Last modified on November 16, 2021, at 01:26

Everett Dirksen

Everett M. Dirksen
Dirksen painting.jpg
Former Senate Minority Leader
From: January 3, 1959 – September 7, 1969
Predecessor William F. Knowland
Successor Hugh D. Scott
Former Senate Minority Whip
From: January 3, 1957 – January 3, 1959
Predecessor Leverett Saltonstall
Successor Thomas Kuchel
Former U.S. Senator from Illinois
From: January 3, 1951 – September 7, 1969
Predecessor Scott W. Lucas
Successor Ralph Tyler Smith
Former U.S. Representative from Illinois's 16th Congressional District
From: March 4, 1933 – January 3, 1949
Predecessor William E. Hull
Successor Leo E. Allen
Information
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Louella Carver
Religion Reformed
Military Service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Service Years 1918–1919
Rank Second Lieutenant
Battles/wars World War I

Everett McKinley Dirksen (January 4, 1896 – September 7, 1969) was a leading conservative Republican and civil rights hero[1][2] in the United States Senate from Illinois after the untimely death of Senator Robert Taft in 1953. He first won his Senate seat in a huge upset by defeating Democrat then-Senate Majority Leader Scott W. Lucas,[3] emerging victorious by campaigning against communist infiltration of the Democrat Party and FDR and Truman administrations, as well as through his criticism of the Marshall Plan.[4] His famous rhetoric at the 1952 GOP national convention was, "We followed you before, and you took us down the road to defeat."

Dirksen was renowned for his oratorical skills, tremendous wit, and very likable, down-to-earth appearance. He was also a very shrewd politician who in just his second term was voted by a wide margin of 20–14 over Kentucky Moderate Republican John Sherman Cooper to become the Minority Leader in the Senate.[5] He was so beloved by all his colleagues that within three years of his untimely death from cancer, Democrats approved renaming a Senate building as the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

His long-term senatorial colleague was liberal Democrat Paul Douglas, also a strong supporter of civil rights.

Background

Dirksen was born in Pekin, Illinois to German immigrants.[6] His parents gave him the middle name "McKinley" after U.S. president William McKinley. Raised with his two brothers in a strongly religious household, Dirksen attended public schools and later the University of Minnesota. During World War I, he served in the Army as a Second Lieutenant.

Political career

U.S. House of Representatives

After a failed bid for the United States House of Representatives in the 1930 midterms during the Republican primary,[7] Dirksen was successful the second time around in the 1932 election.[8] He would be re-elected seven times in the position.[9]

Dirksen initially supported some New Deal programs,[4][6] including the Civilian Conservation Corps, Social Security, the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933[10] as well as the National Industrial Recovery Act.[11] However, he later increasingly broke from President Franklin D. Roosevelt when recognizing that the initiatives fell short on the goal of economic recovery, asserting:

Will the American system of living, which rests upon the morals of individualism, become the victim of a pious collectivism and will freedom be just a word or a way of life?

Along with nearly all House Republicans, Dirksen voted for anti-lynching legislation in 1937[12] and 1940.[13]

U.S. Senate

Everett Dirksen of IL.jpg

Though Dirksen died only shortly after the Stonewall Riots, he had already spoken out against homosexuality. In 1952, he stated that the "lavender lads" (homosexual men) would be fired from the State Department if the Republican Party performed well in the elections that year.[14] That same year, he defended movement conservative and fellow Senator Robert Taft at the Republican National Convention and criticized Rockefeller Republican Thomas Dewey for his embarrassing loss to President Harry S. Truman only four years earlier.[4][15][16]

In 1954, Dirksen defended[17] Joseph McCarthy and voted along with 21 other mostly conservative Republicans against the D.C. establishment's censure of Wisconsin senator[18] who investigated and exposed communist infiltration of the State Department and the United States Army.

Dirksen voted for the Civil Rights Acts of 1957,[19] 1960,[20] 1964,[21] 1968,[22] as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965[23] and the 24th Amendment.[24] He helped write and pass the landmark 1964 legislation, especially in ensuring enough Republican votes for cloture to end the Southern Democrat filibuster against it.[25] Along with Minnesota Democrat Hubert Humphrey, he was thanked by Martin Luther King, Jr. for his crucial efforts in support of the bill.[26]

Dirksen at an interview in April 1965.

During the 1964 presidential election, Dirksen supported fellow conservative Barry Goldwater[27][28] despite some of their differences and correctly predicted the futility of the entrenched GOP establishment opposition towards the Arizona senator.[29]

In response to the United States Supreme Court decision Engel v. Vitale, Dirksen sponsored a constitutional amendment in 1966 to allow school prayer. He asserted:[28]

I think of the children, the millions whose souls need the spiritual rehearsal of prayer.

Imagine the Chicago Bears football team, made up of green, inexperienced, unpracticed and unrehearsed players, undertaking a game against the Cleveland Browns. It would be unthinkable because they have not been disciplined by practice. . . . Mr. President, the soul needs practice, too. It needs rehearsal.

The amendment received a 49–37 majority, far short of the two-thirds (67 votes) needed for passage.[30]

This would not be the only amendment that Dorksen would sponsor. He would push for his own "Dirksen Amendment" to undo Reynolds v. Sims, but that too failed.[31]

He and House Republican leader Charles A. Halleck of Indiana conducted weekly press conferences which were known as The Ev and Charlie Show.[32] The two had contrasting personalities and a lighthearted view from the press helped establish them as "great American duos". They became the face of the GOP during the 60s, with The New York Times reporting:[32]

Dirksen.jpg
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Senator Dirksen (left) with President Lyndon B. Johnson (right), 1966.
Every Thursday morning, two of this town’s most agile political performers have been taking a turn on-stage and on-camera for the Republican Party.

