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The Civil Rights Act (1957) provided for the establishment of the Civil Rights Section of the Justice Department and empowered federal prosecutors to obtain court injunctions against interference with the right to vote. It also established a federal Civil Rights Commission with authority to investigate discriminatory conditions and he recommend corrective measures.
Civil Rights Act of 1957
On September 9, 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on September 9, 1957 and was originally proposed by Attorney General Hebert Brownell. This Act was the first legislative civil rights action since the Civil Rights Act of 1875 during the Reconstruction period. It took 82 years for the federal government to commit to the cause of civil rights.
The Act did not create new rights but established:
- Protection of voting rights set out in the Fifteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
- The Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice empowering federal prosecutors to obtain court injunctions against interference with the right to vote.
- A Civil Rights Commission within the executive branch with the authority to investigate discriminatory conditions and to recommend corrective measures.
The purpose of the bill was to increase the number of registered black voters in the South since only 20% were registered with lower numbers in communities in the Deep South.
Even though some civil rights activist were not convinced about the efficacy of the Act, it was a stepping stone for more legislative action to come such as the Civil Rights Act of 1960 which strengthened voter registration rights and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which banned discrimination by businesses, public places and schools.
1957 Civil Rights Act - History
It was a time for chickens in every pot, two cars in every garage, color television, another war, and a space race to the stars.
View of Disneyland in 1956. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
Rosa Parks transit bus now on display at the Henry Ford Museum, a National Historic Site, in Dearborn, Michigan. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
Photo above: A race to the moon. Right: Allegheny Ludlum Steel Company, Pennsylania, 1940-1946, U.S. Office of War Information. Courtesy Library of Congress.
U.S. Timeline - The 1950s
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Detail - 1957
April 29, 1957 - U.S. Congress approves the first civil rights bill since reconstruction with additional protection of voting rights.
It is not known as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, although the 1957 bill certainly paved the way for that expanded legislation and took important steps in the Civil Rights movement that had been predominantly stagnant, from a legislative standpoint, since the days of reconstruction and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1875. More than seventy-five years later, after the negative years of Jim Crow, and the push forward partially credited to two events, the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, and the inclusion of African American soldiers in the military during World War II that led to Truman's executive order that ended segregation in the military on July 26, 1948, another Civil Rights Act was long past due.
It had been a goal of President Eisenhower to remedy defects in the system of voting rights applicable to minorities during his Presidency. At this time only twenty percent of the minority population was registered to vote, with discriminatory practices to registration rampant in local jurisdictions. By 1956, this goal had been meted out in various speeches, including his State of the Union speech in January. By April 9, 1956, Eisenhower had directed his Attorney General, Herbert Brownell Jr., to send a letter to the Vice President, as head of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House, what he wanted per legistation.
Attorney General Letter, April 9, 1956
The Vice President United States Senate Washington, D.C.
At a time when many Americans are separated by deep emotions as to the rights of some of our citizens as guaranteed by the Constitution, there is a constant need for restraint, calm judgment and understanding. Obedience to law as interpreted by the courts is the way differences are and must be resolved. It is essential to prevent extremists from causing irreparable harm.
In keeping with this spirit, President Eisenhower, in his State of the Union Message, said:
"It is disturbing that in some localities allegations persist that Negro citizens are being deprived of their right to vote and are likewise being subjected to unwarranted economic pressures. I recommend that the substance of these charges be thoroughly examined by a Bipartisan Commission created by the Congress. It is hoped that such a Commission will be established promptly so that it may arrive at findings which can receive early consideration.***
"We must strive to have every person judged and measured by what he is, rather than by his color, race or religion. There will soon be recommended to the Congress a program further to advance the efforts of the Government, within the area of Federal responsibility, to accomplish these objectives."
The right to vote is one of our most precious rights. It is the cornerstone of our form of government and affords protection for our other rights. It must be safeguarded.
Where there are charges that by one means or another the vote is being denied, we must find out all of the facts -- the extent, the methods, the results. The same is true of substantial charges that unwarranted economic or other pressures are being applied to deny fundamental rights safeguarded by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
The need for a full scale public study as requested by the President is manifest. The executive branch of the federal government has no general investigative power of the scope required to undertake such a study. The study should be objective and free from partisanship. It should be broad and at the same time thorough.
Civil rights are of primary concern to all our people. To this end the Commission's membership must be truly bipartisan and geographically representative.
A bill detailing the Commission proposal is submitted with this statement.
The proposed legislation provides that the Commission shall have six members, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. No more than three may be of the same political party. The Commission will be temporary, expiring two years from the effective date of the statute, unless extended by Congress. It will have authority to subpoena witnesses, take testimony under oath, and request necessary data from any executive department or agency. It may be required to make interim reports pending completion of a comprehensive final report containing findings and recommendation.
The Commission shall have authority to hold public hearings. Knowledge and understanding of every element of the problem will give greater clarity and perspective to one of the most difficult problems facing our country. Such a study, fairly conducted, will tend to unite responsible people in common effort to solve these problems. Investigation and hearings will bring into sharper focus the areas of responsibility of the federal government and of the states under our constitutional system. Through greater public understanding, therefore, the Commission may chart a course of progress to guide us in the years ahead.
At present the Civil Rights Section of the Departmet of Justice is one of the number of sections located within the Criminal Division. The protection of civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution is a governmental function and responsibility of first importance. It merits the full direction of a highly qualified lawyer, with the status of Assistant Attorney General, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.
In this area, as pointed out more fully below, more emphasis should be on civil law remedies. The civil rights enforcement activities of the Department of Justice should not, therefore, be confined to the Criminal Division.
The decisions and decrees of the United States Supreme Court relating to integration in the field of education and in other areas, and the civil rights cases coming before the lower federal courts in increasing numbers, are indicative of generally broadening legal activity in the civil rights field.
These considerations call for the authorization of an additional Assistant Attorney General to direct the Government's legal activities in the field of civil rights. A draft of legislation to effect this result is submitted herewith.
The present laws affecting the right of franchise were conceived in another era. Today every interference with this right should not necessarily be treated as a crime. Yet the only method of enforcing existing laws protecting this right is through criminal proceedings.
Civil remedies have not been available to the Attorney General in this field. We think that they should be. Criminal cases in a field charged with emotion are extraordinarily difficult for all concerned. Our ultimate goal is the safeguarding of the free exercise of the voting right, subject to the legitimate power of the state to prescribe necessary and fair voting qualifications. To this end, civil proceedings to forestall denials of the right may often be far more effective in the long run than harsh criminal proceedings to punish after the event.
The existing civil voting statute (section 1971 of Title 42, United States Code) declares that all citizens who are otherwise qualified to vote at any election (state or federal) shall be entitled to exercise their vote without distinction of race or color. The statute is limited, however to deprevations of voting rights by state officers or other persons purporting to act under authority of law. In the interest of proper law enforcement to guarantee to all of our citizens the rights to which they are entitled under the Constitution, I urge consideration by the Congress and the proposed Bipartisan Commission of three changes.
First, addition of a section which will prevent anyone from threatening, intimidating, or coercing an individual in the exercise of his right to vote, whether claiming to act under authority of law or not, in any election, general, special or primary, concerning candidate for federal office.
Second, authorization to the Attorney General to bring injunction or other civil proceedings on behalf of the United States or the aggrieved person in any case covered by the statute, as so charged.
Third, elimination of the requirement that all state administrative and judicial remedies must be exhausted before access can be had to the federal court.
Under another civil rights statute (section 1985 of Title 42 of the United States code) conspiracies to interfere with certain rights can be redressed only by a civil suit by the individual injured thereby. I urge consideration by the Congress and the proposed Bipartisan Commission of a proposal authorizing the Attorney General to initiate civil action where necessary to protect the rights secured by the statute.
I believe that consideration of these proposals not only will give us the means intelligently to meet our responsibility for the safeguarding of Constitutional rights in this country, but will reaffirm our determination to secure equal justice under law for all people.
Process and Outcome
So how close did the eventual Civil Rights Act of 1957 come to the desires of President Eisenhower and how effective was the legislation? There was difficulty within the Democratic caucus to any legislation that would overturn local voting rules with Southern Democrats balking at the legislation, led by South Carolina Democrat Strom Thurmond, who instituted a one person, twenty-four hour and eighteen minutes filibuster, the longest in history, to stop the bill. Other Democrats, led by Texas Senator, the Majority Leader, Lyndon B. Johnson, agreed with Eisenhower's purpose. His Senate Judiciary committee chairman, James Eastland of Mississippi, however, weakened the bill, removing several provisions, including those that referred to state and local elections, that would lessen its immediate impact, but insure the support of many Democrats.
The bill passed both houses of Congress 285-126 in the House of Representatives and 72-18 in the Senate. Both parties voted for the bill, with only 19 Republicans opposed, all in the House, and one hundred and twenty-five Democrats opposed total in both houses.
It would take additional voting rights acts to strengthen the 1957 law, the acts of 1960 and 1964. Its importance, however, should not be overlooked, as it indicated a growing effort on the federal level for civil rights with the establisment of the Civil Rights Commission. The impact on voting registation, however, was minimal. Minority registration only grew from twenty percent to twenty-three percent by 1960.
Full Text, Civil Rights Acts of 1957
To provide means of further securing and protecting the civil rights of persons within the jurisdiction of the United States.
Be it enacted by the Seriate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
PART I - ESTABLISHMENT OF THE COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS SEC. 101. (a) There is created in the executive branch of the Government a Commission on Civil Rights (hereinafter called the "Commission").
(b) The Commission shall be composed of six members who shall be appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Not more than three of the members shall at any one time be of the same political party.
(c) The President shall designate one of the members of the Commission as Chairman and one as Vice Chairman. The Vice Chairman shall act as Chairman in the absence or disability of the Chairman, or in the event of a vacancy in that office.
