Former House Historian Robert Remini Dies at 91

Posted April 2, 2013 at 4:59pm

A prolific biographer, scholar, teacher and Andrew Jackson expert, former House Historian Robert Remini died of a stroke on March 28 in Evanston, Ill.

Remini, who was still writing books well into his 80s, was 91 years old at the time of his death, according to a notice from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was professor emeritus of history.

“[He] re-established a non-partisan professional office, which helped interpret the institution to members of Congress, teachers, scholars, the press, and the general public,” said Fred Beuttler, a long-time collaborator of Remini’s, in a statement about his friend’s contribution as the House historian. “His passion for American history influenced countless students and colleagues, and his legacy will live on in his works of scholarship and in the people whose lives he touched.”

A one-time history professor at UIC and at Fordham University, Remini won the National Book Award in 1984 for the three-volume biography “The Life of Andrew Jackson.” In 2002, when he became a visiting scholar at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, he wrote the first, and still the definitive, history of the House of Representatives. The book, published in 2006, is appropriately titled, “The House: The History of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

In 2005, Remini was tapped by Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to serve as the third historian of the House of Representatives, and was tasked with overseeing an office that had been all but defunct since 1995. By the time he retired in 2010, Remini had brought on a staff of five and built an operation that would provide lasting resources to the congressional community.

“This has been such an extraordinary opportunity. I wouldn’t give it up for the world,” Remini told CQ Roll Call at the time of his departure from Capitol Hill. “When you get into the inner workings [of Congress], when you walk in the chamber itself and you talk to people and you learn what they’re doing — you really have a sense of being part of history, not just writing about it. It’s quite unusual. I am very grateful.”