"Bill of the Century," a talk with Clay Risen

welcomewelcome it’s it’s great to see you guys here it’s great to see you guys here especially since this afternoon is like it’s like this perfect afternoon to frisk and frolic about in the sunshine so instead you’re frisking and frolicking in here in verdant Hudson lounge instant lounge which anyway you clearly are the hardcore history politics and journalism nerds and you are about to be rewarded now as you know the star center is all about the past and the present taking one and making it relevant to the other but also about tracing continuities between the two those lines that connect one moment to another across the span of many years or sometimes even centuries our guest today clay Rison is a person who even more than most of the other friends of the star center stands with one foot firmly in the present and the other firmly in the past in fact he sort of got a career in the present and a career in the past amazing for such a young looking fellow look at him too young to even have a present or a past clay just a future a bright future clay is an editor at the op-ed page of the New York Times assigning and editing articles by some of the world’s best-known writers thinkers and political leaders I worked at op-ed myself once upon a time and I can tell you that it’s a job that’s very much about right now right this minute so a major Supreme Court ruling has just been handed down what legal scholar can we find who will explain it Lam Bentley elegantly and cogently in three hours or just to give you a purely hypothetical example let’s say Margaret Thatcher and Annette Funicello both died on the same day okay how can we find a brilliant writer a biographer who can give us 500 words on each of them or even better a thousand words on both of them I really like to read that have you seen any essays on Thatcher and Funicello kind of parallel lives interwove really marine doubt did today okay see I need to read the op-ed page clay anyhow I first got to know clay several years ago through a project called disunion that some of you may have seen that was in large part clays brainchild he was then preparing to launch it in conjunction with one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Civil War he was planning to report on the events of the Civil War as they happen exactly 150 years later so in other words clay and his colleagues thence forth were going to have not only current events of 2013 to cover but current events of 2013 and 1863 a lot on their collective plate but with clays encouragement I began writing for the series and I found that he was a terrific editor and colleague at first long-distance and that way that you know you often don’t see an editor’s face for months and months after you get to know their voice and their sort of email style and then we finally met face to face and and I’m glad I can call clay a friend now as well but I also quickly learned that clay had another parallel career as a historian that went beyond just as disunion work he was also the author of a nation on fire America in the wake of the king assassination which was published by John Wiley in 2009 to considerable acclaim and he was also just beginning a project that he’s now just wrapping up a new book on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 one of the most landmark pieces of legislation of course in American history which will be published next year in time for the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act so in other words clay has to keep running on parallel tracks in his mind at all times 2013 sort of worrying over here 1863 spinning here like 1964 spinning in the middle I don’t know how he manages to pull it off especially because he and his wife Joanna have two very small kids Talia and Elliot who are themselves frisking and frolicking somewhere in Chestertown as we as we speak and if that weren’t enough clay is also a frequent contributor to many Journal publications the Atlantic the New Republic and Smithsonian as a native of Tennessee you might not be surprised to know that another area of expertise of clays is whiskey fact it just occurred to me as I said that maybe whiskey is the secret to how you keep all these things going and keep your sort of song flaw going on anyway he has a book about to come out of yet another book American whiskey bourbon and rye a guide to the nation’s favorite spirit which is scheduled for publication next fall so in any event I’m very glad that

we have this opportunity to extract clay from the daily demands of the New York Times and bring him here to Chester town to ponder history 24/7 as everyone doesn’t Chestertown that’s what we do here we ponder history 24/7 even though sad to say that it’s only just for a week clay is here as the recipient of the 2013 Frederick Douglass fellowship which brings to campus every year a distinguished writer or historian or artist who’s working on a subject related to African American and other in the words of the donor minority American history we’ve had some very interesting people in the past and we’re fortunate to have clay we’re also fortunate because the fellowship encourages our Visiting Fellows to spend time with Washington college students while they’re here and in fact clay is being very generous with this time with many of our students not just history majors but also some of the leaders of the campus journalism community and I’m especially grateful for that because clay has has actually promised me that he will give each and every one of those students a job at the New York Times immediately upon graduation is that correct yeah see he said it he said yeah that on film Korie okay we’re golden but seriously though the last thing I’d like to tell you about clay is that he’s