U.S. Senate historian to lead Rockland lecture

Jul 29, 2014
Don Ritchie, a historian for the U.S. Senate, will lead a talk Thursday, Aug. 7, at The Strand Theatre.

Rockland — Knox Museum presents its 2014 Knox annual Lecturer, historian of the United States Senate, Donald A. Ritchie, in a program entitled “CONGRESS INVESTIGATES: It All Started with Henry Knox,” Thursday, Aug. 7, at 5:30 p.m. at The Strand Theatre in Rockland. Admission is free and all are invited to attend.

Washington, DC’s Historical Office, which Ritchie oversees, serves as the institutional memory of the United States Senate, as it collects and provides information on important events, precedents, dates, statistics, and historical comparisons of current and past Senate activities for use by members and staff, the media, scholars, and the general public. Ritchie’s office also assists researchers seeking access to Senate records, maintains automated information data bases detailing locations of former members' papers, conducts oral history interviews with retired senior Senate staff, and keeps extensive biographical and bibliographical information on former senators.

Ritchie’s office is responsible for keeping the transcripts and records from Congressional hearings, the subjects of which are familiar to many: Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Bengazi, to name just a few. Not many realize, however, how instrumental Secretary of War Henry Knox was in setting precedents for Congressional investigations, as well as for the use of executive privilege and the establishment of the United States Cabinet, as he consulted with President George Washington, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, to conduct Congress’ very first investigation into Gen. Arthur St. Clair and the Battle of the Wabash, one of the worst defeats American forces have ever suffered in battle. Ritchie will provide the details.

Personally responsible for editing the closed hearing transcripts of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy's investigations, Ritchie has also authored a number of books, including Electing FDR. His book, "Press Gallery: Congress and the Washington Correspondents" won him the Organization of American Historians Richard W. Leopold Prize. Ritchie has served as president of the Oral History Association and on the councils of the American Historical Association, the International Oral History Association, and the Society for History in the Federal Government. He is a graduate of City College of New York; he received his master's degree and doctorate from the University of Maryland, College Park; and he also served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1969 to 1971.

The Knox Annual Lecture is sponsored this year by Machias Savings Bank, which allows free admission for all.

Doors will open for Ritchie’s talk at 5 p.m. Some seating will be reserved for sponsors and Museum members in the front of the theatre. For more information call 354-8062 or email info@knoxmuseum.org.

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