(d) Any vacancy in the Commission shall not affect its powers and shall be filled in the same manner, and subject to the same limitation with respect to party affiliations as the original appointment was made.
(e) Four members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum.
RULES OF PROCEDURE OF THE COMMISSION
SEC. 102. (a) The Chairman or one designated by him to act as Chairman at a hearing of the Commission shall announce in an opening statement the subject of the hearing.
(b) A copy of the Commission's rules shall be made available to the witness before the Commission.
(c) Witnesses at the hearings may be accompanied by their own counsel for the purpose of advising them concerning their constitutional rights.
(d) The Chairman or Acting Chairman may punish breaches of order and decorum and unprofessional ethics on the part of counsel, by censure and exclusion from the hearings.
(e) If the Commission determines that evidence or testimony at any hearing may tend to defame, degrade, or incriminate any person, it shall (1) receive such evidence or testimony in executive session
(2) afford such person an opportunity voluntarily to appear as a witness and (3) receive and dispose of requests from such person to subpena additional witnesses.
(f) Except as provided in sections 102 and 105 (f) of this Act^ the Chairman shall receive and the Commission shall dispose of requests to subpena additional witnesses.
(g) No evidence or testimony taken in executive session may be released or used in public sessions without the consent of the Commission. Whoever releases or uses in public without the consent of the Commission evidence or testimony taken in executive session shall be fined not more than $1,000, or imprisoned for not more than one year.
(h) In the discretion of the Commission, witnesses may submit brief and pertinent sworn statements^ in writing for inclusion in the record. The Commission is the sole judge of the pertinency of testimony and evidence adduced at its hearings.
(i) Upon payment of the cost thereof, a witness may obtain a transcript copy of his testimony given at a public session or, if given at an executive session, when authorized by the Commission.
(j) A witness attending any session of the Commission shall receive $4 for each day's attendance and for the time necessarily occupied in going to and returning from the same, and 8 cents per mile for going from and returning to his place of residence. "Witnesses who attend at points so far removed from their respective residences as to prohibit return thereto from day to day shall be entitled to an additional allowance of $12 per day for expenses of subsistence, including the time necessarily occupied in going to and returning from the place of attendance. Mileage payments shall be tendered to the witness upon service of a subpena issued on behalf of the Commission or any subcommittee thereof.
(k) The Commission shall not issue any subpena for the attendance and testimony of witnesses or for the production of written or other matter which would require the presence of the party subpenaed at a hearing to be held outside of the State, wherein the witness is found or resides o transacts business.
COMPENSATION OF MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION
SEC. 103. (a) Each member of the Commission who is not otherwise in the service of the Government of the United States shall receive the sum of $50 per day for each day spent in the work of the Commission, shall be reimbursed for actual and necessary travel expenses, and shall receive a per diem allowance of $12 in lieu of actual expenses for subsistence when away from his usual place of residence, inclusive of fees or tips to porters and stewards.
(b) Each member of the Commission who is otherwise in the service of the Government of the United States shall serve without compensation in addition to that received for such other service, but while engaged in the work of the Commission shall be reimbursed for actual and necessary travel expenses, and shall receive a per diem allowance of $12 in lieu of actual expenses for subsistence when away from his usual place of residence, inclusive of fees or tips to porters and stewards.
SEC. 104. (a) The Commission shall -
(1) investigate allegations in writing under oath or affirmation that certain citizens of the United States are being deprived of their right to vote and have that vote counted by reason of their color, race^ religion, or national origin which writing, under oath or affirmation, shall set forth the facts upon which such belief or beliefs are based
(2) study and collect information concerning legal developments constituting a denial of equal protection of the laws under the Constitution and
(3) appraise the laws and policies of the Federal Government with respect to equal protection of the laws under the Constitution. (b) The Commission shall submit interim reports to the President la^'nt^'an^d' and to the Congress at such times as either the Commission or the gress. President shall deem desirable, and shall submit to the President and to the Congress a final and comprehensive report of its activities, findings, and recommendations not later than two years from the date of the enactment of this Act.
(c) Sixty days after the submission of its final report and recommendations the Commission shall cease to exist.
SEC. 105. (a) There shall be a full-time staff director for the Commission who shall be appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and who shall receive compensation at a rate, to be fixed by the President, not in excess of $22,500 a year. The President shall consult with the Commission before submitting the nomination of any person for appointment to the position of staff director. Within the limitations of its appropriations, the Commission may appoint such other personnel as it deems advisable, in accordance with the civil service and classification laws, and may procure services as authorized by section 15 of the Act of August 2, 1946 (60 Stat. 810 5 U. S. C. 55a), but at rates for individuals not in excess of $50 per diem.
(b) The Commission shall not accept or utilize services of voluntary or uncompensated personnel, and the term "whoever" as used in paragraph (g) of section 102 hereof shall be construed to mean a person whose services are compensated by the United States. (c) The Commission may constitute such advisory committees within States composed of citizens of that State and may consult with governors, attorneys general, and other representatives of State and local governments, and private organizations, as it deems advisable. (d) Members of the Commission, and members of advisory committees constituted pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, shall be exempt from the operation of sections 281, 283, 284, 434, and 1914 of title 18 of the United States Code, and section 190 of the Revised Statutes (5 U . S . C. 99). _
(e) All Federal agencies shall cooperate fully with the Commission to the end that it may effectively carry out its functions and duties.
(f) The Commission, or on the authorization of the Commission any subcommittee of two or more members, at least one of whom shall be of each major political party, may, for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Act, hold such hearings and act at such times and places as the Commission or such authorized subcommittee may deem advisable. Subpenas for the attendance and testimony of witnesses or the production of written or other matter may be issued in accordance with the rules of the Commission as contained in section 102 (j) and (k) of this Act, over the signature of the Chairman of the Commission or of such subcommittee, and may be served by any person designated by such Chairman.
(g) In case of contumacy or refusal to obey a subpena, any district court of the United States or the United States court of any Territory or possession, or the District Court of the United States for the District of Columbia, within the jurisdiction of which the inquiry is carried on or within the jurisdiction of which said person guilty of contumacy or refusal to obey is found or resides or transacts business, upon application by the Attorney General of the United States shall have jurisdiction to issue to such person an order requiring such person to appear before the Commission or a subcommittee thereof, there to produce evidence if so ordered, or there to give testimony touching the matter under investigation and any failure to obey sucn order of the court may be punished by said court as a contempt thereof.
SEC. 106. There is hereby authorized to be appropriated, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, so much as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act.
PART II - To PROVIDE FOR AN ADDITIONAL ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
SEC. 111. There shall be in the Department of Justice one additional Assistant Attorney General, who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, who shall assist the Attorney General in the performance of his duties, and who shall receive conipensation at the rate prescribed by law for other Assistant Attorneys General.
PART III - To STRENGTHEN THE CIVIL EIGHTS STATUTES, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
SEC. 121. Section 1343 of title 28, United States Code, is amended as follows:
(a) Amend the catch line of said section to read, "S 1343. Civil rights and elective franchise"
(b) Delete the period at the end of paragraph (3) and insert in lieu thereof a semicolon.
(c) Add a paragraph as follows:
" (4) To recover damages or to secure equitable or other relief under any Act of Congress providing for the protection of civil rights, including the right to vote."
SEC. 122. Section 1989 of the Revised Statutes (42 U. S. C. 1993) Repeal, is hereby repealed.
PART IV - To PROVIDE MEANS OF FURTHER SECURING AND PROTECTING THE RIGHT TO VOTE
SEC. 131. Section 2004 of the Revised Statutes (42 U. S. C. 1971), is amended as follows:
(a) Amend the catch line of said section to read, "Voting rights".
(b) Designate its present text with the subsection symbol "(a)".
(c) Add, immediately following the present text, four new subsections to read as follows:
"(b) No person, whether acting under color of law or otherwise, shall intimidate, threaten, coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose, or of causing such other person to vote for, or not to vote for, any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, presidential elector. Member of the Senate, or Member of the House or Representatives, Delegates or Commissioners from the Territories or possessions, at any general, special, or primary election held solely or in part for the purpose of selecting or electing any such candidate.
"(c) Whenever any person has engaged or there are reasonable grounds to believe that an^ person is about to engage in any act or practice which would deprive any other person of any right or priviege secured by subsection (a) or (b), the Attorney General may institute for the United States, or in the name of the United States, a civil action or other proper proceeding for preventive relief, including an application for a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order, or other order. In any proceeding hereunder the United States shall be liable for costs the same as a private person. "(d) The district courts of the United States shall have jurisdiction of proceedings instituted pursuant to this section and shall exercise the same without regard to whether the party aggrieved shall have exhausted any administrative or other remedies that may be provided by law. "(e) Any person cited for an alleged contempt under this Act shall be allowed to make his full defense by counsel learned in the law and the court before which he is cited or tried, or some judge thereof, shall immediately, upon his request, assign to him such counsel, not exceeding two, as he may desire, who shall have free access to him at all reasonable hours. He shall be allowed, in his defense to make any proof that he can produce by lawful witnesses, and shall have the like process of the court to compel his witnesses to appear at his trial or hearing, as is usually granted to compel witnesses to appear on behalf of the prosecution. If such person shall be found by the court to be financially unable to provide for such counsel, it shall be the duty of the court to provide svich counsel."
PART V - To PROVIDE TRIAL BY JURY FOR PROCEEDINGS To PUNISH (CRIMINAL CONTEMPTS OF COURT GROWING OUT or CIVIL RIGHTS CASES AND To AMEND THE JUDICIAL CODE RELATING TO FEDERAL JURY QUALIFICATIONS
SEC. 151. In all cases of criminal contempt arising under the provisions of this Act, the accused, upon conviction, shall be punished by fine or imprisonment or both: Provided however^ That in case the accused is a natural person the fine to be paid shall not exceed the sum of $1,000, nor shall imprisonment exceed the term of six months: Provided further^ That in any such proceeding for criminal contempt, at the discretion of the judge, the accused may be tried with or without a jury: Provided further^ however, That in the event such proceeding for criminal contempt be tried before a judge without a jury and the sentence of the court upon conviction is a fine in excess of the sum of $300 or imprisonment in excess of forty-five days, the accused in said proceeding, upon demand therefor, shall be entitled to a trial de novo before a jury, which shall conform as near as may be to the practice in other criminal cases.
