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Civil Rights Act of 1964

Civil Rights Images
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Image of James Eastland

The Senate Judiciary Committee, under the chairmanship of Senator James Eastland of Mississippi (pictured), was known as the 'graveyard' of civil rights legislation. On February 17, 1964, Majority Leader Mike Mansfield announced his intention to bypass the committee and place the civil rights bill directly on the Senate calendar. 'The procedures which the leadership will follow are not usual, but neither are they unprecedented,' he noted. 'And the reasons for unusual procedures are too well known to require elaboration.'

Image of Wayne Morse

Although he was a proponent of civil rights, Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon (pictured), objected to placing the civil rights bill directly on the calendar. 'If I ever saw a bill that needed to be clarified for the courts by way of a committee report, (it is) the one before the Senate,' he contended. On March 26, 1964, Morse introduced a motion to refer the bill to the Judiciary Committee, but his motion failed.

Image of Mike Mansfield and Everett Dirksen, April 27, 1964

Senate party floor leaders Mike Mansfield and Everett Dirksen (pictured) prepared for what promised to be a complicated and contentious debate. They selected party whips Hubert Humphrey and Thomas Kuchel to serve as the floor managers for H.R. 7152.

Image of Hubert Humphrey and Thomas Kuchel

As the senators responsible for managing the floor debate on the civil rights bill, Hubert Humphrey and Thomas Kuchel organized regular bipartisan strategy sessions in Humphrey’s leadership office. At the heart of their strategy was a plan to invoke cloture and force a vote on the civil rights bill. Although the Democrats enjoyed a large majority in the Senate, the party’s deep divisions over the issue of civil rights required Humphrey, a Democrat, and Kuchel, a Republican, to seek the support and cooperation of a strong bipartisan coalition.