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Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Russell, and the Struggle for Civil Rights

by Robert Mann

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-15-100065-4
Publisher: Harcourt

 An absorbing story of the 16-year Senate siege to break the seemingly impregnable wall of resistance to civil rights for blacks--and of the three Democratic titans at the heart of that battle. In 1948, 37-year-old Minneapolis mayor Hubert Humphrey called for the Democratic National Convention to ``get out of the shadows of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.'' The speech helped elect the ebullient Humphrey to the Senate later that year--and dismayed Richard Russell of Georgia, the South's segregationist bloc leader, fighting to delay what he knew was inevitable. Standing between the two was Lyndon Johnson, the cagey Senate majority leader who sought to balance his immediate need to get reelected in conservative Texas with his already burning aspirations for the Oval Office. While drawing on a rich vein of oral histories, archival materials, and interviews, Mann also uses his expertise as former press secretary to Louisiana senator Russell Long (whose life he chronicled in Legacy to Power, 1992) to explain how Russell used his mastery of Senate rules to defy fumbling liberal attempts to invoke cloture, the procedure used to limit the filibuster, the southern bloc's chief weapon. Johnson finally managed to jawbone, wheedle, and wheel-and-deal the Senate into producing the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first legislation of its kind since Reconstruction. Russell agreed to stop an all-out filibuster, satisfied that he had allowed passage of a bill watered down enough for constituents but still substantive enough to help propel protÇgÇ Johnson into the White House. Once LBJ assumed the presidency from the slain John Kennedy, he used Humphrey, now majority whip, to pry Republican Everett Dirksen away from the Southern Democrats to support the far tougher Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A fascinating set of parallel lives detailing how the Senate shed its mulish ways to pass momentous legislation. (16 pages of b&w photos, not seen)