The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-2005, is the definitive reference book about more than 12,000 federal lawmakers. First published in 1859, the directory has long been a great resource for historians and genealogists. This great reference is now online for the first time.
Official congressional biographies have been online for years, but they often do not provide all the less savory details about the elected officials' lives. Now, with the new directory, all the information is searchable online, including Cabinet officials and lists of lawmakers by state and session. Of course, a casual search of this online Congressional directory shows what fine and upstanding leaders we have elected:
Senator Arthur Brown of Utah was gunned down in a hotel room in 1906 by a woman who claimed he had fathered two of her children. Brown died four days later. Almost a year to the day of the shooting, a jury acquitted the woman of murder.
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.
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.
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 drowning victims. 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.
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.
A total of 134 Smiths have served in Congress, but just 57 Joneses.
The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress has been published on paper for years and still remains available in that format. Printed copies cost $99 each. However, the same information is available free to everyone. You can download any section or the entire 2,218 pages from http://www.gpoaccess.gov/serialset/cdocuments/hd108-222/index.html
My thanks to Maureen Mann for telling me about this new online edition.