This section shall not apply to contempts committed in the presence of the court or so near thereto as to interfere directly with the administration of justice nor to the misbehavior, misconduct, or disobedience, of any officer of the court in respect to the writs, orders, or process of the court.
Nor shall anything herein or in any other provision of law be construed to deprive courts of their power, hj civil contempt proceedings, without a jury to secure compliance with or to prevent obstruction of, as distinguished from punishment for violations of, any lawful writ, process, order, rule, decree, or command of the court in accordance with the prevailing usages of law and equity, including the power of detention.
SEC. 152. Section 1861, title 28, of the United States Code is hereby amended to read as follows:
"S 1861. Qualifications of Federal jurors
"Any citizen of the United States who has attained the age of twenty-one years and who has resided for a period of one year within the judicial district, is competent to serve as a grand or petit juror unless -
" (1) He has been convicted in a State or Federal court of record of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year and his civil rights have not been restored by pardon or amnesty. "(2) He is unable to read, write, speak, and understand the English language.
"(3) He is incapable, by reason of mental or physical infirmities to render efficient jury service."
SEC. 161. This Act may be cited as the "Civil Rights Act of 1957". Approved September 9, 1957.
Image above: Montage of (left) President Eisenhower signing Civil Rights Act of 1957, 1957, Naval Photographic Center. Coutesy Wikipedia Commons via National Archives (right) Exhibit at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 2010, Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy Library of Congress. Image below: Photo of school integration at the Barnard School in Washington, D.C., May 27, 1955, Thomas J. O'Hallaran, U.S. News and World Report Magazine Photograph Collection at the Library of Congress. Source Info: Senate.gov Eisenhower Presidential Library Full text of Act courtesy Cornell University Law School via United States Government Printing Office Wikipedia Commons.
History Photo Bomb
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, General Eisenhower, and General Patton in Castelvetrano, Sicily, December 8, 1943. By 1952, Eisenhower would become president. Courtesy National Archives.
Now in easy to search digital format for your Kindle, Nook, or pdf format. Also comes in paperback, too.
Korean War bombing raid. Courtesy National Archives.
ABH Travel Tip
A visit to Eisenhower National Historic Site should not be missed if you are visiting Gettysburg. Its home and farm evoke the time of the general and his wife, with period furnishings and tales of not only his presidency and the meetings with world and national leaders at the farm, but his life in Gettysburg and prior to that, in World War II. The farm was the only home Eisenhower owned in his lifetime.
Astronaut John Glenn and others around capsule, October 1958. Courtesy NASA.
Civil Rights Act of 1957
In 1957, President Eisenhower sent Congress a proposal for civil rights legislation. The result was the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. The new act established the Civil Rights Section of the Justice Department and empowered federal prosecutors to obtain court injunctions against interference with the right to vote. It also established a federal Civil Rights Commission with authority to investigate discriminatory conditions and recommend corrective measures. The final act was weakened by Congress due to lack of support among the Democrats.
Memorandum, E. Frederic Morrow to Sherman Adams, July 12, 1957 [E. Frederic Morrow Records, Box 9, Civil Rights Bill NAID #12167063]
Letter, Val Washington (RNC) to DDE, July 18, 1957 [E. Frederic Morrow Records, Box 9, Civil Rights Bill NAID #12023121]
Press Release, Republican National Committee, August 7, 1957 [E. Frederic Morrow Records, Box 9, Civil Rights Bill NAID #12023122]
Letter, William P. Rogers to Joseph P. Martin, August 9, 1957 [E. Frederic Morrow Records, Box 9, Civil Rights Bill NAID #12090722]
Press Release by Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, August 30, 1957 [E. Frederic Morrow Records, Box 9, Civil Rights Bill NAID #12167069]
Civil Rights Act of 1957 [Record Officer Reports to President on Pending Legislation, Box 111, Civil Rights HR 6127 NAID #12171136]
Pamphlet, The Commission on Civil Rights [E. Frederic Morrow Records, Box 9, Civil Rights Bill NAID #12167074]
(1957) Washington (State) Omnibus Civil Rights Act of 1957
CHAPTER 37. H. B. 25. 7 CIVIL RIGHTS LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION.
AN ACT relating to civil rights, amending section 1, chapter 183, Laws of 1949 and ROW 49.60.010 amending section 12, chapter 183, Laws of 1949 and RCW 49.60.020 amending section 2, chapter 183, Laws of 1949 and ROW 49.60.030 amending section 3, chapter 183, Laws of 1949 and RCW 49.60.040 amending section 2, chapter 270, Laws of 1955 and ROW 49.60.050 amending section 6, chapter 270, Laws of 1955 and RCW 49.60.090 amending section 8, chapter 270, Laws of 1955 and RCW 49.60.120 amending section 7, chapter 183, Laws of 1949 and RCW 49.60.180 through 49.60.220 amending section 15, chapter 270, Laws of 1955 and RCW 49.60.230 amending section 16, chapter 270, Laws of 1955 and RCW 49.60.240 amending section 17, chapter 270, Laws of 1955 and RCW 49.60.250 section 9, chapter 183, Laws of 1949 and RCW 49.60.260 through 49.60.300 amending section 10, chapter 183, Laws of 1949 and ROW 49.60.310 and adding three new sections to chapter 183, Laws. of 1849 and chapter 49.60 RCW.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State o f Washington:
SECTION 1. Section 1, chapter 183, Laws of 1949 RCW 49.60.010 and RCW 49.60.010 are each amended to read as follows:
This chapter shall be known as the “Law Against Short Discrimination.” It is an exercise of the police power of the state for the protection of the public welfare, health and peace of the people of this state, and in fulfillment of the provisions of the Constitution of this state concerning civil rights. The legislature hereby finds and declares that practices of discrimination against any of its inhabitants because of race, creed, color, or national origin are a matter of state concern, that such discrimination threatens not only the rights and proper privileges of its inhabitants but menaces the institutions and foundation of a free democratic state. A state agency is herein created with powers with respect to elimination and prevention of discrimination in employment, in places of public resort, accommodation or amusement, and in publicly assisted housing because of race, creed, color, or national origin and the board established hereunder is hereby given general jurisdiction and power for such purposes.
SEC. 2. Section 12, chapter 183, Laws of 1949 and RCW 49.60.020 are each amended to read as fellows:
The provisions of this chapter shall be construed liberally for the accomplishment of the purposes thereof. Nothing, contained in this chapter shall be deemed to repeal any of the provisions of any other law of this state relating to discrimination because of race, color, creed, or national origin. Nor shall anything herein contained be construed to deny the right to any person to institute any action or pursue any civil or criminal remedy based upon an alleged violation of his civil rights. However, the election of a person to pursue such a remedy shall preclude him from pursuing those administrative remedies created by this act.
SEC. 3. Section 2, chapter 183, Laws of 1949 and RCW 49.60.030 are each amended to read as follows:
The right to be free from discrimination because of race, creed, color, or national origin is recognized as and declared to be a civil right. This right shall
include, but not be limited to:
(1) The right to obtain and hold employment without discrimination
(2) The right to the full enjoyment of any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges of any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage or amusement
(3) The right to secure publicly assisted housing without discrimination.
SEC. 4. Section 3, chapter 183, Laws of 1949 and RCW 49.60.040 are each amended to read as follows:
As used in this chapter:
“Person” includes one or more individuals, partnerships, associations, organizations, corporations, cooperatives, legal representatives, trustees and
receivers or any group of persons it includes any owner, lessee, proprietor, manager, agent or employee, whether one or more natural persons and
further includes any political or civil subdivisions of the state and any agency or instrumentality of the state or of any political or civil subdivision thereof
“Employer” includes any person acting in the interest of an employer, directly, or indirectly, who has eight or more persons in his employ, and does not include any religious or sectarian organization, not organized for private profit
“Employee” does not include any individual employed by his parents, spouse or child, or, in the domestic service, of any person
“Labor organization” includes any organization which exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers concerning grievances
or terms or conditions of employment, or for other mutual aid or protection in connection with employment ,
“Employment agency” includes any person undertaking with or without compensation to recruit, procure, refer, or place employees for an employer
“National origin” includes “ancestry”
“Full enjoyment of” includes the right to purchase any service, commodity or article of personal property offered or sold on, or by, any establishment to the public, and the admission of any person to accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges of any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage or amusement, without acts directly’ or indirectly causing persons of any particular, race, creed or color, to be treated as not welcome, accepted, desired or solicited
“Any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage or amusement” includes, but is not limited to, any place, licensed or unlicensed, kept for gain, hire or reward, or where charges are made for admission, service, occupancy or use of any property or facilities, whether conducted for the entertainment, housing or lodging of transient guests, or for the benefit, use or accommodation of those seeking health, recreation or rest, or for the sale of goods, merchandise, services or personal , property, or for the rendering of personal services, or for the public conveyance or transportation on land, water or in the air, including the stations and terminals thereof and the garaging of vehicles, or where food or beverages of any kind are sold for consumption on the premises, or where public amusement, entertainment, sports or recreation of any kind is offered with or without charge, or where medical service or care is made available, or where the public gathers, congregates, or assembles for amusement, recreation or public purposes, or public halls, public elevators and public washrooms of buildings and structures occupied by two or more tenants, or by the owner and one or more tenants, or any public library or educational institution, or schools of special instruction, or nursery schools, or day care centers or children’s camps: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to include or apply to any institute, bona fide club, or place of accommodation, which is by its nature distinctly private including fraternal organizations, though where public use is permitted that use shall be covered by this act nor shall anything herein contained apply to any educational facility, operated or maintained by a bona fide religious or sectarian institution
“Publicly assisted housing” includes any building, structure or portion thereof which is used or occupied or is intended to be used or occupied as the home, residence or sleeping place of one or more persons, and the acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, repair or maintenance of which is financed in whole or in part by a loan whether or not secured by a mortgage, the repayment of which is guaranteed or insured by the federal government or any agency thereof, or the state or any of its political subdivisions, or any agency thereof, provided that such a housing accommodation shall be deemed to be publicly assisted only during the life of such loan and such guarantee or insurance, or if a commitment, issued by a government agency, is outstanding that the acquisition of such housing accommodations may be financed in whole or in part by a loan whether or not secured by a mortgage, the repayment of which is guaranteed or insured by the federal government or any agency thereof, or the state or any of its political subdivisions, or any agency thereof
“Owner” includes the owner, lessee, sublessee, assignee, agent, creditor, lender or other person having the right to ownership or possession of housing, or to have housing pledged as security for a debt.
