Tribute to Don Ritchie, Senate Historian

‘The Senate wishes him the very best in retirement, and sends its heartfelt congratulations to a man who’s been an institution around here for four decades.’

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today celebrating the career of Don Ritchie:

“I’d like to bid a fond farewell to one of the smartest guys around here, Don Ritchie, who will be leaving us later this month.

“He’s been the Senate’s Historian since 2009.

“Don’s only the second one we’ve ever had.  His immediate — and only — predecessor, Richard Baker, hired him when the Senate Historical Office came into being in the mid-seventies.

“There were a lot of applicants to be Baker’s number two back then. But Don quickly rose to the top of the heap.

“Baker said he received ‘several extremely heartfelt letters’ of recommendation for Don that were just ‘over the top.’

“One, he said, was from ‘a leading diplomatic historian…who said that in his whole 30-odd years of teaching he had never encountered a more perceptive or diligent…[or] brighter student than Don.’

“‘No more superlatives,’ he said, ‘could be used.;

“Apparently, no more superlatives were needed, because Don Ritchie got the job.

“He hasn’t disappointed. Even if he did have to wait three decades for the big promotion.

“Don came into the Senate with all the hype of New Coke.

“But his performance and staying power have had more of a Coke Classic feel.

“Don likes to say he has ’a front-row seat to the best show in town.’

“Don is the one we turn to when we want to learn more about where the Senate’s been, so we can chart a better course for where it’s going.

“He’s been a great resource for my staff and me over the years. And Don’s office is there as a resource for the American public too. He’s the guy you see on TV explaining the historic significance of events like swearing-in ceremonies and inaugurations.

“I don’t think any of us would want to face him on Jeopardy. 

“His depth of knowledge really is something to behold. I’m sure he’s gained a lot of it from the part of his job he loves most: conducting the Senate Historical Office’s oral history project.

“He’s interviewed just about everyone you could imagine, from Senators to clerks to police officers.

“He even got to interview a man who once worked as a congressional page during the presidency of William Howard Taft.

“That page provided ‘some very good information’ Don said, even if he kept falling ‘asleep several times during the interview.’

“Here’s how Roll Call once described Don Ritchie: the Senate’s ‘memory keeper.’

“It’s fitting, then, that the Senate voted recently to designate Don Ritchie as Historian Emeritus.
It’s not like he plans to slow down in retirement anyway. ‘Historians never retire,’ Don says, ‘they just have more time to research.’

“Along with the research, Don also plans to spend more time with his three beloved grandchildren and to do some travelling with his wife Anne. The Senate wishes him the very best in retirement, and sends its heartfelt congratulations to a man who’s been an institution around here for four decades.

“The Senate would also like to offer its congratulations to Betty Koed, who has just been announced by the Secretary of the Senate as our next Senate Historian. We also wish Kate Scott well in her promotion to Associate Historian.”

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