.
Image courtesy of Joe Bartlett, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
88th Congress, 1963–1965
<em>88th Congress, 1963–1965</em>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_bartlett_joe_chamber_color.xml
Speaker John McCormack of Massachusetts and staff on the Speaker’s Rostrum are featured in this group photograph of the 88th Congress (1963–1965). Joe Bartlett is seated at the second tier of the rostrum next to the podium.
Image courtesy of Joe Bartlett, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
House Page School Athletic Letter, 1944
<em>House Page School Athletic Letter, 1944</em>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_bartlett_1944_page_letter.xml
In 1944, the Capitol Page School gave House Page Joe Bartlett, whose career as a House staffer ultimately spanned 38 years, a varsity letter in basketball.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives, Gift of Brigadier General Joe Bartlett
About this object
House Reading Clerk Joe Bartlett at the Speaker's Rostrum
<em>House Reading Clerk Joe Bartlett at the Speaker's Rostrum</em>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_bartlett_joe_chamber_bw.xml
Joe Bartlett (far right) seated at the rostrum with Speaker Joe Martin of Massachusetts looking on.
Image courtesy of Joe Bartlett, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
Chief Page Joe Bartlett
<em>Chief Page Joe Bartlett</em>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_bartlett_pages.xml
Joe Bartlett (seated in the rear right of this image) served as Republican Chief of Pages after he returned from his service in World War II.
Image courtesy of Joe Bartlett, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
House Page School Graduation, 1944
<em>House Page School Graduation, 1944</em>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_bartlett_page_graduation.xml
In 1944, Joe Bartlett (second row, second from right) graduated from the Capitol Page School. The ceremonies were held in the Ways and Means Committee Room and attended by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress
Joe Bartlett in the U.S. Marine Corps
<em>Joe Bartlett in the U.S. Marine Corps</em>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_bartlett_marine_jeep.xml
After graduating from the House Page School, Joe Bartlett joined the U.S. Marine Corps. He served tours of duty in World War II and in the Korean War.
Image courtesy of Joe Bartlett, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives