A Record-Setting Filibuster
The drawer of Senate Chamber desk LXXXVI (86) is inscribed with the notation “spoke 24 hrs. 18 min. from this desk in 1957.” South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond proudly added it at the conclusion of his record-setting speech in opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Although an agreement already had been reached that satisfied other southern opponents of the proposed legislation, Senator Thurmond decided he needed to make a symbolic public stand. To prepare himself for the long hours he expected to speak at his desk, the senator took steam baths for several days to dehydrate his body. This would allow him to sip and absorb liquids during his speech without losing control of the Senate floor by leaving for restroom breaks.
Thurmond began speaking at 8:54 p.m. on August 28th and continued until 9:12 p.m. the next evening. Fourteen hours into his speech, a sympathetic colleague provided a pitcher of orange juice. He drank it all. One writer explained, “his dehydrated body absorbed the liquid like a sponge.” Although the marathon speech failed to influence the final vote, Senator Thurmond’s remarks set a record that is not likely to be broken anytime soon.