Richard B. Russell of Georgia served in the U.S. Senate for almost 40 years (1932–1971). During World War II Russell led a congressional delegation that traveled extensively to investigate the quality and effectiveness of war materiel under combat conditions. He chaired the Armed Services Committee during two major wars, from 1951 to 1953 and from 1955 to 1969, and was instrumental in boosting the defense budget. He authored the National School Lunch Act of 1946 (later named for Russell in a reauthorization) and promoted the development of new forms of energy. As the leader of the Senate’s Southern Caucus, Russell used his parliamentary skills and knowledge of Senate rules and procedures, including the filibuster, to defeat bills banning lynching, abolishing the poll tax, and upholding civil rights for Black Americans. He co-authored the Southern Manifesto in 1956, a statement that encouraged resistance to desegregation in public education in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decisions. He led southern senators in their opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Respect for Russell’s long service and legislative skills, even among his opponents, led to the Russell Senate Office Building being named in his honor in 1972.
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