Senate historian Donald Ritchie to retire

Senate historian Donald Ritchie to retire

Senate historian Donald Ritchie will retire in May after nearly 40 years in the Senate Historical Office.

Ritchie, who joined the office as an associate historian in 1976, said he will use his time in retirement to write and research.


“I have some ambitions to write a few more books,” he said. “Historians never retire, they just have more time to research.”

Then-Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) and Minority Leader Hugh Scott (R-Pa.) created the office in 1976 at the urging of historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

“He said Congress is paying a lot of attention to the papers of the president and doing nothing about its own historical records,” Ritchie said.

Each week, Ritchie delivers the Senate historical minute at the start of the Senate Democrats’ Tuesday lunch while Betty Koed, the associate Senate historian gives a brief history lesson at the start of the GOP lunch.

The office serves as the Senate's “institutional memory,” according to its website, collecting information on important dates, precedents and statistics.

Ritchie served 33 years as associate historian until 2009, when he replaced Richard Baker as Senate historian. He said he preferred is time as associate historian because he could focus on historical research without having to juggle administrative responsibilities.

Past practice has been to promote within the office, so Koed is a likely candidate to become the next Senate historian.