Political wit

The most famous quote attributed to Dirksen was his sarcastic account of uncontrolled government spending: "A million here, a million there, pretty soon, you're talking real money." It is uncertain whether Dirksen originated the quip; in recent years inflation has changed "million" to "billion".

Miscellaneous

Dirksen's speaking voice was so resonant that he recorded four albums. His "Gallant Men" won a Grammy Award and rose to #29 on the U.S. Billboard charts.

Family

Dirksen's wife, the former Louella Carver, played a strong role in his election victories.[33] She traveled across the country during the 1954 midterms as the spokesperson for the National Federation of Republican Women's GOP Election Express, and was described by a secretary to her husband as:[33]

...the lady with whom I got caught playing gin rummy on election day, 1950, when the preacher came to the Dirksen home to visit . . . the lady who shared the back of a truck with Dick Gregory in South Chicago in a rainstorm one night in 1962, and who made a wonderful speech for her husband . . . and the lady who was positively uncanny in bringing her leader back on the beam whenever he started flying too high.

His daughter Joy Dirksen was married to Tennessee Moderate Republican Howard Baker until her death in 1993 due to cancer.[34][35]

See also

Bibliography

Primary sources

  • Dirksen, Everett McKinley. The Education of a Senator. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998.
  • Dirksen, Louella Carver, with Norma Lee Browning. The Honorable Mr. Marigold: My Life With Everett Dirksen. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1972.

Secondary sources

  • Dietz, Terry; Republicans and Vietnam, 1961–1968 Greenwood: 1986.
  • Hulsey, Byron C. Everett Dirksen and His Presidents: How a Senate Giant Shaped American Politics. (2000). Abstract
  • MacNeil, Neil. Dirksen: Portrait of a Public Man. New York: World Publishing Company, 1970.
  • Rodriguez; Daniel B. and Barry R. Weingast. "The Positive Political Theory of Legislative History: New Perspectives on the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Its Interpretation" University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Volume: 151. Issue: 4. 2003. pp 1417+.
  • Schapsmeier Edward L., and Frederick H. Schapsmeier. Dirksen of Illinois. University of Illinois Press, 1985, the standard scholarly biography

References

  1. Everett Dirksen: Forgotten Civil Rights Champion. National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  2. Williams, Juan (September 28, 2018) Juan Williams: Why Republican Senator Everett Dirksen is an unsung civil rights hero Fox News. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  3. IL US Senate Race - Nov 07, 1950. Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 The Wizard of Ooze: Everett Dirksen of Illinois. Mad Politics: The Bizarre, Fascinating, and Unknown of American Political History. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  5. Minority Leader Race - Jan 07, 1959. Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Everett Mckinley Dirksen. encyclopedia.com. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  7. IL District 16-R Primary Race - Apr 08, 1930. Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  8. IL District 16 Race - Nov 08, 1932. Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  9. Candidate - Everett McKinley Dirksen. Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  10. TO PASS H.R. 3835 (P.L. 10) TO RELIEVE THE EXISTING NATIONAL ECONOMIC EMERGENCY BY INCREASING AGRICULTURAL PURCHASING POWER, TO RAISE REVENUE FOR EXTRAORDINARY EXPENSES INCURRED BY REASON OF SUCH EMERGENCY, TO PROVIDE EMERGENCY RELIEF WITH RESPECT TO AGRICULTURAL INDEBTEDNESS, TO PROVIDE FOR THE ORDERLY LIQUIDATION OF JOINT-STOCK LAND, BANKS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  11. TO PASS H.R. 5755.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  12. TO PASS H. R. 1507, AN ANTI-LYNCHING BILL.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  13. [1]. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  14. Baker, Kevin (December 6, 2016). The Myth of the Smug Liberal. The New Republic. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  15. Documentary Fan (March 7, 2012). Everett Dirksen Defends Taft. YouTube.
  16. Everett McKinley Dirksen. Britannica. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  17. Joseph R. McCarthy Career Timeline. Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  18. Two references:
  19. HR. 6127. CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1957.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  20. HR. 8601. PASSAGE OF AMENDED BILL.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  21. HR. 7152. PASSAGE.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  22. TO PASS H.R. 2516, A BILL TO PROHIBIT DISCRIMINATION IN SALE OR RENTAL OF HOUSING, AND TO PROHIBIT RACIALLY MOTIVATED INTERFERENCE WITH A PERSON EXERCISING HIS CIVIL RIGHTS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  23. TO PASS S. 1564, THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  24. S.J. RES. 29. APPROVAL OF RESOLUTION BANNING THE POLL TAX AS PREREQUISITE FOR VOTING IN FEDERAL ELECTIONS.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  25. The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom. Library of Congress. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  26. JOHSON BESTOWS PENS USED ON BILL; Over 75 Given as Mementos to Legislative Backers. The New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  27. Rep. Halleck Agrees To Second Goldwater. The New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Dirksen Dead in Capital at 73. The New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  29. DIRKSEN ASSERTS THAT GOLDWATER CAN'T BE STOPPED; Announces He Will Nominate Arizonan—Discounts Any Move by Eisenhower. The New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  30. TO PASS S. J. RES 144, A RESOLUTION PROPOSING A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PERMITTING SCHOOL PRAYERS.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  31. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1287188
  32. 32.0 32.1 "The Ev and Charlie Show". United States Senate. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  33. 33.0 33.1 Pearson, Richard (July 17, 1979). Colorful Louella Dirksen, Campaigned for Senator Husband. The Washington Post. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  34. UPI Archives (April 25, 1993). Joy Baker dead at 64. United Press International. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  35. CIVIC ACTIVIST JOY BAKER, SENATE LEADER'S WIFE, DIES. The Washington Post. Retrieved June 19, 2021.

External links