SEC. 5. Section 2, chapter 270, Laws of 1955 and RCW 49.60,050 are each amended to read as follows:
There is created the “Washington state board against discrimination,” which shall be composed of five members to be appointed by the governor, one of whom shall be designated as chairman by the governor.
SEC. 6. Section 6, chapter 270, Laws of 1955 and RCW 49.60.090 are each amended to read as follows:
The principal office of the board shall be in the city of Olympia, but it may meet and exercise any or all of its powers at any other place in the state and may establish such district offices as it deems necessary.
SEC. 7. Section 8, chapter 270, Laws of 1955 and RCW 49.60.120 are each amended to read as follows:
The board shall have the functions, powers arid duties:
(1) To appoint an executive secretary, and chief examiner, and such investigators, examiners, clerks, and other employees and agents as it may deem necessary, fix their compensation within the limitations provided by law, and prescribe their duties.
(2) To obtain upon request and utilize the services of all governmental departments and agencies.
(3) To adopt, promulgate, amend, and rescind suitable rules and regulations to carry out the provisions of this chapter, and the policies and practices of the board in connection therewith.
(4) To receive, investigate and pass upon complaints alleging unfair practices as defined in this act because of race, creed, color, or national origin.
(5) To issue such publications and such results of investigations and research as in its judgment will tend to promote good will and minimize or eliminate discrimination because of race creed, color, or national origin:
(6) To make such technical studies as are appropriate to effectuate the purposes and policies of this chapter and to publish and distribute the reports of such studies.
SEC. 8. Section 7, chapter 183 Laws of 1949 (heretofore divided and codified as RCW 49.60.180through 49.60.220) is amended to read as set forth in sections 9 through 13 of this amendatory act.
SEC. 9. (RCW 49.60.180) It is an unfair practice for any employer:
(1) To refuse to hire any person because of such person’s race, creed, color, or national origin, unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification.
(2) To discharge or bar any person from employment because of such person’s race, creed, color, or, national origin.
(3) To discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms or conditions of employment because of such person’s race, creed, color, or national origin.
(4) To print, or circulate, or cause to be printed or circulated any statement, advertisement, or publication, or to use any form of application for employment, or to make any inquiry in connection with prospective employment which expresses, directly or indirectly, any limitation, specification or discrimination as to race, creed, color, or national origin or any intent to make any such limitation specification or discrimination, unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification: Provided, Nothing contained herein shall prohibit advertising in a foreign language.
SEC. 10. (RCW 49.60.190) It is an unfair practice for any labor union or labor organization:
(1) To deny membership arid full membership rights and privileges to any person because of such person’s race, creed, color, or national origin.
(2) To expel from membership any person because of such person’s race, creed, color, or national origin.
(3) To discriminate against any member, employer, or employee because of such person’s creed, color, or national origin.
SEC. 11. (RCW 49.60.200) It is an unfair practice for any employment agency to fail or refuse to classify properly or refer for employment, or otherwise to discriminate against, any individual because of his race, creed, color, or national origin, or to print or circulate, or cause to be printed or circulated any statement, advertisement, or publication, or to use any form of application for employment, or to make any inquiry in connection, with prospective employment, which expresses, directly or indirectly, any limitation, specification or discrimination as to race, creed, color, or national origin, or any intent to make any such limitation, specification or discrimination, unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification: Provided, Nothing contained herein shall prohibit advertising in a foreign language.
SEC. 12. (RCW 49.60.210) It is an unfair practice for any employer, employment agency, or labor union to discharge, expel, or otherwise discriminate against any person because he has opposed any practices forbidden by this chapter, or because he has filed a charge, testified, or assisted in any proceeding under this chapter.
SEC. 13. (RCW 49.60.220) It is an unfair practice for any person to aid, abet, encourage, or incite the commission of any unfair practice, or to attempt to obstruct or prevent any other, person from complying with the provisions of this chapter or any order issued thereunder.
SEC. 14. There is added to chapter 183, Laws of 1949 and chapter 49.60 RCW, a new section to read as follows:
It shall be an unfair practice for any person or his agent or employee to commit an act which directly or indirectly results in any distinction, restriction, or discrimination or the requiring of any person to pay a larger sum than the uniform rates charged other persons, or the refusing or withholding from any person the admission, patronage, custom, presence frequenting, dwelling, staying or lodging in any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, or amusement except for conditions and limitations established by law and applicable to all persons, regardless of race creed, color, or national origin.
SEC. 15. There is added to chapter 183, Laws of 1949 and chapter 49.60 RCW, a new section to, read as follows:
It shall be an unfair practice:
(1) For the owner of publicly assisted housing to refuse to sell, rent, or lease to any person or persons such housing because of the race, creed, color, or national origin of such person or persons
(2) For the owner of any publicly assisted housing to segregate, separate or discriminate against any , person or persons because of the race, creed, color, or national origin of such person or persons, in the terms, conditions, or privileges of any such housing or in the furnishing of facilities or services in connection therewith
(3) For any person to make or cause to be made any written or oral inquiry concerning the race, creed, color, or national origin of a person or group of persons seeking to purchase, rent, or lease publicly assisted housing accommodations
(4) For any person to print or publish or cause to be printed or published any notice or advertisement relating to the sale, rental, or leasing of any publicly assisted housing accommodation which indicates any preference, limitation, specification, or discrimination based on race, creed, color, or national origin
(5) For any person, bank, mortgage company or other financial institution to whom application is made for financial assistance for the acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, repair or maintenance of any publicly assisted housing to make or cause to be made any written or oral inquiry for the purpose of discrimination concerning the race, creed, color, or national original of a person or group of persons seeking such financial assistance, or concerning the race, creed, color, or national origin of prospective occupants or tenants of such housing, or to discriminate against, any person or persons because of the race, creed, color, or national origin of such person or persons, or prospective occupants or tenants, in the terms, conditions or privileges relating to the obtaining or use of any such financial assistance.
Nothing herein shall be deemed to prevent a bona fide religious, sectarian institution, or fraternal organization from selecting as tenants or occupants of any housing operated by such organization, as part of its religious, sectarian or fraternal activities, adherents or members of such religion, sect, or fraternal organization exclusively, or from giving preference in such selection to such adherents or members.
SEC. 16. Section 15, chapter 270, Laws of 1955 and RCW 49.60.230 are each amended to read as follows:
(1) Any person claiming to be aggrieved by an alleged unfair practice may, by himself or his attorney make, sign, and file with the board a complaint in writing under oath. The complaint shall state the name and address of the person alleged to have committed the unfair practice and, the particulars thereof, and contain such other information as may be required by the board.
(2) Whenever it has reason to believe that any person has been engaged or is engaging in. an unfair practice, the board may issue a complaint.
(3) Any employer or principal whose employees, or agents, or any of them, refuse or threaten to refuse to comply with the provisions of this chapter may file with the board a written complaint under oath asking for assistance by conciliation or other remedial action. Any complaint filed pursuant to this section must be so filed within six months after the alleged act of discrimination.
SEC. 17. Section 16, chapter 270, Laws of 1955 and RCW 49.60.240 are each amended to read as follows:
After the filing of any complaint, the chairman of the board shall refer it to the appropriate section of the board’s staff for prompt investigation and ascertainment of the facts. The results of the investigation shall be reduced to written findings of fact, and finding shall be made that there is or that there, is, not reasonable cause for believing that an unfair practice has been or is being committed. A copy of said findings shall be furnished to the, complainant and to the person named in such complaint, hereinafter referred to as the respondent.
If the finding is made that there is reasonable cause for believing that an unfair practice has been or is being committed, the board’s staff shall immediately endeavor to eliminate the unfair practice by conference, conciliation and persuasion.
If an agreement is reached for the elimination of such unfair practice as a result of such conference, conciliation and persuasion, the agreement shall be reduced to writing and signed by the respondent, and an order shall be entered by the board setting forth the terms of said agreement. No order shall be entered by the board at this stage of the proceedings except upon such written agreement.
If no such agreement can be reached, a finding to that effect shall be made and reduced to writing, with a copy thereof furnished to the complainant and the respondent.
SEC. 18. Section 17, chapter 270, Law’s of 1955 and RCW 49.60.250 are each amended to read as follows:
In case of failure to reach an agreement for the elimination of such unfair practice arid upon the entry of findings to that effect, the entire file, including the complaint and any and all findings made, shall be certified to the chairman of the board. The chairman of the board shall thereupon appoint a hearing tribunal of three persons, who shall be members of the board or a panel of hearing examiners, acting in the name of the board, to hear the complaint and shall cause to be issued and served in the name of the board a written notice, together with a copy of the complaint, as the same may have been amended, requiring the respondent to answer the charges of the complaint at a hearing before such tribunal, at a time and place to be specified in such notice.
