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The Career of House Doorkeeper Bert W. Kennedy

April 16, 1959
The Career of House Doorkeeper Bert W. Kennedy Image courtesy of Library of Congress Retiring from the position of House Doorkeeper in 1937, Bert W. Kennedy spent nearly 50 years in service to the House.
On this date, former Doorkeeper of the House Bert W. Kennedy died in Vienna, Virginia, at the age of 86. Described by Time Magazine as “gruff” and “little,” and by Members as “popular and efficient,” Kennedy worked for the U.S. House of Representatives for 47 years. Born in Grand Ledge, Michigan, Kennedy first came to Washington, D.C., as a Page in 1889. For the next 30 years, he served as special messenger and as assistant doorkeeper. A Republican, Kennedy was named Doorkeeper in 1919, a position which he held until Democrats regained the majority after the 1930 elections; he was subsequently appointed minority clerk in 1931. As Doorkeeper, Kennedy managed many of the daily House operations. In 1925, he reformed the Capitol Page Program, opening a Page school. During the Great Depression, Kennedy earned his stern reputation by maintaining order while many jobless individuals protested in the House Gallery. Kennedy’s long tenure won him bi-partisan esteem among Members. In 1937, as the House debated extending retirement benefits for longstanding employees, Kennedy unwittingly found himself at the center of the issue. Representative John Andrew Martin, a Colorado Democrat, highlighted Kennedy’s career in arguing for better retirement benefits. “When I first came to Congress a great many years ago,” recalled Martin, “the Democratic side of the aisle did not enjoy a very much higher rating than the Republican side does now. Bert Kennedy was at that time an employee of this House. Had I been a member of his own party I could not have been treated any more courteously, I could not have been helped any more than I was by Bert Kennedy. In my judgment he is the kind of man we should have in the Government service.” Martin also noted that he “would vote for a resolution to reinstate Bert Kennedy to a job even if he was the rankest Republican in America. I would not question his politics after nearly 50 years of efficient service in this House.” Martin’s colleagues met his comments with applause. Kennedy retired in 1937.

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The House has elected or appointed employees to carry out a wide variety of tasks throughout its history. The officers’ duties are prescribed both by law and Rule II of the Rules of the House of Representatives.

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