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Historical Highlights

The Joyous Closing of the First Session of the 84th Congress (1955–1957)

August 02, 1955
The Joyous Closing of the First Session of the 84th Congress (1955–1957) Image courtesy of William Goodwin, provided by Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives House Page Bill Goodwin and Representative Coya Knutson of Minnesota harmonize during the recess festivities.
On this date, while waiting for the Senate to adjourn sine die, Members of the House broke out into song in the House Chamber. Shortly before 9pm, Representative Percy Priest of Tennessee started the festivities by leading a group of his colleagues in a chorus of several songs, including “Let the Rest of the World Go By.” As more Members joined in the impromptu musical performance, Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas brought a temporary end to the frivolities when he called the House to order. After the House passed several bills, Majority Leader John McCormack of Massachusetts took the floor to pay tribute to a former colleague and Clare Hoffman of Michigan thanked the House employees who “handled those illegible or indecipherable manuscripts that we send down to the Printing Office, and which come back the next day in the Record logical and clear.” As the House recessed again, Louis Rabaut of Michigan followed Congressman Priest’s example by leading the chamber in song. Rabaut later called on a House Page, Bill Goodwin, to join him in the well of the chamber. Years later, Goodwin, who sang “the Lord’s Prayer,” recalled that, “the place was packed, and we were all waiting, and a lot of frivolity was going on at that time. The guys were telling jokes, and some guys were singing, but then Mr. Rabaut asked me to sing. That was a great thrill, and I got a good ovation for it, too.” Goodwin also joined in a duet with Congresswoman Coya Knutson of Minnesota, a former high school teacher who briefly attended the Julliard School of Music in New York City. Although the recess festivities on the House Floor primarily featured singing, some Representatives such as Frank Chelf opted for a different musical arrangement; the Kentucky Congressman played several rousing melodies on his harmonica, much to the delight of his colleagues and members of the public in the packed galleries who joined in the merriment throughout the evening. Shortly before midnight the House finally adjourned sine die pursuant to Senate Concurrent Resolution 57, bringing the first session of the 84th Congress (1955–1957) to a close.

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