been a great friend and facilitator of the star center’s New York Times project that a number of students in this room worked on last year called historically corrected he was the editor and Godfather of that series that you may remember and he’s also moving forward with us on a new New York Times project for the future so keep your eyes peeled and welcome Claire Eisen well I don’t think I can live up to that but thank you Adam very much and thank you to the star Center both for having me here but also for I could speak on behalf of my publication for being a great friend of the New York Times and Adam has like you said done let’s just say he was being well modest he did something fantastic work in extensive work for the disunion project I don’t think we could have made it a success the way it has been without Adams contributions but also the historically corrected project has been a real boon for us on the op-ed page with drawing a lot of readers and also commenters people debating the historical topics that Adam and Peter and and the community here have have brought to the reader’s attention so with that I want to jump into my talk tonight and hopefully I’ll have enough time at the end we can have an extensive conversation obviously I’m not going to be able to talk about everything regarding the Civil Rights Act so I just want to focus on a few topics that have been of interest to me and preparing the book but then afterward feel free to ask any sort of questions related to related to the bill related to the movement at the time hopefully I can help shed a little light on your question so what I want to talk tonight a little bit about is it’s sort of pushed back against the conventional story of the Civil Rights Act the conventional story kind of goes a little bit like this it’s November 1963 it always starts in November 63 the bill languishes in the house it’s just gone into the House Rules Committee which is this Hall of Horrors for progressive civil rights legislation that’s run by a guy named Howard Smith he’s judge Howard Smith and he’s a Virginia legislator who is just an arch segregationist an enemy of anything liberal progressive in the world and it’s his job as the chairman of the Rules Committee to shut down that legislation his the rules committee approves legislation that’s come out of the sort of different subject committees before it goes to the House floor so he has the power to say no so the bill is there and he’s essentially said no and I the then suddenly Kennedy is killed and his successor his vice president Johnna is Lyndon Johnson the master of the Senate he comes in and uses his formidable political skills to defeat Smith move the bill to the house move it through the Senate defeat an epic filibuster and sign the bill into law on July 2nd 1964 now that’s all correct that’s that all happened and it’s all true as far as it goes but it’s not the whole story and to me and at least I’ll argue tonight it’s not even the really important story it in particular it leaves out a lot of things but in particular it pays very short shrift to the work done by John F Kennedy and his administration as well as the bill’s supporters in the house in both parties

in the summer and fall of 1963 so before the conventional story even begins there’s a whole lot of things that happen that that have essentially been left out of the conventional wisdom and in fact I would argue that it’s this period that we really deserve to spend more time looking at the deserves much more attention than the the fireworks of the filibuster it’s this time when not only the bill was shaped but the fragile alliance between Liberal Democrats and Republicans and conservative Midwestern Republicans when the alliance between these two groups was forged that really became the the driving force behind the bill as it moved through the house and then on to onto the Senate so first I’d like to give a little background just to give you the lay of the land in the post-war years as we all know the Democrats had more or less a continuous hold on both houses and in Congress there are a few periods of republican-controlled but basically the Democrats were in charge and certainly the Liberals were in charge but the Democratic Party was split between the hardcore very senior Southern Democrats as both in the house in the Senate they controlled a lot of the committees they had seniority and the rest of the party the National Democrats and so it meant that the party as a whole didn’t have the kind of power that that you might think it did with given the numbers at the same time you had the you had a conservative alliance with or you had a a conservative wing of the Republican Party that was often an alliance with their with the Southern Democrats they both had conservative leanings as far as political views went as far as social legislation win and the Midwestern Republicans didn’t really care about civil rights legislation but they didn’t see a reason to back it and they were certainly willing to support the Southern Democrats when the Southern Democrats would support them on fiscal conservative issues but starting in the early 60s this started to change first of all Johnson with the 57 act the 57th civil rights act which was not a not a particularly important bill in the substance but a very important bill substantially our cygnus embolic lee and it showed that that alliance could be broken it showed that really Lyndon Johnson’s master of the Senate was able to figure out how to pull away Midwestern Republicans away from the conservative alliance but part of the reason he was able to was that you had a new sort of a new era of conservatism emerging among these particularly the younger members of the House and Senate Republican caucus guys like Gerald Ford and