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Senator William Proxmire's First Day

Senator William Proxmire

Not every newly elected senator is greeted at the airport by the Senate majority leader and whisked off to the Capitol upon arriving in Washington, but such was the case for Wisconsin’s William Proxmire. Elected on August 27, 1957, in a special election to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Senator Joseph McCarthy, Proxmire’s election coincided with a heated debate over the 1957 Civil Rights Act that culminated in Senator Strom Thurmond’s record breaking 24-hour-and-18-minute filibuster. Ecstatic over Proxmire’s surprise victory, Democratic Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson led a delegation of five Democratic senators to National Airport, where they welcomed the new senator-elect and his wife. After a celebratory reception in the Capitol, Johnson returned to the Senate Chamber with his prize in tow. Believing that Proxmire’s vote would be necessary to pass the civil rights bill, Johnson interrupted Thurmond’s filibuster and asked for unanimous consent that the oath of office be administered. Republican Leader William Knowland objected, insisting on waiting until Wisconsin's governor sent Proxmire's election certificate. More. . .