Web Directory of Congressional Bios Debuts
By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press Writer Sat Mar
4, 2:45 AM ET
WASHINGTON - Former Sen. Arthur Brown of Utah is a
footnote to history more interesting than most,
though, because a woman claiming he had fathered two
of her children gunned him down in a hotel room in
1906. Brown's entry is among the 12,000 or so from
Aandahl to Zwach in the Biographical Directory of
the United States Congress, 1774-2005, the definitive
reference book about federal lawmakers, now online for
the first time.
The entries in the directory's 16th edition, the first
update since 1989, were written by congressional
historians to provide basic information dates,
places and positions rather than personal stories.
Occasionally, though, startling tales appear amid the
Jeremiah Haralson, once an Alabama representative, is
listed as having been killed by "wild beasts" near
Denver around 1916. He was one of at least six former
slaves who served in either the House or the Senate.
Michigan Rep. William Wedemeyer drowned in 1913 after
he fell into a harbor while on an official visit to
Panama. His body was never found. A former
representative from Indiana, Joseph L. White, was shot
to death while on a business trip to Nicaragua in
1861. He was buried there.
An air of mystery surrounds some members of Congress
because so little is known about them. Congressional
historians aren't sure when more than 100 of them were
born and when at least 49 of them died.
"For me personally, some of the mysteries often center
on their burial places," said Betty Koed, the
assistant Senate historian and co-editor of the
directory with House historical publications
specialist Andrew Dodge.
"We have a few members that we think were buried in
one place, but they had been disinterred at some point
and the body was lost," Koed said, "and we don't know
where they are now."
First published in 1859, the directory has long been a
boon to historians and genealogists. What makes this
edition worth noting is its electronic format.
Official congressional biographies have been online
for years. Now, all the information in the new
directory, including Cabinet officials and lists of
lawmakers by state and session, is searchable online.
Those who want their congressional trivia on paper can
still pay for it, at $99 a copy, but it's free to
those who want to download its 2,218 pages from
Searching the electronic version for specific words
reveals other unusual facts:
_Caleb Powers was convicted of complicity in the
assassination of Kentucky Gov. William Goebel in 1900.
He was pardoned in 1908 and two years later elected
to the first of four terms as a Kentucky
representative to Congress.
_Two former representatives, Melville Kelly of
Pennsylvania in 1935 and Paul Greever of Wyoming in
1943, died after accidentally shooting themselves
while cleaning firearms.
_Gunfire ended the lives of no fewer than a dozen
others. One, former South Carolina delegate David
Ramsay, was shot "by a maniac" in Charleston in 1815.
William P. Taulbee, once a representative from
Kentucky, was shot in 1890 in the Capitol itself.
_At least nine former representatives are listed as
_A total of 134 Smiths have served in Congress, but
just 57 Joneses.
_Histrionics for C-SPAN aside, only a handful of
lawmakers have been professional actors. Best known,
thanks to their TV series, may be former Iowa Rep.
Fred Grandy ("The Love Boat") and former Tennessee
Sen. Fred Thompson ("Law & Order").
_A Depression-era representative from Nebraska, Terry
M. Carpenter, ran unsuccessfully for statewide office
11 times and changed his political affiliation five
But why? That's a question seldom answered in the
directory's brief entries. "It's very barebones in its
text, and that's the way it's been since 1859," Koed
said. "It's never been particularly wordy."
Only a peek at newspapers of the period reveals that
Arthur Brown's mother of his two children fired her
revolver twice when the former senator ignored her
pleas to "do the right thing by me."
Brown died four days later. Almost a year to the day
of the shooting, a jury acquitted the woman of murder.
On the Net:
Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress: