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The opening of the House Radio Gallery

July 24, 1939
The opening of the House Radio Gallery Image courtesy of Library of Congress On July 24, 1939, Speaker of the House William Bankhead of Alabama presented the keys to the new House Radio Gallery to Fulton Lewis, president of the Radio Correspondents Association, accompanied Senator William Warren Barbour of New Jersey and Representative John J. Dempsey of New Mexico.
On this date, the House and Senate radio galleries formally opened. Despite resistance from many established print reporters, the House agreed to a resolution on April 20, 1939, to reserve “such portion of the gallery of the House of Representatives as may be necessary to accommodate reporters of news to be disseminated by radio, wireless, and similar means of transmission, wishing to report debates and proceedings.” House Speaker William Bankhead of Alabama praised the move, calling radio an “additional medium” for dispensing information, but he predicted that “there is no question of radio replacing the newspapers.” The Speaker presented Fulton Lewis, Jr., the first president of the Radio Correspondents Association and the leading advocate for radio access to congressional proceedings, the key to the new radio gallery at a ceremony in the House Chamber. President Franklin D. Roosevelt also congratulated Lewis and three other radio journalists who helped establish the gallery. “In broadcasting news of actual debate in the Congress ultimate public opinion will be based on the impartiality and fairness of the reporting,” the President stressed. “This includes giving ‘equal prominence’ to both sides of any issue, emphasizing all the implications of the words.” Speaker Bankhead appointed Robert Menaugh, a former “newspaperman” and doorman in the Speaker’s Lobby, as the first superintendent of the House Radio Gallery. In 1953, the gallery incorporated a new communication medium when it became the Radio and Television Gallery.

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