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It's been a busy week out in Washington, DC, for our Michel - LaHood interns! In addition to the full days the Bradley U...
06/13/2024

It's been a busy week out in Washington, DC, for our Michel - LaHood interns!

In addition to the full days the Bradley University students are spending in congressional offices doing legislative and constituent-services work, they had the opportunity to visit a government-relations firm and tour the White House.

Wednesday evening the quartet and the House members they're working with met Bradley alumni in the DC metro area during a reception in the Rayburn House Office Building. Earlier in the week, the interns were also invited to a reception hosted by the University of Chicago.

They're absolutely getting the most out of this rare, full-immersion opportunity in the capital, and we're so pleased to continue our partnership with BU on the program.

(Photos courtesy of internship coordinator and BU Institute for Principled Leadership executive director Brad McMillan)

Sixty years ago today, the U.S. Senate voted for the first time to end a filibuster on civil rights legislation, paving ...
06/10/2024

Sixty years ago today, the U.S. Senate voted for the first time to end a filibuster on civil rights legislation, paving the way for the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The 71-29 vote came largely thanks to months of quiet, bipartisan negotiations involving Sens. Everett Dirksen, Hubert Humphrey and Senate staffers.

On the morning of the vote, Dirksen restated his goal: "A good, workable, equitable, practical bill."

"We dare not temporize with the issue before us," he added. "It is essentially moral in character. It must be resolved. It will not go away. Its time has come."

In an era before photos or TV cameras were allowed in the Senate, the filibuster debate (and the weeks of segregationist delays beforehand) were captured in sketches, like these two from Howard Brodie, whose drawings helped CBS News viewers get a glimpse of action on the floor. Copies are held by the Dirksen Center; the originals are held by the Library of Congress.

Eighty years ago today, Allied forces began their landings at five beaches on the coast of Normandy — what we remember a...
06/06/2024

Eighty years ago today, Allied forces began their landings at five beaches on the coast of Normandy — what we remember as D-Day.

Fighting was fierce on that first day as tens of thousands of troops fought to gain a foothold and begin the process of liberating Western Europe from N**i control.

The battle continued for days, spreading inland through the countryside. Wave after wave of soldiers landed as combat expanded across Normandy, including Bob Michel's unit on June 10 at Utah Beach, reinforcements from the 39th Infantry, Ninth Division.

They saw heavy fighting as they moved inland as the unit helped liberate more and more of northern France.

These images of the battlefield, and of the cemeteries that are the final resting place for thousands of our honored dead, were captured when Leader Michel returned for commemorations of the battle in 1992 as part of the Battle of Normandy Foundation, and in 1994 to observe the 50th anniversary of the landings.

Big projects can come to fruition thanks to small grants.We recently received a copy of "Reform and Retrenchment: A Cent...
06/03/2024

Big projects can come to fruition thanks to small grants.

We recently received a copy of "Reform and Retrenchment: A Century of Efforts to Fix Primary Elections," authored by Dr. Robert G. Boatright, professor at Clark University and research director at the University of Arizona's National Institute for Civil Discourse.

The book looks at changes to primary election laws from the 1920s to the 1970s, the effects those changes have had, and the changing influence political parties have had in primaries.

Boatright received a Congressional Research Grant from the Dirksen Center in 2013 as part of his work on the volume. It assisted him in researching papers of the National Nonpartisan League and its organizers, as well as the papers of a member of Congress. His work took him to North Dakota State University, the University of North Dakota - Grand Forks, and the Minnesota Historical Society.

What a wonderful visit and discussion this week with Councilman Allen!As we prepare to mark 60 years of the Civil Rights...
05/31/2024

What a wonderful visit and discussion this week with Councilman Allen!

As we prepare to mark 60 years of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we treasure the opportunities to showcase the impact Central Illinois leaders like Sen. Dirksen have had in bringing together bipartisan groups to find common ground for the good of the nation.

Calling all amateur history sleuths: The Dirksen Center recently received this photo featuring Sen. Everett Dirksen and ...
05/29/2024

Calling all amateur history sleuths: The Dirksen Center recently received this photo featuring Sen. Everett Dirksen and Rep. Bob Michel from the family files of Steve Spain, the longtime owner of The Costume Trunk in Peoria.

Dirksen and Michel have signed the photo, but all of us, including Mr. Spain, are hoping one of our eagle-eyed followers can help us identify the other men meeting with the lawmakers. There are no other markings on the photo to indicate who is featured in it or what year it was taken.

