James T. Molloy, the last person to serve as House doorkeeper, died Tuesday at a Rochester, N.Y., hospital due to complications from diabetes. He was 75.
The Buffalo, N.Y., native became doorkeeper in 1974, controlling access to the House chamber and overseeing the page program, the cloakrooms and the press galleries, among other things. The position was abolished after the Republican takeover of 1994.
Molloy worked in the finance office for six years before succeeding then-Doorkeeper William “Fishbait” Miller to become the 34th person to hold the post, which dates back to 1789.
“It’s not really a job. At a certain point you get institutionalized, you become part of the process,” Molloy told C-SPAN in a 1989 interview. “I came here with thoughts I would be here two years, and I’ve been here 20 years now. I like it, I enjoy it.”
One of Molloy’s duties was announcing the president at the State of the Union address, a task he fulfilled for six presidents, from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton.
“I’m like a kid in the candy store. I get hyped up for this thing. It’s a lot of fun,” he said in the C-SPAN interview. “I get paid to shoot my mouth off.”
Molloy hired the first female doorkeeper in 1976.
After his job was abolished in 1995, Molloy became a lobbyist for tobacco company Philip Morris USA and was briefly embroiled in a scandal when then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) pledged to forgo money from tobacco companies but accepted personal donations from Molloy and other tobacco lobbyists.
He remained on the Philip Morris payroll until 2001.
In his decades of service on the Hill, Molloy amassed many stories and often shared them with young Hill staffers.
“He was great at telling stories. He had thousands of them,” said Jerry Gallegos, superintendent of the House press gallery. “I sat in for many of his little tales about life on the Hill, and it was just great listening.”
Rep. Brian Higgins, who in 2005 attempted to name a post office in Buffalo after Molloy, released a statement Tuesday praising the man he called a “friend and confidant.”
“Generations of local residents, many of whom can be found working on the Hill today, benefited from his welcoming spirit and institutional knowledge,” the New York Democrat said. “In my first days and months in Congress he was generous with his time and advice, passing on valuable lessons I keep with me today. He will be dearly missed by those in Washington, D.C. and friends and family locally but we have peace in knowing that our own legendary and beloved doorkeeper has now gone on to meet a doorkeeper of a much higher power.”