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Richard Walker Bolling

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Richard Walker Bolling (May 17, 1916 – April 21, 1991), was a prominent Democratic Congressman from Kansas City, Missouri, and Missouri's 5th congressional district from 1949 to 1983. He retired after serving for four years as the chairman of the powerful United States House Committee on Rules.

Richard Walker Bolling
Chairman of the House Rules Committee
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1983
SpeakerTip O'Neill
Preceded byJames J. Delaney
Succeeded byClaude Pepper
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 5th district
In office
January 3, 1949 – January 3, 1983
Preceded byAlbert L. Reeves, Jr.
Succeeded byAlan Wheat
Personal details
Born(1916-05-17)May 17, 1916
New York City
DiedApril 21, 1991(1991-04-21) (aged 74)
Washington D.C.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Barbara Stratton
Nona Goddard
Alma materUniversity of the South

Early life and educationEdit

Born in New York City as the great-great-grandson of John Williams Walker and great-great-nephew of Percy Walker, he attended Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, New Hampshire. At the age of fifteen, upon his father's death, he returned to the family home in Huntsville, Alabama. He then attended the University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he studied literature and French, earning a B.A. in 1937 and an M.A., 1939. He went on to further graduate studies, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1939–1940.

Academic careerEdit

An educational administrator by profession, Bolling taught at Sewanee Military Academy in 1938 and 1939, and then served as assistant to the head of the Department of Education at Florence State Teachers College, in Alabama, in 1940.

After retiring from Congress, Bolling was a visiting professor of political science at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a professor of politics at Boston College in Massachusetts.[1]

Military careerEdit

In April 1941, Bolling entered the United States Army as a private and served until discharged as a lieutenant colonel in July 1946, with four years' overseas service as assistant to the chief of staff to General Douglas MacArthur in Australia, New Guinea, Philippines, and in Japan. He was awarded the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star. He served as veterans' adviser at the University of Kansas City in 1946 and 1947.

Political careerEdit

Bolling was elected as a Democrat to the Eighty-first Congress in 1948 and to the sixteen succeeding Congresses, serving from January 3, 1949 until January 3, 1983. In Congress, he served as chairman of the Select Committee on Committees of the House (in the Ninety-third Congress), Joint Economic Committee (in the Ninety-fifth Congress); and the Committee on Rules (in the Ninety-sixth and Ninety-seventh Congresses). He introduced the discharge petition that released the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from the Senate's committees chaired by southern Democrats, a vital step to passing the act. He was twice a candidate for House Majority leader, losing to Carl Albert in 1961 and to Jim Wright (by three votes) in 1977.[2]

Due to heart disease, in 1981 he announced his retirement and was not a candidate for reelection in 1982 to the Ninety-eighth Congress.[2] In 1983, Bolling was elected to the Common Cause National Governing Board. He remained a resident of Washington, D.C., until his death there on April 21, 1991.

Personal lifeEdit

Bolling resided in Washington, D.C., and maintained a summer home at Portage Point, Michigan. During the 1970s, Congressman Bolling owned a cottage on St. Barthelemy in the French West Indies, which he also rented to other vacationers.

On June 7, 1945, Bolling married Barbara Stratton, the sister of the author and OSS agent Arthur Stratton. They had one daughter, Andrea Walker Bolling.[3]

Richard Walker Bolling Federal Building



  1. ^ Obituary, "Richard W. Bolling, Power in Congress; Missourian was 74," New York Times, 1991-04-22
  2. ^ a b Alan Ehrenhalt, "Rep. Bolling to Retire, but Imprint will Linger," Chicago Daily Herald, 1981-09-28 at p. 9.
  3. ^ Lawrence O. Christensen, Dictionary of Missouri biography, p. 95 online

External linksEdit

  • United States Congress. "Richard Walker Bolling (id: B000605)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Transcript of Richard W. Bolling's oral history interview at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
  • Guide to the Richard W. Bolling Papers at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.
  • New York Times, Obituary, 1991.
  • Transcript of Bolling's Oral History at the Harry S. Truman Library.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Albert L. Reeves, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Alan Wheat