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Everett McKinley Dirksen: A Featured Biography

Everett McKinley Dirksen by Richard Hood Harryman

Everett McKinley Dirksen, after eight terms in the House of Representatives, upset the powerful incumbent Scott Lucas and won election to the Senate in 1950. Dirksen became Republican leader in 1959, a post he held until his death in 1969. Senators regarded him as an eloquent and persuasive leader who demonstrated great tactical skills. The press and public loved his seemingly endless supply of anecdotes. Dirksen proved to be an innovative minority leader, launching a series of weekly press conferences with the House Republican leader Charles Halleck—The Ev and Charlie Show. He also initiated the opposition response to the president's State of the Union message. Dirksen's influence was most keenly felt during the debate over the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Declaring that racial integration was "an idea whose time has come," Dirksen supported cloture to end the filibuster and thereby allow for final passage of the bill. Dirksen's contemporaries deemed him "the most powerful member of the Senate."

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