Bertie Herbert Bowman is one of the longest serving African Americans on the United States Capitol staff. His book, Step by Step: A Memoir of Hope, Friendship, Perseverance and Living the American Dream, chronicles his rise from a farmer’s son in the segregated South to hearing coordinator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
As a runaway from Summerton more than 60 years ago, Bowman overheard the late U.S. Senator Burnet Maybank urging a crowd of white constituents, “If you all ever get up to Washington, D.C., drop by and see me.” Bowman took those words to heart, and with one sack of flour and his meager savings pinned to his shirt, began his incredible journey to the nation’s capitol. Amazingly, he called on Senator Maybank, who saw to it that Bowman had a place to stay and steady income with a job of sweeping the Capitol steps for two dollars a week.
From those humble beginnings, Bowman’s 40 years of service in the federal government has included work on the Architect Committee, with the Secretary of the Senate and his current position the past 25 years. He also owns a limousine service and is an elected member of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Senate Federal Credit Union, member of the District of Columbia Board of Funeral Directors, and remains active in numerous community volunteer organizations.
Bowman was the fifth of 13 children born to the late Robert and Mary Bowman. He grew up on a tenant farm in Summerton, worked hard with his siblings on farm maintenance and was educated in public schools in Clarendon County. As former President Clinton wrote in the foreword of Step by Step, “Bertie’s life is a testament to the power and promise of the American Dream.”