U.S. Flag

Francis R. Valeo: Secretary of the Senate, 1966-1977; Secretary to the Majority, 1963-1966; Administrative Assistant to Senator Mike Mansfield, 1958-1963

“He never suggested anyone else but that it would have to be Hubert Humphrey who would carry the ball on the floor.””

Frank Valeo describes the strategy used by proponents of the civil rights bill in 1964 and Majority Leader Mike Mansfield’s decision to have Senator Hubert Humphrey manage the bill on the Senate floor.

Play Audio Clip

VALEO: The first order was for the policy committee attorney, who was Ken Teasedale, to work with the Republicans to organize a regular roster for appearance at the Senate for at least two or three weeks in advance. The purpose of this was we knew that we had about fifty-eight people or thereabouts who were willing to do a little extra in order to pass this bill. The rest might have voted with us, but would not necessarily want to do any extra work. So that gave us eight people who could be off at any given time, but there always had to be the fifty-one who were there. And they did. They organized it and the idea was explained.

Before this was done, Humphrey was brought into it. Mansfield had decided that there was no way in which it could go through the Judiciary Committee, that [James] Eastland would block it as chairman of it, no matter how you tried it. There was no way you could possibly get it through that way. So we decided that the only way you could do it would be to do what amounted to the committee work right on the floor of the Senate, in effect with the Senate sitting as a committee of the whole. He had only one man in mind. He never suggested anyone else but that it would have to be Hubert Humphrey who would carry the ball on the floor. And of course, Hubert was more than anxious to do it. It was the thing, as I think I said earlier, he was born for…was to do this civil rights bill. When he got the bill he had mastered the problems and the technicalities of the bill almost within a day or two. He had a full grasp of what was involved in it. He also had very strong lines out to civil rights groups, Negro groups and others, to the labor unions, some of which were supporters of this measure. He could use them, in a way, to try to bring some pressure to bear on individual members. Mansfield would never do that, but Hubert had no qualms about doing it. And in a way, it's part of the proper procedure. So Hubert was definitely designated to run the thing on the floor, and to carry the substantive part of the debate.