If you recognize any of the others in the image, please leave a comment, send us a message or email [email protected]

Our fourth Michel - LaHood DC Internship participant is Will Cypert, a rising senior from Galesburg.Will is a graduate o...
05/24/2024

Our fourth Michel - LaHood DC Internship participant is Will Cypert, a rising senior from Galesburg.

Will is a graduate of Galesburg Junior/Senior High School and has served as a student orientation aide and an RA during his time at Bradley and is now a hall director.

Majoring in political science and minoring in legal studies, he'll be interning with Congressman Eric Sorensen .

Our next Michel - LaHood DC Internship participant is rising junior Annabel Lomeli.Originally from Village of New Lenox,...
05/23/2024

Our next Michel - LaHood DC Internship participant is rising junior Annabel Lomeli.

Originally from Village of New Lenox, Illinois, Annabel is majoring in the Bradley University Computer Science & Information Systems department with minors in international studies and legal studies and an interest in cyber-law issues.

A graduate of Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210, she's served on Bradley's Student Senate and on the Honors Program's Advisory Council. She'll be interning with Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski's Capitol Hill office.

Hear more about the importance of congressional internships for our students here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QKayy4t4xk

Meet our second Michel - LaHood DC Internship participant: McKenzie Cobb is a rising junior from Lake County, IL and a g...
05/22/2024

Meet our second Michel - LaHood DC Internship participant: McKenzie Cobb is a rising junior from Lake County, IL and a graduate of Adlai E. Stevenson High School.

McKenzie has assisted her fellow students through the peer-led supplemental instruction program for introductory biology classes at Bradley University, and is a board member of the Wags for Mags service dog training program.

Majoring in nursing with a minor in legal studies, McKenzie has a strong interest in public health policy, and will be interning this summer with U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly.

Our 2024 cohort of Michel - LaHood DC Internship participants from Bradley University  will soon begin their time in con...
05/21/2024

Our 2024 cohort of Michel - LaHood DC Internship participants from Bradley University will soon begin their time in congressional offices on Capitol Hill. Before they leave for Washington, D.C., we're introducing each of these exceptional students.

Chase Wildermuth is a rising senior from City of Geneseo, Illinois who just completed a year-long study abroad program at the London School of Economics and has worked as a legal research assistant in Peoria.

Majoring in political science and philosophy, Chase will be interning in the office of Rep. Darin LaHood.

Learn more about the internships here: https://dirksencenter.org/grants-awards/michel-lahood-internships/

Congratulations to this year's graduating Class of 2024!As students cross the stage this week at Pekin Community High Sc...
05/16/2024

Congratulations to this year's graduating Class of 2024!

As students cross the stage this week at Pekin Community High School, and at other high schools and colleges across the country throughout the rest of this month, we're drawn to this dedication from the 1912 Pekinian yearbook, one of two editions for which Everett Dirksen served as a staffer:

"Whatever may come in the trail of the years,
Whatever may gladden or pain,
Can never destroy the joys that are past,
Which memory brings again.
We've treasured her records – for who can tell
What Time may bring or do?
The future is dim and a vast unknown.
But the world of the past is true."

How does Capitol Hill look from the perspective of a teenager?Former U.S. Senate page Greg Hinrichsen (a member of the C...
05/15/2024

How does Capitol Hill look from the perspective of a teenager?

Former U.S. Senate page Greg Hinrichsen (a member of the Capitol Page Alumni Association) visited the Dirksen Center to share his memories of working at the Capitol in 1967-68, and we had an amazing conversation!

This video is one of our favorites, with stories about fetching ci******es for Sen. Everett Dirksen and sneaking into the State of the Union, and recollections of a long-running friendship with Sen. Margaret Chase Smith and a return to the Senate staff in the 2000s.

Former 1960s U.S. Senate Page Greg Hinrichsen shares his memories of working in the Senate as a high school student amid Vietnam War protests, civil rights l...

Earlier this week, our 2023-24 Ray and Kathy LaHood Scholarship recipients had the opportunity to join Secretary LaHood ...
05/09/2024

Earlier this week, our 2023-24 Ray and Kathy LaHood Scholarship recipients had the opportunity to join Secretary LaHood for lunch and conversation. We're so proud of Bradley University students Kaitlyn Morrison and Joanna Franco for all they've accomplished!

