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Wayne L. Morse: A Featured Biography

Photo of Senator Wayne Morse

The fiercely independent Wayne Morse of Oregon, who set a filibuster record in 1953, was first elected to the Senate as a Republican. He broke with that party in 1952, leaving Democrats and Republicans evenly divided in the Senate. Symbolically, Morse moved a chair into the center aisle of the Senate Chamber for a day to show that he belonged to no party. Two years later, the Democratic leader, Lyndon Johnson, persuaded Morse to join the Democratic Conference, giving Democrats a slim majority. Throughout his 24-year Senate career, Morse retained his independent spirit, often confounding leaders of both parties. In 1964, though a proponent of the legislation, he challenged the Democratic leadership's strategy for passing the Civil Rights Act. That same year, Morse cast one of only two dissenting votes against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and subsequently became an unrelenting critic of the Vietnam War. Morse lost his reelection bid in 1968 but tried again for a Senate seat in 1972 and 1974―unsuccessfully. He was in the midst of that last campaign when he died on July 22, 1974.

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