The Rumsfeld Papers


About the Congress documents

Being elected to Congress in 1962 at the ripe old age of 30 was an amazing experience for me. While I had speculated in the abstract that I might want to run for office one day, it had been a surprise when my Congresswoman, Margurite Stitt Church, announced her retirement. Given the conservative leanings in the 13th District of Illinois, it was likely that the seat would be won by a Republican and then held by him or her for the foreseeable future. I had just begun my first job in the private sector in investment banking after my years in the Navy. Money was tight. Joyce and I had two small daughters and no other means to support ourselves during what promised to be a difficult campaign. We decided to go for it.

It is a decision we have never regretted. The campaign was successful, and I had the extraordinary opportunity to serve in Congress during one of the more tumultuous decades in our country’s history. We experienced the tragic assassination of a young president, passed historic civil rights legislation, saw Vietnam grow from a little-known point on the map to a major national crisis and put a man on the moon. As the representative from the 13th District of Illinois, I dealt with all these issues.

Over the course of my seven years in Congress, I amassed a substantial amount of paper including correspondence, memos, legislative reports and notes I dictated after each vote, which readers will find organized chronologically by each successive Congress in which I served. Given the size of our district, I had a staff of ten that kept busy answering the seemingly endless stream of mail from our interested and active constituents. I have not released most of these documents because they largely deal with local issues, and were also not intended by their authors to be made public. Instead, I have selected a handful of the thousands we received to give a flavor of what they were like.

I have released many of my so-called “Legislative Reports” (included in Memos and Reports), which were regular newsletters I sent back to the district reporting on issues of interest.  It was one of the ways I communicated with constituents and explained what their representative in Washington was doing on their behalf. They provide a sense of how issues evolved over time—Vietnam, for example, was not mentioned in my 1963 Reports, but quickly consumed more and more of their pages.  

My Voting Record is a unique aspect of the archive from Congress, for which visitors will find a separate introduction here.