Morrison, of Pekin, graduates this week with a degree in history and social studies secondary education with a concentration in difference, identity, and power. She'll be joining the social studies faculty in Dunlap School District #323, where she just completed her student teaching. She'll begin her career by teaching a summer-school government / civics class.

Franco, of Montgomery, graduates this week with a degree in political science. Her work this past year included utilizing Dirksen Center archives on research that's been submitted for consideration for publication in an undergraduate journal. She'll be continuing her education by attending law school.

The scholarships have been offered annually at Bradley since 2007 to rising seniors who plan careers connected to government or public service.

Interested in learning more about "Disruption? The Senate During the Trump Era," the new, Dirksen Center-funded book fro...
05/08/2024

Interested in learning more about "Disruption? The Senate During the Trump Era," the new, Dirksen Center-funded book from Oxford University Press?

This book talk featuring editor Dr. Sean Theriault of the University of Texas at Austin and contributing authors Dr. Frances Lee of Princeton University and the University of Southern California's Annenberg Media Center director Christina Bellantoni, hosted by our friends at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the US Senate is a must watch.

Each of the experts featured here (and in the book's 13 other chapters) has a different take on the book's key question.

What happens when the Senate, a tradition-bound institution, encounters a nonconformist president intent on changing how the government operates?In a new vid...

Today marks the publication of "Disruption? The Senate During the Trump Era," work on which was sponsored by the Dirksen...
05/07/2024

Today marks the publication of "Disruption? The Senate During the Trump Era," work on which was sponsored by the Dirksen Center.

The book, featuring work by 18 different authors with multiple perspectives and different vantage points, unpacks the effects of a tradition-busting presidency on one of the most traditional Washington institutions.

Available in hardcover or paperback from Oxford University Press: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/disruption-9780197767849

Available as an e-book from Amazon or other e-book retailers: https://www.amazon.com/Disruption-Senate-During-Trump-Era-ebook/dp/B0CYNLRS2M

Last year, philatelist Martin Severe donated his "first-day cover" collection to the Dirksen Center. Each of these envel...
05/03/2024

Last year, philatelist Martin Severe donated his "first-day cover" collection to the Dirksen Center.

Each of these envelopes, featuring a different illustration of Sen. Dirksen or something related to his career, also includes the commemorative Dirksen postage stamp issued in January 1981 and a Pekin postmark.

The colorful images now on display at the Dirksen Center account for less than half of what was received in Mr. Severe's donation, providing us the opportunity to feature many more of them as the years go by.

At the start of the year, we paid off the note on our building built in 2003!The Dirksen Center board of directors and s...
04/30/2024

At the start of the year, we paid off the note on our building built in 2003!

The Dirksen Center board of directors and staff celebrated the milestone with a mortgage-burning ceremony during our quarterly meeting last week.

The payoff is a testament to the value that Sen. Dirksen attached to responsible budgeting and saving.

In 1959 he urged his colleagues to think of the budgeting process like their own family pocketbooks: "We cannot take anything out of it unless we put something in it. Every child knows that. I have seen little girls who received pocketbooks for Christmas. A little girl immediately opens the pocketbook to see what is in it. Something must be put into it first. So we put something in the pocketbook. If we undertake to remain within the limits of the pocketbook, we will have a little nest egg. That would be a pretty comfortable feeling for the years ahead."

(Photo credit: Raphael Rodolfi / Videogenique)

So much powerful testimony yesterday from these three Black women leaders whose lives and work have been directly affect...
04/24/2024

So much powerful testimony yesterday from these three Black women leaders whose lives and work have been directly affected by civil rights legislation.

It was a great pleasure for Dirksen Center staff, board members and supporters in the Pekin and Peoria communities to join our partners at Bradley University's Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service to mark the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

To look back at the effects of that law, and to look ahead to the work still to be done, through the eyes of Peoria Public Schools District 150 Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, City of Peoria Illinois - Government Mayor Dr. Rita Ali and U.S. Congresswoman Dr. Robin Kelly gave us all a great deal of inspiration and much to reflect upon.

(Photo credit: Raphael Rodolfi / Videogenique)

A few seats still remain open for our April 29 evening class with Illinois Central College's ICC Corporate & Community E...
04/20/2024

A few seats still remain open for our April 29 evening class with Illinois Central College's ICC Corporate & Community Education program focusing on the work of TWO central Illinoisans during the civil rights debates of the 1960s.

