Bertie Bowman: The Legacy of the Longest-Serving Black Congressional Staffer, Remembered at 92

Herbert “Bertie” Bowman, Congress’ longest-serving Black staffer, passed away at the age of 92. Bowman began his career as a teenager sweeping the steps of the Capitol and eventually became a key coordinator for one of the Senate’s most important committees. He died on October 25 due to complications from recent heart surgeries.

Bowman’s stepdaughter, LaUanah King-Cassell, confirmed his death at a rehabilitation facility in North Bethesda, Maryland. The Washington Post reported this unfortunate news The Washington Post.

Originally from South Carolina, Bowman was born as the fifth child among 14 siblings to sharecroppers. In his autobiography, “Step by Step,” published in 2008, he discussed how his life changed when South Carolina Senator Burnet Maybank visited his hometown and encouraged the residents to visit him in Washington, D.C. Taking Maybank’s invitation to heart, 13-year-old Bowman ran away from home and eventually secured a job sweeping the Capitol steps for a meager wage of $2 a week.

Over his 60 years in D.C., Bowman took on various roles, including janitor, cook, and shoe-shiner. He witnessed significant moments in U.S. history, including the Brown v. Board of Education case, the Vietnam War, and the Watergate scandal.

In the 1960s, Bowman served as a clerk and later a hearing coordinator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. CBS News reported this CBS News. He also volunteered on the credit committee of the U.S. Senate Federal Credit Union and eventually became a board member and chair.

Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, the current chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, paid tribute to Bowman. In a statement, Cardin highlighted Bowman’s integrity and dedication to public service.

Bowman had the opportunity to work with President Barack Obama and befriended Bill Clinton, who was a clerk for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before becoming president. Clinton wrote the foreword for Bowman’s autobiography, acknowledging Bowman’s hard work and commitment to public service.

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