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Oral History Project

Charles D. Ferris Staff Director, Senate Democratic Policy Committee (1963–1977)

Charles Ferris

In October 1963 Senator Mike Mansfield anticipated a protracted debate over the civil rights bill proposed by President John F. Kennedy, so he recruited Charles Ferris, a trial attorney at the Justice Department, for the Democratic Policy Committee staff. In 1964 Ferris became the Policy Committee’s general counsel and staff director, a position he held until Mansfield’s retirement in 1977. As Ferris relates in these interviews, Senator Mansfield used the Policy Committee both as a legislative scheduling device and as a sounding board. Ferris’s 14 years with the Policy Committee began with the epic fight for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and extended through the rush of Great Society legislation, the divisiveness of the Vietnam War, the Watergate investigation, and the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Throughout these tumultuous events, Ferris developed a profound respect for the Senate and its members and the unique role they played in the American legislative process. After leaving the Senate in 1977, Charles Ferris briefly served as chief counsel to House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill before being appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.


Scholarly citation: "Charles D. Ferris: Staff Director, Senate Democratic Policy Committee (1963–1977),” Oral History Interviews, April 5, 2004, to September 23, 2009, Senate Historical Office, Washington, D.C.

Disclaimer: The Senate Historical Office has a strong commitment to oral history as an important part of its efforts to document institutional change over time. Oral histories are a natural component to historical research and enhance the archival holdings of the Senate and its members. Oral histories represent the personal recollections and opinions of the interviewees, however, and should not be considered as the official views or opinions of the U.S. Senate, of the Senate Historical Office, or of other senators and/or staff members. The transcripts of these oral histories are made available by the Senate Historical Office as a public service.