Join us to talk about the work of the Rev. C.T. Vivian and Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen and how their experiences here set the stage for the national impacts they each had.

Register here by Monday afternoon: https://campusce.icc.edu/acp/course/course.aspx?catId=82
Or call (309) 690-6900.

Dirksen Center staff were privileged last week to join colleagues and students from across the country at the The Univer...
04/19/2024

Dirksen Center staff were privileged last week to join colleagues and students from across the country at the The University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The discussions there among world-class speakers from across the political spectrum focused on ways the divide between rural and urban America can be closed.

Despite the unique challenges faced in both parts of the country, there are many commonalities in the concerns residents have in both locations. And there's always more we can collectively do as Americans to look past stereotypes and understand one another better.

(Pictured: U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, and former U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, talk with CNN's Manu Raju about finding common legislative ground. "Heartland" author Sarah Smarsh and Chicago rapper/songwriter Rhymefest discuss with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly "What we all get wrong about the urban-rural divide." Research by Colby College professors Daniel Shea and Nicholas Jacobs shows how similar some concerns are among urban and rural residents.)

We're excited to see this important project come to fruition! It offers impressive perspective and nuance that helps us ...
04/15/2024

We're excited to see this important project come to fruition! It offers impressive perspective and nuance that helps us all learn a little something about how the U.S. Senate functions, and what changed for it (and what didn't) during the Trump Administration. "Disruption? The Senate During the Trump Era" is available beginning May 7.

Full news release below:

******

PEKIN – Just in time for the 2024 presidential campaign, a new book by some of the leading minds in political science, history, journalism, and public service examines the effect President Donald Trump had on the operation of the U.S. Senate during his time in office.

"Disruption? The Senate During the Trump Era" reviews the clashes, compromises, and cooperation between a president unlike any other, and an institution that calls itself "The World's Greatest Deliberative Body." This timely volume sets the stage for what America might see again, depending upon November's election results.

The work was commissioned and funded by the nonpartisan, Pekin-based Dirksen Congressional Center, whose mission is to enhance the public's understanding of Congress, its people and its policies.

“In nearly 250 years of American history, there’s never been another chief executive like Donald Trump. But with opinions about him so solidified, it’s hard for many people to get a truly independent read on how his administration affected the rest of Washington,” says Tiffany White, executive director of the Dirksen Center. “We set out to find a group of diverse thinkers to answer the questions: ‘Did the Trump presidency disrupt the work of the U.S. Senate? How did the Senate change, adjust to or rebel against this president?’

“We believe that no matter where you are on the political spectrum, you’ll learn something new from this book,” White adds.

To be published by Oxford University Press on May 7, the book is edited by Dr. Sean Theriault, University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Theriault is considered one of the foremost authorities on Congress and is the author of "The Gingrich Senators: The Roots of Partisan Warfare in Congress," "Party Polarization in Congress," and (with former Rep. Mickey Edwards) "Congress: The First Branch," among other publications.

Theriault invited contributions by 18 experienced professionals from across the country who come from a breadth of fields. The experiences and research represented includes perspectives from Capitol Hill staffers, journalists, political scientists and historians.

"We were very intentional in selecting authors who were not only highly respected in their fields but were also able to present their work in everyday language," Theriault says.

The last several years of work on the project have offered an opportunity for all the contributors to gather some valuable perspective, and it has meant the authors have arrived at some different – and perhaps unexpected – conclusions.

"During the Trump presidency, with a new news story seemingly every day, there was never a point at which everyone could just take a deep breath and reflect," Theriault adds. "We've now had time to get a little bit better perspective on his time in office. That has helped us to understand not only some of the ways in which he was a disruptor, but also to find instances where those disrupting roots suggest something really began to emerge during the Obama or Bush administrations. For these instances, he was more of an accelerant than he was a disruptor."

Subjects covered in the book include the negotiations between the Trump White House and Congress over relief plans for the COVID-19 pandemic; the evolution of the Senate filibuster in addressing judicial nominees; Senate leadership and how they worked (or not) with the White House; the changing social media landscape and how all those early morning presidential tweets reverberated in senators’ offices approached communications; and much more.

"The Dirksen Center has been proud to support this consequential work by this group of highly regarded researchers and writers during the past several years," White says. "Collectively, their work demonstrates how interesting and informative it can be to analyze recent events from so many different perspectives. We hope the book will help Americans of all political persuasions to look at their government from multiple vantage points and become a little more enlightened about Congress and the presidency, by viewing both institutions through the unique, historic lens created by Donald Trump’s presidency."

