“That’s something you just don’t forget. 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.” — Bill Goodwin, October 20, 2005
Bill Goodwin’s eyewitness account of the March 1, 1954, shooting in the House Chamber is a rare perspective of a significant event in congressional history. His recollection of the startling attack—most especially the response of the Pages and other House employees—adds a layer of personal detail to the history of that tragic day. Goodwin also provides invaluable information about the daily routine and education of the House Pages. His interview encompasses a range of topics concerning the House and reveals an efficient institutional system that was dependent on the cooperation and a collegial relationship between Members and Pages.
William (Bill) Goodwin was born in Oakland County, Michigan, near Pontiac, on November 2, 1936. Raised on a farm in Michigan, he attended Waterford Township High School. At age 15, Goodwin jumped at the chance to help support his four siblings and widowed mother when asked by Michigan Representative George Dondero to serve as a House Page. He reported to the Capitol (after a long train ride from Detroit) at the beginning of the 83rd Congress (1953–1955) as a bench Page on the Democratic side. After a brief stint on the House Floor, Goodwin was reassigned to the Democratic Cloakroom—where he worked for two years. During his time as a Democratic Page, Goodwin answered phones in the cloakroom and ran errands for the Members of the House. He later helped guard the lobby doors and access to the floor.
Goodwin’s activities extended beyond his duties assisting Members of Congress: He attended morning classes before the beginning of House sessions, participated in the Page glee club, and sang at two Page graduations, including his own in 1955. Despite his busy schedule, Goodwin managed to find time for fun—going to the movies, riding horseback, and participating in a series of Page pranks. In 1954, Goodwin and his fellow Pages witnessed one of the most violent events in the history of the House when four Puerto Rican Nationalists fired hand guns in the House Chamber; five Members were struck by gunfire. In the aftermath of the shooting, Goodwin helped carry the wounded Representatives on stretchers to waiting ambulances.
After graduating from the Capitol Page School, Goodwin returned to Michigan to study veterinary medicine at Wayne University. He left school to help support his family, taking a job as a technician for National Cash Register (NCR). After eight years at NCR, he started his own cash register business. He later established a hovercraft business, designing numerous patents for the vehicle. Before he passed away in 2018, Goodwin resided in Merritt, Michigan, where he ran a landscaping business, enjoyed hunting, and sang in his church choir.
Arriving at the Capitol
Memories of arriving at the Capitol for Page service in 1953.
Recollections of the 1954 Shooting in the House Chamber: Part One
Bill Goodwin provides an eyewitness account of the shooting in the House Chamber on March 1, 1954.
Recollections of the 1954 Shooting in the House Chamber: Part Two
Bill Goodwin continues his account of the shooting in the House Chamber on March 1, 1954.
Answering Phones in the Democratic Cloakroom
Recollections of the duties of a House Page during the 1950s.
Eyewitness to History
Eyewitness account of the shooting in the House Chamber on March 1, 1954.
Famous 1954 Photograph
Bill Goodwin provides a detailed description of a photograph taken on March 1, 1954, in which House Pages carry a stretcher bearing wounded Michigan Congressman Alvin Bentley down the steps of the Capitol to a waiting ambulance.
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