- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 4, 2006


Former Sen. Arthur Brown of Utah is a footnote to history — more interesting than most, though, because a woman claiming he fathered two of her children gunned him down in a hotel room in 1906.

Mr. 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.

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 plain facts.

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 fatally shot while on a business trip to Nicaragua in 1861.

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,” Miss 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 www.gpoaccess.gov.

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