The book is available for order through OUP's website as well as via Amazon. A book talk featuring some of the contributors is expected in central Illinois this fall ahead of the election.

A collection of interviews between Dirksen Center staff and authors of chapters in a new book commissioned by the Center on the operations of the United Stat...

Enjoy today's solar eclipse, but don't look up without your eclipse glasses on!Senator Dirksen sported his special spect...
04/08/2024

Enjoy today's solar eclipse, but don't look up without your eclipse glasses on!

Senator Dirksen sported his special spectacles back in 1955 while in Thailand on official business. Bangkok was within the zone of totality, and Dirksen took advantage of the opportunity to view the June 20 eclipse from a local university.

The senator was partway into a month-long, around-the-world trip on behalf of the Senate Appropriations Committee, reviewing proposed foreign-aid spending throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

He and Kentucky Sen. Earle Clements would travel through the U.S. territories of Hawai'i, Guam and Wake Island. Then they'd travel to Taiwan and the Taiwanese island of Quemoy, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, what was then India and is now Pakistan, Lebanon, Cyprus, Israel, France, Austria, West Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland.

Among the most memorable moments were tours of repairs to war damage in Europe 10 years after World War II, and seeing the total solar eclipse.

(Photo from Everett M. Dirksen Collection.)

It was just about a year ago that these fine scholars were presenting to the Midwest Political Science Association confe...
04/06/2024

It was just about a year ago that these fine scholars were presenting to the Midwest Political Science Association conference in Chicago about conclusions they’d reached on issues connected to how Congress functions today. We're getting ready to tell the world about what they've found.

See, hear and read more about this exciting project in just a few weeks!

(Photographs by Raphael Rodolfi, Videogenique)

Our thanks to WMBD  for spending a little bit of time with us earlier this month to learn a little bit about Sen. Everet...
03/29/2024

Our thanks to WMBD for spending a little bit of time with us earlier this month to learn a little bit about Sen. Everett Dirksen's twin brother Thomas Reed Dirksen after his photo was discovered among old records, photos and Bibles at a local church.

Not everyone knows that the Dirksen boys were twins (or that they had an elder brother, Benjamin Harrison Dirksen), and some may even have forgotten the roles that Tom and Ben continued to play in the Pekin community, including Tom's service on the Pekin City Council after Everett went to Congress.

We also got to talk about the Dirksen family's multi-generational legacy with the old Second Reformed Church that had its home in that space for more than a century, and the community it provided for many immigrants from Germany and first-generation Americans from the region.

PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD)– At the Gethsemane Church in Pekin, Pastor Noyes found six bibles, original to the church, published in the 1800s. But that’s not all, a picture of a famous Pekin res…

Civil rights legislation in the 1960s improved opportunities for equity and helped open the door for a more inclusive ne...
03/28/2024

Civil rights legislation in the 1960s improved opportunities for equity and helped open the door for a more inclusive next generation of public servants.

Bradley's Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service is marking the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with a salute to some of the prominent Black women leaders in public service that it counts as alumnae.

As a founding partner of the Institute, we hope you'll join in the celebration during a luncheon on April 23 from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. on Bradley's campus. Full details are in the flyer, please contact Brad McMillan to register, [email protected]. Space is limited to the first 100 who reserve!

At a time we might feel pretty bleak about gridlock in Congress, there are some reforms quietly happening.Former Rep. Ro...
03/27/2024

At a time we might feel pretty bleak about gridlock in Congress, there are some reforms quietly happening.

Former Rep. Rodney Davis, who recently preserved his papers at the Dirksen Center, explains why there's some cause for optimism for the House in this recent op-ed alongside former Rep. Ed Perlmutter. Both served on the House's Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

There's also some continuity in Davis' work: Then-Reps. Bob Michel and Everett Dirksen both had roles in previous versions of this committee. Michel was a voting ex-officio member of the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress that sat from 1991-94 and presented recommendations adopted in 1995. Dirksen's work a half-century earlier helped result in the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946.

Behind the scenes the House has made tremendous progress in making Congress more transparent to the American people and bolstering its capacity to hold a runaway executive branch accountable.