The place of any such hearing may be the office of the board or another place designated by it. The case in support of the complaint shall be presented at the hearing by counsel for the board: Provided, That the complainant may retain independent counsel and submit testimony and be fully heard. No member or employee of the board who previously made the investigation or caused the notice to be issued shall participate in the hearing except as a witness, nor shall he participate in the deliberations of the tribunal in such case. Any endeavors or negotiations for conciliation shall not be received in evidence.
The respondent may file a written answer to the complaint and appear at the hearing in person or otherwise, with or without counsel, and submit testimony and be fully heard.
The tribunal conducting any hearing may permit reasonable amendment to any complaint or answer. Testimony taken at the hearing shall be under oath and recorded.
If, upon all the evidence, the tribunal finds that the respondent has engaged in any unfair practice it shall state its findings of fact and shall issue and file with the board and cause to be served on such respondent an order requiring such respondent to cease and desist from such unfair practice and to take such affirmative action, including, (but not limited to) hiring, reinstatement or upgrading of employees, with or without back, pay, an admission or restoration to full membership rights in any respondent organization, or to take such other action as, in the judgment of the tribunal, will effectuate the purposes of this chapter, and including a requirement for report of the matter on compliance.
If, upon all the evidence, the tribunal finds that the respondent has not engaged in any alleged unfair practice, it shall state its findings of fact and shall similarly issue and file an order dismissing the complaint.
The board shall establish rules of practice to govern, expedite and effectuate the foregoing procedure.
SEC. 19. There is added to chapter 183, Laws of 1949 and chapter 49.60 RCW, a new section to read as follows:
If the complainant is dissatisfied with the agreement reached as provided in section 17 hereof, or if the finding is made as provided for in this chapter, that there is no reasonable cause for believing that an unfair practice has been or is being committed, the complainant may within thirty days of approval by the board of such agreement or from receipt of a copy of said finding file a petition for reconsideration by the board and. he shall have the right to appear before the board at its next regular meeting in person or by counsel and present such facts, evidence and affidavits of witnesses as may support the complaint.
The board shall establish rules of practice to govern, expedite, and effectuate the foregoing procedure.
SEC. 20. Section 9, chapter 183, Laws of 1949 (heretofore divided and codified as RCW 49.60.260 through 49.60.300) is divided and amended as set forth in sections 21 through 25.
SEC. 21. (RCW 49:60.260) (1) The board shall petition the court within the county wherein any unfair practice occurred or wherein any person charged with an unfair practice resides or transacts business, for the enforcement, of any order which is not complied with and is issued by a tribunal under the provisions of this chapter and for appropriate temporary relief or a restraining order, and shall certify and file in court a transcript of the entice record of the proceedings, including the pleadings and testimony upon which such order was made and the finding and orders of the hearing tribunal. Within five days after filing such petition in court the board shall cause a notice of the petition to be sent by registered mail to all parties or their representatives.
The court shall have jurisdiction of the proceedings and of the questions determined thereon, and shall have the power to issue such orders and grant such relief by injunction or otherwise, including temporary relief, as it deems just and suitable and to make and enter, upon the pleadings, testimony and proceedings set forth in such transcript, a decree enforcing, modifying and enforcing as so modified, or setting aside in whole or in part any order of the board or hearing tribunal
(2) The findings of the hearing tribunal as to the facts, if supported by substantial and competent evidence shall be conclusive. The court, upon its own motion or upon motion of either of the parties to the proceeding, may permit each party to introduce such additional evidence as the court may believe necessary to a proper decision of the cause.
(3) The jurisdiction of the court shall be exclusive and its judgment, and decree shall be final, except that the same shall be subject to a review by the, supreme court, on appeal, by either party, irrespective of the nature of the decree or judgment. Such appeal shall be taken and prosecuted in the same manner and form and with the same effect as is provided in other cases of appeal to the supreme court, and the record so certified shall contain ail that was before the lower court.
SEC. 22. (RCW 49.60.270) Any respondent or complainant aggrieved by a final order of a hearing tribunal may obtain a review of such order in the superior court for the county where the unfair practice is alleged to have occurred or in the county, wherein such person resides or transacts business by filing with the clerk of the court, within two weeks from the date of receipt of such order, a written petition in duplicate praying that such order be modified or set aside. The clerk shall thereupon mail the duplicate copy to the board. The board shall then cause to be filed in the court a certified transcript of the entire record in the proceedings, including the pleadings, testimony and order. Upon such filing the court shall proceed in the same manner as in the case of a petition by the board and shall have the same exclusive jurisdiction to grant to any party such temporary relief or restraining order as it deems just and suitable, and in like manner to make and enter a decree enforcing or modifying and enforcing as so modified or setting aside, in whole or in part, the order sought to be reviewed.
Unless otherwise directed by the court, commencement of review proceedings under this section shall operate as a stay of any order.
SEC. 23. (RCW 49.60.280) Petitions filed under RCW 49.60.260 and 49.60.270 shall be heard expeditiously and determined upon the transcript filed, without requirement of printing. Hearings in the court under this chapter shall take precedence over all other matters, except matters of the same character.
SEC. 24. (RCW 49.60.290) No court of this state shall have jurisdiction to issue any restraining order or temporary or permanent injunction preventing the board from performing any function vested in it by this chapter.
SEC. 25. (RCW 49.60.300) RCW 49.60.260 to 49.60.290, inclusive, shall not be applicable to orders issued against any political or civil subdivision of the state, or any agency, office, or employee thereof.
SEC. 26. Section 10, chapter 183, Laws of 1949 and RCW 49.60.310 are each amended to read as follows:
Any person that willfully resists, prevents, impedes, or interferes with the board or any of its members or representatives in the performance of duty under this chapter, or that willfully violates an order of the board, is guilty of a misdemeanor but procedure for the review of the order shall not be deemed to be such willful conduct.
SEC. 27. If any provision of this act or the application of such provision to any person or circumstance shall be held invalid, the remainder of such act or the application of such .provision to persons or circumstances other than those to which it is held invalid shall not be affected thereby.
Passed the House February 25, 1957
Passed the Senate February 23, 1957
Approved by the Governor March 2, 1957
Authorities (Code of Federal Regulations)
Below is a list of parts, taken from the Parallel Table of Authorities (see Index), within the CFR for which this US Code piece (this Act) provides rulemaking authority. The Table lists rulemaking authority for regulations codified in the Code of Federal Regulations, which contains a section for U.S.C. citations.
Regulations are referred to using parts of the Titles of the CFR. Rules are arranged according to subject Code of Federal Regulations.
Only a licensed lawyer may provide legal advice. The Encyclopedia of Law provides this Act information for attorneys, law Students and the interested public as a free and open service, including information for 42 U.S.C. § 1971 : US Code – Section 1971: Voting rights
Some Constitutional Law Popular Entries
Civil Rights And Civil Liberties
Civil Rights Cases
Civil Rights Act of 1875
Civil Rights Act of 1968
Civil Rights Commission
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Civil Rights For Hispanics And Asian Americans
Civil Rights Removal
Civil Rights Act of 1866
Civil Rights Act of 1960
Civil Rights Act of 1991
Civil Rights Practice
Civil Rights Movement
Civil Rights Repeal Act
Civil Rights Commission Act Of 1978
Civil Rights Commission Authorization Act Of 1980
Civil Rights Commission Authorization Act Of 1979
Civil Rights Commission Authorization Act Of 1976
Civil Rights Commission Authorization Act Of 1977
This legislation established a Commission on Civil Rights to investigate civil rights violations and also established a Civil Rights Division within the Department of Justice. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 authorized the prosecution for those who violated the right to vote for United States citizens. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 took the issue one step further and authorized federal law enforcement to make sure that citizens of all people groups, in all states, were allowed to vote.
- Which groups of people did the Civil Rights Act of 1957 seek to help?
- What was the problem the Civil Rights Act of 1957 worked to solve?
- How will the United States government go about solving that problem?
One senator wasn’t going down without a fight
Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was prepared to deliver the most epic filibuster of all time — and he didn’t disappoint. Vehemently opposed to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, he decided to stage a filibuster — or political debate within Congress to prevent a vote (that would result in the passing of a bill.)
This senator pulled out all of the stops.
Senator Thurmond completed the longest spoken filibuster in all of American history. He began speaking on August 28, 1957, at 8:54 p.m. and his sleep-inducing speech wasn’t over until the next day at 9:12 p.m. He prepared by taking a steam bath earlier in the day, and he even came equipped with plenty of cough drops and malted milk tablets — because those sound so very appetizing. What Senator Thurmond discussed was even more outlandish — seriously.
LBJ Goes for Broke
“I do understand power, whatever else may be said about me, I know where to look for it and how to use it,” said Senator Lyndon Johnson, the Majority Leader. In Robert Caro’s new book, Master of the Senate—the third in his four-volume study of the 36th President—the author charts Johnson’s masterful exercise of power.
“My books are not biographies of famous men but are about political power, the power that affects all our lives,” says Caro, whose The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1975. “In the new book, I had to find out where LBJ found power in the Senate and how he used it to transform that hidebound body.”
Caro (and his one-person research staff, Ina, his wife of 44 years—an author herself) has devoted more than 25 years to Johnson, 12 to the latest volume alone. He interviewed 260 people, sorted through 2,082 boxes of Senate papers and wrote several drafts in longhand before typing others on an old Smith Carona. Caro calls Johnson “the greatest Majority Leader in the history of the Senate. I took the guy who did it best. And studied him.”
How does Caro feel personally about his subject? “I don’t think I like or dislike him,” he says. “But I am in awe of LBJ. Watching him get the 1957 Civil Rights Act through . . . I am in awe. This is not legislative power, this is legislative genius.”
