Sunday, May 03, 2020

Black History: Time Magazine Honored Republican Senator Dirksen For His Pivotal Role In The Passage Of The 1964 Civil Rights Act.


By Frances Rice


Senator Everett Dirksen (R- IL) was honored in a Time magazine article that featured him on the June 19, 1964 cover for his pivotal role in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Chicago Defender, the largest black-owned daily in the world, praised Dirksen "for the grand manner of his generalship behind the passage of the best civil rights measures that have ever been enacted into law since Reconstruction."

Senator Dirksen was instrumental to the passage of civil rights legislation in 1957, 1960, 1964, 1965, and 1968. Dirksen crafted the language for the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which prohibited discrimination in housing. He fine-tuned the language of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, which helped break the filibuster of the Democrat senators. He borrowed justifying language from the diary of Victor Hugo and said: “it was an idea whose time had come.”  Dirksen argued that a law aimed at ending discrimination by hotels, restaurants, and other business employers met the standard set by Hugo.

When President Johnson signed the bill, he handed the first pen to Dirksen as a token of his appreciation for his critical role in getting the bill passed into law.