Pages & Publicity
As with Looper and Mitchell, Pages occasionally emerged from their largely anonymous roles to occupy national attention. On March 1, 1954, Puerto Rican nationalists armed with handguns opened fire onto the House Floor from the southwest gallery. With Speaker Joe Martin of Massachusetts presiding, numerous Representatives, staff, and Pages were present for an upcoming vote. In the fusillade, five Representatives were struck—Alvin Bentley of Michigan, Ben Jensen of Iowa, Clifford Davis of Tennessee, George Fallon of Maryland, and Kenneth Roberts of Alabama. All five survived, although Bentley was critically wounded.
Future Representatives Bill Emerson of Missouri and Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania, were among the Pages working on the House Floor that day. Bill Goodwin recalled the experience: “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.” Pages sprang into action when the shooting stopped. “I was aware that there were Members shot, so I got up immediately and went down to check on who was the most serious,” Kanjorski recalled. “I alerted my other fellow Pages that we needed stretchers, and we actually—funny enough … we sort of took over, ordering the stretchers and getting people put together.”72 A group of a half dozen Pages helped to evacuate wounded Members to waiting ambulances on the East Front Plaza. In an iconic photograph that ran in hundreds of newspapers around the world, Kanjorski, Emerson, and Goodwin are seen descending the East Front steps, bearing a wounded Representative on a stretcher.
Other House Pages went on to fame and success in their post-Page years. Among the many Page alumni who went on to illustrious careers were William B. Cushing, the Civil War naval hero; Bill Gates (1972), who founded Microsoft; and Benjamin Jealous (1989), a president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. More than two dozen U.S. Representatives first served in the Capitol as congressional Pages. One of the earliest was Richard W. Townshend, born in Prince George’s County on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. Townshend served as a Page in the 1850s before moving to Illinois, where he earned a law degree, became involved in Democratic politics, and eventually represented a district in that state in the U.S. House from 1877 to 1889.73
72Goodwin Interview: 25; Hon. Paul Kanjorski, unpublished interview, 26 October 2011, Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives.
73See Townshend’s entry in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=T000339.