The excerpt that follows chronicles Johnson’s seemingly hopeless 1957 attempt to pass the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, which southern Democrats were at first determined to block, as they had blocked every other civil rights bill for 82 years. Johnson, Caro shows, had long wanted sincerely to help people of color in addition, he planned to run for President in 1960 and needed passage of the bill to make him acceptable to liberals and northerners. Though the bill that was originally introduced addressed a number of wrongs against African-Americans, what was left of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 gave the attorney general new powers to enforce the rights of African-Americans to vote, rights that in much of the South had long been denied through trickery and intimidation. Getting any civil rights bill through Congress would mark a milestone. “It didn’t matter that the bill was not strong,” says Caro, “because blacks needed to know they could have hope that civil rights legislation could pass the Senate. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was hope.”
Passage of the bill hinged on an amendment giving a person charged with contempt for disobeying a judge’s order—say, a white official trying to prevent blacks from voting—the right to a trial by jury (which in the South meant an all-white jury). The amendment, which liberals felt eviscerated the act, had been drafted to make it palatable to the South, but satisfied no one. “All the compromises and deals that had been hammered out in seven months of negotiations had only brought the two sides to an impasse at which no compromise seemed possible,” Caro writes. In fact, everyone seemed to know that the bill was dead—except LBJ:
To keep the two sides negotiating— to keep the 1957 civil rights fight from degenerating into the open hostility and bitterness in which so many previous civil rights bills had died— Johnson had to persuade his colleagues to conduct the debate in an atmosphere of outward friendliness and respect, or at least civility, so for some days, the opening scene of the Senate each noon hour featured the Majority Leader as Emily Post. In statements written by aide George Reedy and delivered during Johnson’s opening remarks each day, he encouraged the Senate to mind its manners, saying that it was on trial, that the world was watching it, and that he was confident that the Senate would do itself proud.
Johnson’s opening homilies were almost his only public utterances on the subject of civil rights. He had again assumed a low profile, and was not often on the Senate floor, spending his time in the Democratic cloakroom or huddling with aides behind closed doors, or with senators in his offices in the Capitol or back in the SenateOfficeBuilding. But there, in the cloakroom or behind closed doors, he was fighting, too, using the gifts he had demonstrated so vividly during his entire life.
All his life, he had had what Texas oilman and backer George Brown called a “knack” for simultaneously convincing people on opposite sides of an issue that he was on their side, and never had this knack been more vividly displayed. He did it with the tone of his voice: with northerners, his Texas twang became harder, more clipped when he talked to southerners the twang softened into a full-fledged southern drawl. He did it with words. “If we’re going to have any civil rights bill at all, we’ve got to be reasonable about this jury trial amendment,” he said to liberal Illinois Senator Paul Douglas in the cloakroom one day. Five minutes later, he was at the opposite end of the cloakroom, telling Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina to “be ready to take up the Nigra bill again.”
He tried to make the southerners understand that as long as the bill contained a jury trial amendment, its passage would have minimal political repercussions for them. “You can go back [home] and say, ‘Listen, we could not stop them entirely. They just had too many votes, so they rolled over us. But look what we got. We fought and fixed it up so that those damned Yankee carpetbaggers couldn’t come back, and also they couldn’t brand you a criminal without a jury trial.’ ” He played on their pride as southerners. He played on their hopes: their hope that he might become President, and that if he did, that would be a victory for the South, a victory so great that its possibility should overrule all other considerations. He played on their fears. “The colored are not going to give up. They’re determined,” he told them. “We can’t continue to push these things down their throats. They won’t sit still any longer. We have to give them something. If we don’t allow progress on this issue, we’re going to lose everything.”
With the liberals—not with the most ardent “red-hots,” for with them there was no hope—the key words were also we and us. He made them feel that they were in a battle, and that in that battle he was on their side. Warning one liberal senator that there must be a liberal “sentry” on the floor at all times to guard against a sudden southern legislative maneuver, he told him, “They’ll get us on the floor if we’re not manned on the floor at all times.” He told him, “They’ll pick our moment of least resistance and move in.” He played on their fears—the fear of what southern power in the committees could do to their vital projects.
He had to persuade the northerners to allow some sort of jury trial amendment in the bill, even though such an amendment stripped the act itself of its teeth. He tried to make them understand that the important thing was to get some bill, any bill, passed “to show them we can do it—once we’ve got the first one passed, we can go back and improve it”—and that the only way to get it passed was to vote for the amendment. When Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey tried to argue with him, he said, “Yes, yes, Hubert, I want all those other things—buses, restaurants, all of that—but the right to vote with no ifs, ands or buts, that’s the key. When the Negroes get that, they’ll have every politician, north and south, east and west, kissing their ass, begging for their support.”
Day after day, he was arguing one side of a point with the southerners and the other side with the liberals—and arguing both sides with equal persuasiveness. At the same time that he was telling the South that he had counted votes and had found that a filibuster couldn’t win, he was telling liberals that they couldn’t beat a filibuster.
He was working the cloakroom and the corridors now, working them with everything he had.
He used his health. He had had a heart attack [in 1955], he said, he was a sick man and he knew it. The strain was too much for him, he said, when he went home at night, he couldn’t sleep, the doctors kept giving him new pills, they didn’t work, he was starting to get chest pains again. “Ah don’t want to die right here,” he said. “Ah don’t want to fall on my face, drop dead right on the floor of the Senate.” He couldn’t take much more strain “He made you feel that if you wouldn’t go along with what he was asking, you might be murdering this man,” one senator recalls.
He used their pride in the Senate: “We’ve got the world looking at us here! We’ve got to make the world see that this body works!” He used their pride in their party: “You’re the party of Lincoln,” he reminded one Republican. “That’s something to be proud of.” To Democrats, he said, “Our party’s always been the place that you can come to whenever there’s injustice. That’s what the Democratic Party’s for. That’s why it was born. That’s why it survives. So the poor and the downtrodden and the bended [sic] can have a place to turn. And they’re turning to us now. We can’t let them down.” He used his power and his charm. “I can see him now,” aide Bobby Baker says, “grasping hands and poking chests and grabbing lapels, saying to the southern politicians something like, ‘We got a chance to show the way. We got a chance to get the racial monkey off the South’s back. We got a chance to show the Yankees that we’re good and decent and civilized down here, not a bunch of barefoot, tobacco-chewin’ crazies.’ ” When he had finished presenting his arguments to a senator, aide Harry McPherson was to say, “he would sink back into the chair, his eyes wide with the injustice of his burdens, the corners of his mouth inviting pity and support.” Then he “would come back faceto- face, perhaps sensing that the other wanted to help and in that event should hear the whole story, all the demands, the pressures and the threats, as well as the glory and the achievement that awaited reasonable men if they would only compromise, not on the main thing, but just on this part that the other side would never accept as it was unless there could be some accommodation, there would be nothing, the haters would take over, the Negroes would lose it all, I need your help.” He used his stories, and he used his jokes, he used his promises, used his threats, backing senators up against walls or trapping them in their chairs, wrapping an arm around their shoulders and thrusting a finger in their chests, grasping lapels, watching their hands, watching their eyes, listening to what they said, or to what they didn’t say: “The greatest salesman one on one who ever lived”—trying to make his biggest sale.
To every crisis in his life, he had risen with that effort that made men say, “I never knew it was possible for anyone to work that hard,” that effort in which “days meant nothing, nights meant nothing.” Now, in this greatest crisis, Lyndon Johnson, heart attack or no, rose again to that kind of effort. In the early-morning hours the residential districts of Washington and its suburbs were dark and silent, but now, in the night, the silence of a darkened street would be broken by the faint ringing of a telephone in a senator’s house. The senator, picking it up, would hear, “This is Lyndon Johnson.” The persuasion would begin, and it might go on for quite some time. Finally, the call would be over. The senator would go back to bed, to sleep if he could. And on another street, in another senator’s home, the phone would ring.
Try though he did, however, it appeared, as July drew to a close, that he wasn’t going to win. On Friday, July 26, the lines had stiffened dramatically. That morning, there had been a meeting of the Southern Caucus in Georgia Senator Richard Russell’s office, and around the huge mahogany table that morning there weren’t many smiles. Emerging from the meeting, Russell told Bill White of the New York Times that the Caucus had decided to support the jury trial amendment “to the end.” If the amendment was defeated, Russell said, the southerners would fight the complete bill “with every resource open to us.” In his article the next day, White explained the meaning of Russell’s phrases. “He meant that [if the amendment was defeated] the southerners would put in the most implacable filibuster of which they were capable.”
Johnson flew to Texas late that Friday, but during his weekend on the ranch, he received another blow: proof that he had underestimated the depth of organized labor’s commitment to civil rights. He had been hoping that labor would be enticed into support of the amendment by the extension of its jury trial guarantee to unions, but on Saturday, July 27, labor began to be heard from, in the form of a letter to Johnson from James B. Carey, president of the International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers. The amendment, Carey wrote, “would prevent effective enforcement of the right to vote.
“The issue must be faced squarely,” Carey said. “We can have either the right to vote or trial by jury for contempt. We cannot have both.” And he said, “Labor will not barter away effective protection of the right of a Negro to register and vote” just to obtain gains for itself.
The only news Johnson received that weekend was bad news. He had waged a spectacular fight, but he was going to lose. All his work, it seemed, had been for nothing.
On Monday and Tuesday, developments appeared to confirm that appraisal. Monday, when Johnson returned from Texas, was bad, with Carey’s letter being read into the record by Pennsylvania Senator Joe Clark, who jeered at Johnson’s attempt to get labor support, with New York Senator Jacob Javits holding the floor for hours, further antagonizing southerners by his manner, and with increasingly bitter squabbling between liberals and southerners.
Tuesday was worse. The day began for Johnson when, still in bed that morning, he came upon a large advertisement in the WashingtonPost. It was “An Open Letter” to “the Senate of the United States,” but it might have been addressed to him personally, so directly did it attack what he had been doing: “It would be better not to pass any civil rights legislation at all than to pass [this] bill. . . . We are in a better position to get justice in civil rights cases under existing laws than we would be if you pass the proposed ‘jury trial’ amendment.” The letter was signed by eighty-one southern liberal leaders.
