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S-207—The Mike Mansfield Room


1941-1963
April 2, 1962

Mike Mansfield by Aaron Shikler

In the decade following the end of World War II, Congress added large numbers of professional staff to its workforce. These additional employees quickly saturated available Capitol Hill office space. As construction of a second Senate office building neared completion in 1958, Congress agreed to provide more new space by extending the Capitol's East Front. The 32-foot addition, built between 1958 and 1962, added 90 prized rooms to the severely overcrowded Capitol.

On April 2, 1962, 70 senators gathered in one of the largest of those new rooms to celebrate the project's completion. Known as S-207, and later named to honor Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, that room promised a convenient setting for many of the Senate's legislative and social activities. Its elegant appointments included walls paneled in American black walnut and a mantel of "Meadow White" Vermont marble. In the years ahead, it would accommodate the weekly party caucus luncheons, serve as a dormitory for senators during overnight filibusters, and host countless festive receptions.

Perhaps the most notable reception ever held in S-207 was the first one. At mid-afternoon on April 2, Senate restaurant workers set up a large bar and—according to the custom of the day—stocked it with the ingredients essential to produce an imaginative variety of mixed drinks. By 5 p.m. the room had more than reached its capacity with the arrival of dozens of senators, cabinet officers, and the guest of honor—President John F. Kennedy.

Noticeably absent from that festive gathering was the maverick Oregon senator, Wayne Morse. At that moment, Morse was conducting one of those late-afternoon Senate floor speeches that had caused those who disliked evening sessions to dub him the "five-o'clock shadow." As a cloud of cigarette and cigar smoke thickened over the heads of the throng in S-207, Morse suspended an attack on the privatization of communications satellites to address another issue that deeply irritated him—the serving of hard liquor at social functions in the Capitol.

Senate Republican Leader Everett Dirksen greeted President Kennedy at the door of S-207 and quietly warned him that Morse was "on the floor assailing the iniquities of drinking in the Capitol." Looking relieved at the opportunity to abandon the reception's choking ambience, the president headed for the nearly empty chamber. Glimpsing the indefatigable Morse at his late-afternoon best, he defused the tense moment by joking, "This is the way it was when I left the Senate."