“And William Tyler Page was a splendid man. He had that claw-hammered coat, you know. He dressed a fashion—a formality—100 years earlier. But he and Senator [Clyde] Hoey continued to do this into the 20th century. I enjoyed visiting with William Tyler Page. And I must confess, if I ever had an ambition in the process of my career—and I didn’t really have very many, because I thought how unrealistic it was for me to presume that fate might favor me that way, and I wasn’t kidding myself—but I so admired William Tyler Page and his knowledge of Congress that, yes, I said, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be wonderful to follow in his footsteps.’ And so I must say, when I finally was elected to that job, it had much more significance for me than many people knew.”
— Joe Bartlett, April 7, 2006
In the summer of 1941, just before his 15th birthday, Joe Bartlett left the family farm in rural West Virginia to work as a Page on Capitol Hill. But what he expected would be a one-month position became a House career that spanned 38 years. Bartlett eventually served as the chief of Pages, then as a reading clerk and, in the 1970s, as Clerk to the Minority, the senior Republican staff officer in the House. In his series of interviews, he provided many details on House proceedings and insights on how each of his positions fit into the day-to-day operation of the institution. Bartlett witnessed and described many historic events during his long tenure on the Hill, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech on December 8, 1941 and the 1954 shooting in the House Chamber. He also spoke about the daily routines, customs, and traditions he observed in the U.S. House. Bartlett's recollections of the House Page program, the Congressional Baseball Game, the renovation of the House Chamber from 1949 to 1951, and his personal memories of the era's leading Representatives and House Officers, such as Sam Rayburn, Joe Martin, William Tyler Page, Joe Sinnott, and South Trimble, all provide an invaluable and unique perspective on the institution.
Dorsey Joseph Bartlett was born on August 7, 1926, in Clarksburg, West Virginia. He was the sixth of ten children of Flavius Dorsey Bartlett, an efficiency engineer in the glass business, and Blanche (Hacker) Bartlett. Bartlett lived on the family farm in central West Virginia and attended local schools. After being named "America's Typical Schoolboy Patrolman," he was awarded a 30-day appointment as a HousePage on August 1, 1941, with the help of Representative Wright Patman of Texas. Later, having impressed Doorkeeper Joe Sinnott and House Clerk South Trimble, Bartlett received Page appointments while serving as Page Overseer and attending the Capitol Page School. Upon graduating in 1944, Bartlett enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was honorably discharged as a Private First Class in September 1945.
Returning to the Capitol after his service in World War II, Bartlett was appointed the Republican chief of Pages by Speaker Joe Martin of Massachusetts. He oversaw the work of several dozen House Pages, some as young as 11 years old. Commissioned from the ranks of the Marine Corps Reserve, Bartlett was recalled to active duty in January 1951 and served until June of 1952. From 1953 to 1971,Bartlett was a House reading clerk, sharing duties on the rostrum and working with the Speaker's and the Clerk's offices on numerous floor-related and administrative tasks. Bartlett also served as chief reading clerk for six Republican National Conventions. From May 1971until he retired, Bartlett served as Minority Clerk.
In January 1979, a year after retiring from the Marine Corps as a Brigadier General, Bartlett retired from the House. During his career, Bartlett received honorary law degrees from the Atlanta Law School and Salem College. He was also awarded the Legion of Merit, and in 1982 he was the Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Federal Executive Institute. Joe Bartlett died on March 1, 2013, at his home in Richmond, Virginia.
Description of Indiana Congressman Charlie Halleck's office space, "The Clinic."
Competition for House Reading Clerk
Personal account of the competition which took place for House Reading Clerk in 1953.
The House Assembles in the Ways and Means Committee Room
Recollections of the 81st Congress (1949-1951) which met in the House Ways and Means Committee Room.
Account of the Shooting
Joe Bartlett shares his memories of the shooting on the House Floor.
Capitol Page School
Memories of the Capitol Page School during the 1940s.
House Page Responsibilities
Information on the duties and responsibilities of House Pages during the 1940s.
Pages on the House Floor
Description of the responsibilities of Pages assigned to the House Floor during the 1940s and 1950s.
Patronage in the U.S. House
Background on House patronage and appointments during the 1940s and 1950s.
"Heck of a Good, Young Team"
Memories of Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell.
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