A column by Murray Kempton published that Tuesday in the New York Post described Lyndon Johnson as “almost the prisoner of the South,” and “with the 20-year dominant coalition between Southern Democrats and Midwestern Republicans in ruins, Lyndon Johnson’s cupboard is bare. The politicians who count in the Senate today are [California Senator and Minority Leader] William F. Knowland and [Vice President] Richard M. Nixon and Lyndon Johnson is a state of things whose time is past.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, however, things began to improve. While Lyndon Johnson had been in Texas the previous weekend, the telephone calls from George Reedy had told him that his attempt to woo leaders of organized labor like Carey and Walter Reuther and AFL-CIO President George Meany with a jury trial amendment had apparently failed. That Sunday, however, a dissenting if informal, even offhand, remark had been made by Cyrus Tyree (Cy) Anderson, the rough-spoken, incisive chief Washington lobbyist for the Railway Labor Association—a loose central committee representing twelve railroad unions—to a casual Capitol Hill acquaintance: “Any labor guy who is against jury trials ought to have his head examined.” The acquaintance happened to repeat it to George Reedy Monday morning, and Reedy quoted it in a memorandum he gave to Johnson sometime after Johnson arrived back on Capitol Hill on Monday afternoon. And Johnson acted on it.
No one had thought of the railroad brotherhoods as potential allies—for a very obvious reason: for almost a century they had been fighting against equal rights for black Americans. But Johnson saw why the brotherhoods might be turned into supporters. On Tuesday morning, he telephoned Cy Anderson and asked for support for the jury trial amendment from the twelve brotherhoods— including a formal statement he could use to counter Carey’s.
With his eyes focused on organized labor as a source of support for a jury trial amendment, suddenly Johnson saw more. There was one union to whom the memory of the power of federal court injunctions was especially fresh and bitter: the United Mine Workers. The UMW’s chief counsel was Johnson’s friend Welly Hopkins, and Johnson now telephoned Welly and asked him for a formal statement of support from UMW head John L. Lewis.
Sometime after Johnson had returned to his office from the Senate floor, Lewis’ telegram was shown to him. He returned to the floor. The time was about 5:40. Olin Johnston was droning on. Asking the South Carolinian to yield, Johnson read the telegram, maximizing the impact by implying that it was an unsolicited bolt from the blue. “John L. Lewis had never communicated with me directly or indirectly until 2:48 p.m. today, when he sent me the following telegram,” he said. And even before he came to the floor, Johnson had used the telegram he “saw to it,” as New York Timeswriter James Reston commented dryly, that it “was brought to [West Virginia Republican Senator Chapman] Revercomb’s attention.” On Lyndon Johnson’s smudged tally sheet, a number was erased from the right side of Revercomb’s name, and a number was written on the left side.
And Matthew Neely’s staff had been contacted, and a message had been sent to Bethesda. The dying West Virginia liberal had promised that he would leave the hospital and come to the Chamber in a wheelchair to cast his vote against the amendment if it was needed. Now that promise was withdrawn. Neely could not bring himself to vote for the amendment, but he said he would not leave the hospital to cast a vote at all. Although only one West Virginia vote would be added to the votes for the amendment, therefore, two were subtracted from the votes against it. The count had been perhaps 53 against Johnson before, but it was 51 now. He was only eight behind.
The other development that came to fruition that Tuesday was the result of another talent Lyndon Johnson had been displaying during the civil rights fight. It was a talent not merely for persuading men, but for inspiring them.
Frank Church had had six months now to learn the cost of crossing Lyndon Johnson. Young as he was, the tall, slender senator looked even younger with his big, toothy grin, shiny black hair, and cheeks so pink that he seemed to be perpetually blushing. Wags in the Press Gallery, amused by Church’s naïveté as much as by his youthfulness, mockingly called him Senator Sunday School. But he was already making a mark in Washington.
Although Church was in favor of civil rights legislation, his interest in the subject was, according to his legislative aide, Ward Hower, “only intellectual,” not “a visceral thing.” The plight of black Americans “was not a big issue to Frank Church,” perhaps because out of the six hundred thousand persons who lived in Idaho in 1957, only about one thousand were black. In 1957, Idaho had only two representatives in the House, “so,” Hower explains, “the Senate was the key for Idaho, like it was for the southerners. In the Senate, Idaho is equal to New York. For all the western senators, the Senate is their states’ protection. The right to filibuster is important to them.” He felt an identity with the southern senators’ need to preserve the Senate’s rules. But, Hower says, Church also knew that a reconciliation with Johnson was essential for his career, and “he was looking for a way to do something major for Johnson”—and “he understood that the civil rights bill was a key to Johnson’s strong ambition to be President.” And it was this understanding that, in mid-July, first got Church involved more deeply in the civil rights fight. In January, on the vote that had angered Johnson, Church had voted against the South on July 24, Church voted with it. Johnson’s attitude toward him became noticeably warmer.
Johnson had appealed to Church partly on pragmatic grounds Hower, for one, believes that Church’s desire for a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee was the key: “I don’t think anything explicit was ever said—you didn’t deal with Lyndon Johnson that way. But you knew that if you did him a favor, when the time came, if he could do you a favor. . . . This w as the w ay Lyndon Johnson operated. There was a tacit quid pro quo.” But Johnson had also appealed to elements in the young senator’s character that were not pragmatic. “You’re a senator of the United States,” he told Church. “You have to function as a senator of the United States. This is your national duty.” Says Frank Church’s wife, BethineChurch: “He made Frank realize that they needed him. Lyndon said: ‘If you don’t help with this, there’s not going to be a civil rights bill.’ It was a tremendous challenge, and Frank never loved anything as much as a challenge.”
Knowing that Johnson needed “something more” to attract new liberal and Republican votes for the jury trial amendment while not making it totally unacceptable to the South, Church, “being a lawyer,” tried to “think about the amendment” as a lawyer. Liberal antipathy to the amendment centered on the impossibility of getting a just verdict from the South’s all-white juries. “All right,” Bethine recalls Frank saying, “how about this?”—What if the juries weren’t all-white? “If the juries couldn’t be segregated, we could get the jury trial amendment through.”
Church’s addendum said that with the exception of illiterates, mental incompetents and convicted criminals, “any citizen” twenty-one years old “is competent to serve as a juror.” With the new paragraph added, the civil rights bill would not only reinforce an existing civil right, the right to vote, but would also confer on southern Negroes “a new civil right”: the right to sit on juries.
Church wanted to introduce his addendum immediately, but Johnson told him to wait. To minimize scrutiny of this proposed change, Johnson wanted it introduced only at the last possible moment, so that, as George Reedy explains, “there would be no chance for opposition to be mobilized.” Lyndon Johnson, master of so many aspects of the legislative art, was about to demonstrate his mastery of one final aspect: the floor debate. If Frank Church’s addendum was introduced at the right moment, and if the debate on the addendum was properly orchestrated for maximum effect, it might change a few votes—and a few was all Lyndon Johnson needed.
On the morning of Wednesday, July 31, Johnson still had only about forty-three votes. Knowland had about fifty-one. That morning, the Republican Leader repeated his earlier flat refusals to compromise—to accept a jury trial amendment in any form whatsoever. With the amendment included, he said, the bill simply “would not be a workable piece of legislation.” And he sent to the desk three unanimous consent agreements to set a definite hour for a vote on the complete bill. Each would allow six hours for debate prior to the vote. It quickly became apparent, however, that to the South the details of such agreements were irrelevant no agreement was going to pass. The South was not going to be forced. Russell rose to speak, and senators waited to hear what the South was going to do. “I have no desire to unduly prolong the debate but I shall insist that it be carried on so long as the representative of a single sovereign state . . . desires to address himself to it,” he said. The escalation of debate into open filibuster was very near. it was almost time for the curtain to rise—for the drama that Lyndon Johnson was staging for the Church Addendum to begin. Johnson had assembled an all-star cast of orators—fiery old Wyoming Senator Joseph O’Mahoney, fiery young Church, fiery little Rhode Island Senator John Pastore— and even the minor roles had been filled with care: a slow-talking, fastthinking southerner with great presence, Georgia Senator Herman Talmadge, was playing “the presiding officer.” Johnson had given all of them their cues, and Church could hardly wait for his moment, but it was dinnertime, and many senators had left the floor to eat. Johnson told him to wait a little longer. He wanted a full house, and at about eight o’clock, when most senators had finished dinner, he asked for a quorum call. And when the floor was again full of senators—almost every desk occupied—the curtain went up.
O’Mahoney had the opening lines: “Mr. President, it is my purpose tonight . . . to explain to the Senate, and to those who may be listening in the galleries, the reasons why I believe, from the depth of my soul, that the trial-byjury amendment” should pass. Defeating it won’t help Negroes to vote, O’Mahoney said. “Denial of trial by jury will not hasten a wise and permanent solution of the grave social problem of racial discrimination that is before us. . . . It w ill only make matters worse than they are, for trial by jury for criminal offenses is itself a civil right guaranteed to every citizen.”
