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Bolling, Richard (Walker), 1916-1991



  • Existence: 1916 - 1991


Richard Walker Bolling served with eight different presidents and through several crucial events in U.S. history as a Democratic U.S. Representative to Congress from Missouri’s 5th district. Serving from 1949 to 1983, his long tenure gave him a unique perspective as a witness to such historical events as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the assassination of a president.

Born May 17, 1916, in New York City, Bolling was the great-great-grandson of John Williams Walker, the first senator elected by the state of Alabama. Bolling attended Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire before returning to the family home in Huntsville, Alabama, upon his father’s death when Bolling was 15. Later, he studied at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he also taught at the Sewanee Military Academy from 1938-1939. He went on to further graduate studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. In 1940, he worked as assistant to the head of the Department of Education at Florence State Teachers College in Alabama.

Bolling served in the United States Army from 1941-1946, with duties in Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines. He also was stationed in Japan, where he served as assistant to the chief of staff to General Douglas MacArthur. He was awarded the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star, and had achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel upon his discharge. From 1946-1947 Bolling was veterans’ advisor at the University of Kansas City (now University of Missouri at Kansas City).

Bolling was elected as a Democrat to Congress in 1948, formally serving from January 3, 1949 to January 3, 1983. Bolling served on several House committees including the Select Committee on Committees, the Joint Economic Committee, and the Committee on Rules. Bolling was arguably the most important player in the congressional reform movement in the early 1970s, and he was largely responsible for bringing to the floor many of the committee rules and structural changes considered during the 93rd Congress (1973-74). As chair of the Select Committee on Committees at this time, Bolling spearheaded this reform movement that transformed the legislative process.

Due to heart disease, Bolling retired in 1981 and was not a candidate for reelection the following year. He remained in the Washington, D.C. area (his home was in nearby Silver Spring, Maryland) until his death on April 21, 1991.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Richard W. Bolling Papers

Identifier: MS-0001
Scope and Contents The Richard W. Bolling Collection was gifted to the UMKC Miller Nichols Library in 1992 from Nona Bolling, wife of the late U.S. Congressman from Missouri who served from 1949 to 1983. Housed in LaBudde Special Collections (audio/visual materials are located in the Marr Sound Archives), the collection is an invaluable primary resource in such areas as 20th-century history, political science, and particularly U.S. Congressional history; and has been consulted by a variety of researchers....
Dates: 1931 - 1997