Despite battling many physical maladies as he grew older, Sen. Dirksen often made light of his struggles.Sometimes, thou...
03/26/2024

Despite battling many physical maladies as he grew older, Sen. Dirksen often made light of his struggles.

Sometimes, though, others in his life exerted enough influence to get him to take it easy.

Both came into play in March 1967 when he had to cancel a trip to a Michigan fundraiser. "Slight cardiac and pulmonary disturbances" were certainly a good reason to do so! But he still managed to get in some self-deprecating jokes about his condition in his letter to Michigan Gov. George Romney, and he took a bit of time to razz the younger man about his workout routine.

03/22/2024

ICYMI: Our friends at the U.S. House Office of the Historian and the Office of Art and Archives invoked Leader Bob Michel yesterday in commemorating World Poetry Day.

Follow the link in this tweet for the history of Michel's quote:

Happy St. Patrick's Day!Did you know that Sen. Dirksen was a regular advocate for holding a vote on Irish reunification?...
03/17/2024

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Did you know that Sen. Dirksen was a regular advocate for holding a vote on Irish reunification? During the 1950s he repeatedly introduced legislation calling on U.S. support for that policy.

His reasoning: It was hypocritical of the U.S. to support the United Kingdom controlling Northern Ireland while supporting new nations' independence from colonial powers across the world and condemning Soviet control over other nations.

"If it be our province and duty under the United Nations to thwart aggression in every corner of the globe and assert the cause of freedom, then it's time to be consistent. Freedom, like charity, begins at home. ... The Irish are not children. They can stand on their own feet and manage their own affairs if a stronger power in the form of Britain will let them alone," he said in a speech in support of his resolution for an undivided Ireland.

After the 1952 election, Dirksen's legislation picked up a bipartisan co-sponsor in newly elected Sen. John F. Kennedy. Of course, the number of voters of Irish descent in Illinois and Massachusetts also made the measure good politics for both men.

More than four decades later, the 1998 Good Friday Agreement enshrined an understanding that if and when a majority agreement existed in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland for unification, it would become so.

(Photo: Sen. Dirksen poses with James O. Brooks, John Cavanaugh, and Admiral Daniel Gallery at Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago on St. Patrick's Day in 1953.)

As we prepare for the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we're looking back at other civil rights efforts...
03/14/2024

As we prepare for the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we're looking back at other civil rights efforts involving Sen. Dirksen. That includes the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first significant civil rights legislation to pass Congress since the 1870s.

Dirksen introduced the White House's proposal in the Senate (though the administration's House bill would be the one that became law). At the time, the vast majority of Black citizens in the South were prevented from voting.

The legislation did several things, including:
— Establishing a bipartisan commission on civil rights, focused on examining voting disenfranchisement and equal-protection issues;
— Creating a position in the Justice Department for an Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights;
— Prohibiting attempts to intimidate voters or prevent voting, giving federal district courts jurisdiction in cases of contempt under the act.

Dirksen had also carried individual bills that year to create a civil rights commission and establish the assistant AG post.

Proponents anticipated roadblocks from segregationist senators from the South. Responding to remarks by Georgia's Sen. Richard Russell on July 2, Dirksen defended the proposed act:

"I am confident that if the civil rights bill is enacted the heavens will not be rent asunder, the waters will not part, the Earth will not rock and roll, and we will go on, as we always have, and add to the course of our progress the protection and safeguarding of the rights of citizens of the United States. ... The civil rights bill, which will be under consideration soon, is concerned with only one thing, and that is the proper safeguarding of the citizens of our common country."

Alas, to ensure passage proponents had to agree to water down the final version by permitting a judge to determine if those charged with contempt of the act's voting provisions would face a jury trial — more or less guaranteeing a sympathetic hearing for anyone indicted in states where segregation and voter disenfranchisement still reigned.

Despite that concession, the measure still faced opposition from segregationists, including what is still the longest solo filibuster on record — Sen. Strom Thurmond held the floor for 24 hours and 18 minutes before yielding.

The changes needed to pass the legislation, and the opposition to the bill itself, demonstrated a need for continued work on civil rights measures. Still, the bill's passage set the stage for more work in 1960, and then major efforts in 1964 and beyond.

(Photos: These telegrams to Sen. Dirksen from Clarence Mitchell in the NAACP's Washington D.C. office help highlight one of the southern tactics pro-civil rights senators had to contend with, and the encouragement Dirksen received in his legislative efforts.)

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2815 Broadway Street
Pekin, IL
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