Standing up at his desk in the back row, Church shouted, “Mr. President, will the Senator yield?” and O’Mahoney acted surprised at the interruption, and pretended reluctance. “I yield only with the understanding that I shall not lose the right to the floor,” he said. Johnson, playing himself as Majority Leader, delivered his line in the charade. “Mr. President,” he said, “I ask unanimous consent that the Senator from Wyoming may yield for not to exceed two minutes, with the understanding that he shall not lose the floor.” Presiding Officer Talmadge intoned, “Without objection, so ordered,” and Church introduced his addendum, saying it “is designed to eliminate whatever basis there may be for the charge that the efficacy of trial by jury in the Federal courts is weakened by the fact that, in some areas, colored citizens, because of the operation of State laws, are prevented from serving as jurors.” Standing tall and straight among the freshmen in the back row, he said, “We believe the amendment constitutes a great step forward in the field of civil rights. We believe also that it can contribute significantly in forwarding the cause to which most of us are dedicated— the cause of enacting a civil rights bill in this session of the Congress.” Then, as if he was unsure of the answer, he asked if O’Mahoney “would be agreeable to modifying [his] amendment to include the addendum I have before me.” It turned out that O’Mahoney was indeed agreeable. “It was perfectly appropriate for the Senator from Idaho to offer this amendment, which I [am] so happy to accept,” O’Mahoney assured him with a straight face. Ardent Johnson supporter that he was, Oregon Senator Richard Neuberger could barely contain himself. In a reference to a hokey stage melodrama of the nineteenth century, he muttered: “What’s next week? East Lynne?”
Stilted though it may have been, the opening scene captured the critics. Daughter of a governor, niece of a senator, born to politics, BethineClarkChurch glanced over at the Press Gallery when O’Mahoney agreed to accept the addendum, and what she saw was rows of reporters jumping up “like a wave” and running up the stairs to the telephones in the Press Room.
Then the rest of Johnson’s scenario unfolded. The Rhode Island bantam with the nimble mind asked for recognition from the chair. No one—not even Johnson’s staff—knew “what John Pastore was going to do,” says Democratic lawyer Solis Horwitz, who had been invited to sit, on a folding chair, next to Johnson to watch the show. “[Lyndon] did, because he said, ‘Now you just watch the little Italian dancing master and see what happens here.’”
Johnson had cast Pastore in a demanding role: that of a skeptic and doubter who, by giving voice to his doubts, convinces himself that they are groundless and is converted into a true believer. The subject of his doubts, of course, was the jury trial amendment Johnson had arranged with Pastore to, in historian Robert Mann’s words, “feign skepticism” about the amendment, to raise questions that many senators were asking and then to think through the answers out loud—and finally, seeing the validity of the answers, to be convinced by them, to “almost imperceptibly dissolve his skepticism into outright support” for the amendment. The Rhode Islander began to ask questions of O’Mahoney—the questions that many senators, uncertain about the amendment, were asking themselves: Would the amendment, for example, permit a southern registrar who had been jailed by a judge for civil contempt and then freed when he promised to register Negroes then be able to violate his promise? Would he, in effect, be immune from punishment because his violation was criminal contempt, thereby making him eligible for trial before a sympathetic jury that would not convict him? When O’Mahoney replied that there was no danger of this, because the judge would have ordered the registrar to register Negroes, and any violation of this order would still be civil, not criminal, contempt, Pastore said, “I think the Senator from Wyoming is moving a little too quickly. I think I know what he means, but I do not believe the Record is abundantly clear”— and led O’Mahoney through the reasoning again step by step until the densest senator could grasp it. And with each question that he asked, Pastore reiterated that he was asking it only to try to resolve his own doubts, that he still had “an open mind. . . . I have not as yet definitely resolved the matter in my own mind.” As he assured himself on point after point—after saying, on point after point, “I have not been able to make up my mind”—his “misgivings” about the amendment faded, to be replaced by support.
“All of this had been preplanned,” lawyer Horwitz was to realize, “and [Pastore] did one of the most effective jobs that was ever done.” His colloquy with O’Mahoney riveted the attention of both sides of the aisle. By the time Pastore finished “resolving” his doubts, he had convinced others. The show Johnson had staged produced the result he wanted. “The impact of Pastore’s performance was profound,” Mann writes. “He played the role of an earnest, undecided senator. But he had actually led his colleagues through a crafty, subtle argument for the amendment.” All through Senate history, there had been speeches that made senators rethink their views. This was one of them. And the next morning— Thursday, August 1—brought to Lyndon Johnson’s office the telegram he had been waiting for: a statement signed by the presidents of the twelve railroad brotherhoods. It was much shorter than John L. Lewis’ and quite straightforward: “We favor the enactment of an amendment to the civilrights bill that would preserve or extend the right to trial by jury.” Now Johnson had the ammunition he needed. That morning, Welly Hopkins called to ask how things were going. They were going just fine, Johnson said. Hopkins recalls that Johnson mentioned “certain senators. . . . He said, ‘I’ve got them. I’m just going to pick my time to call them. That’s when I’m going to put it to a vote.’” And that day, August 1, Johnson sprang his trap.
William Knowland walked straight into it—blind till the last. That very morning, at about the same time that Johnson was telling Hopkins that everything was going fine, Knowland was telling reporters—and the White House and Vice President Nixon—that everything was going fine and reiterating his confidence that “at least thirty-nine or forty” Republican senators would join at least a dozen Democratic liberals in voting against the jury trial amendment. Asked by a reporter whether Church’s addendum would strip away any Republican votes, the Republican Leader said he thought not. That morning, copies of the brotherhoods’ telegram were delivered to the offices of individual senators, to be followed by visits from Cy Anderson and other union lobbyists. Pastore’s logic had had time to sink in. And that morning, Lyndon Johnson made his calls—and after several of them, erased the number that he had placed next to senators’ names in one column on his tally sheet and wrote a number in the other column. Richard Russell was also keeping his own very careful tally sheet, and early that afternoon he told Johnson, “I’m ready to vote. I’ve got fifty votes.”
Knowland, however, still believed his own vote count. At any time he might realize the truth, and if he did, he would naturally change tactics: stop pressing for an early vote, and instead try to delay one. Votes had been changing back and forth for days and White House pressure might well change some back again a delay would afford time for that pressure to do its work. So Johnson made it very difficult for Knowland to change tactics. In a private talk now, he said he assumed that Knowland still wanted to vote as soon as possible. Knowland said he did, and Johnson quickly made those feelings public. Interrupting an exchange about the bill, he said, “I have conferred with the Minority Leader. I know how anxious he is for an early vote. I . . . am equally anxious to vote [and] I express the hope that we may be able to call the roll before the evening is over.” Turning to Knowland, standing next to him, he said, “I would assume that meets with the pleasure of my friend from California.” His friend from California said, “Yes . . . I wish to say that I am encouraged by the remarks of my good friend, the Senator from Texas, that he feels we may be approaching a time when we can get a vote.”
But while Knowland couldn’t count, Nixon could, and coming to the Capitol, he did so—and promptly launched a frantic Republican lobbying campaign. One after another, GOP senators were summoned to the Vice President’s Room, for, in reporter Douglas Cater’s words, “the kind of subtle persuasion an administration in office can exert.” But at 5:40 p.m., Johnson asked for recognition from the chair to propose a unanimous consent agreement to set a time for the vote on the jury trial amendment. And the Majority Leader didn’t propose his own agreement, but rather the very same agreement that had been proposed three times on Wednesday by the Minority Leader. “Mr. President,” Lyndon Johnson said, “yesterday the distinguished Minority Leader offered a unanimous consent agreement. I wish to offer the same agreement today with two modifications.” The modifications would bring on the vote even faster than the distinguished Minority Leader had wanted Knowland had, for example, allowed six hours for debate on the amendment. “In view of the fact that we have spent a good deal of time today on the bill, I am reducing the . . . hours from six to four,” Johnson said. Knowland, aware now that the vote would be, at the least, very close, said he still preferred six, and Johnson suavely said that that was fine with him. Knowland could offer no other objection—he could hardly object to an agreement he himself had proposed over and over, telling the Senate each time how vital its passage was. As they realized the significance of Johnson’s proposal, and the reason why he had made it, liberal senators from both sides of the aisle gathered in little groups on the floor, trying to think what they could do about it. But they could do no more than Knowland had. If Knowland had proposed the agreement yesterday, they had supported it with equal vehemence they were hardly in a position to object to it now. Florida Senator Spessard Holland, in the chair, asked, “Is there objection to the unanimous consent request?” There was only silence. “The Chair hears none, and it is so ordered,” Holland said.
Johnson then addressed the chair again. The vote on the jury trial amendment would probably take place that very evening, he said. “It is the intention of the leadership to remain here until a vote is had.”
New York Senator Irving Ives asked: “When does the debate start? Does it start right now?”
“Right now,” Lyndon Johnson said. Checkmate.
As the hands on the clock neared midnight, and Nixon came in to take the presiding officer’s chair, a page placed a lectern on the Majority Leader’s desk, and Johnson himself rose to give the last speech. “Mr. President, sometimes in the course of debate we use loose language. But it is not speaking loosely to say that the Senate is approaching a truly historic vote. By adopting this amendment, we can strengthen and preserve two important rights. One is the right to a trial by jury. The other is the right of all Americans to serve on juries, regardless of race, creed or color.” And his last line was the perfect climax, the most fitting last line, the only last line, really, for a legislative drama.
“Mr. President,” Lyndon Johnson said, “I ask for the yeas and nays.”
For a time, to those in the galleries, the vote may have seemed to be going against the Leader. The first two senators called—Aiken and Allott—responded “Nay,” and at the end of twenty- five names, with the roll just finishing the Ds, the tally was 16 to 9 against the amendment. But Johnson, sitting at his desk with the smudged tally sheet in front of him, wasn’t worried. He knew what was coming—and, with the start of the Es, it came. “Eastland?” Aye. “Ellender?” Aye. “Ervin?” Aye. By the time the clerk reached the Ms, the ayes were ahead—and so many of the Ms were from the MountainStates and the Northwest. “Magnuson?” Aye. “Malone?” Aye. “Mansfield?” Aye. “Murray?” Aye. Shortly after midnight—at 12:19 a.m. on August 2—Nixon announced that the amendment was approved, by 51 votes to 42.
On August 29, the Senate passed the 1957 Civil Rights Act. The vote was 60 for and 15 against. President Dwight Eisenhower signed the historic bill into law on September 9.
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