Melvin Laird from Wisconsin these were people who were certainly conservative and there were certainly Republicans but they also were very uncomfortable with the idea of having an alliance with segregationists for political reasons they didn’t believe in it they didn’t see they didn’t agree with it and they didn’t feel comfortable making that deal so they started to push against it at the same time you had some of the older leaders starting to take really moral stance and people who could very well have stuck with the conservative alliance starting to say look I’ve had enough of this it’s 1963 we need to move on as a country the country is moving on we need to move on these were guys like Charles Halleck who was the Minority Leader the Republican minority leader leader from Indiana very much a partisan Republican but when it came to civil rights he was starting to question his party’s or his sort of faction of the party’s commitment to opposing it bill McCulloch who is a small-town lawyer from Ohio he was the sort of the quietly respected man that everyone looked to but no one in the public really paid too much attention to he was the minority the ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee so he had sort of informal power within the group and these guys were starting to say you know maybe these young guys have something so at the same time so you have that sort of happening with the Republican Party at the same time in the Democrat side the National Democrats the Liberals were pushing constantly I mean this for decades they’ve been pushing constantly trying to figure out how to get civil rights legislation through are there certain they hoped for awhile that the Southern Democrats might start to modernize and that some of them might come over well that didn’t happen they thought maybe we can find some ways to break the conservative alliance without Johnson they couldn’t really see how to do that their strategy and it was really sort of set in stone by the early 60s was to say okay here’s what we were gonna do we’re gonna take a bill when we write up the bill we’re gonna load it up with everything we can think of we’re gonna make it just as massive bill never

something that could never pass right every it’ll be a wish list and as we move the bill through the house and through the Senate will cast stuff off you know it’ll be like a ship in a storm will throw away this plank in that plank so that by the end will come out when we’ll have this little bill and maybe it won’t do very much but it’ll be progress and there’ll be something we’re gonna do that over and over and over well as you can imagine that’s not a very engaging very you know titillating strategy so it was something that the Liberals pushed most moderates didn’t get behind and certainly didn’t go anywhere so basically what you have by early 1963 oh and I should mention you also have a president who John F Kennedy who was a liberal but was not really someone who put a lot of weight behind civil rights he was certainly if you asked him he believed in civil rights but he had other priorities he was like like most people in the country like most white people in the country outside the South frankly he’d never really met a lot of black people he didn’t spend any time in situations that would expose him to the the moral imperatives of overturning Jim Crow of pushing against segregation so I’m not not to excuse him but this is the kind of person he was and he just didn’t see the point in pushing civil rights legislation that wasn’t going to go anywhere right he didn’t want to throw a lot of political capital that he could spend on a tax cut or on military spending or or or the Peace Corps he didn’t want to waste that away on a piece of legislation that he didn’t think could pass so basically 1963 starting off you have a lot of potential and nothing happening you have a bunch of different groups in the in the Congress who want to see civil rights move forward but they don’t trust each other they don’t see how it can happen and they kind of have their own ways of going about it so and meanwhile you have a president who has a lot of moral authority has a lot of charisma but isn’t willing to spend that on civil rights as an issue everyone just kind of at the end of the day and there are there are some great interviews from people in the early early 63 and this is 1963 right this is the year of Birmingham this is the year and Medgar Evers is killed this is the year of the march on Washington we think of this is this high point of the Civil Rights Act or of the civil rights movement and you begins 1963 on a low point everyone’s saying you know I just kind of wish I just kind of hope it’ll go away like eventually we’re all smart people America is a smart place we’re just gonna will move past it right that was the hope of the average right thinking American the right thinking white American obviously then then comes Birmingham 1963 April in May of 1960 three Martin Luther King leads several thousand demonstrators many of them children in protests in the streets of Birmingham and he sets off a violent confrontation very much a one-sided violent confrontation from the police force the birmingham police force we’ve all seen the pictures of the dogs and the fire houses and this was all over the world I mean it’s not an exaggeration to say that it shocked the entire globe it also embarrassed us dramatically because you imagine the Communists across the world loved these photographs they showed how awful a place America was so it had an enormous influence it had an enormous impact in Washington it’s one of those situations where everyone knew at the time and it has remained true you can’t there’s no revisionist history for this this event did change history the March or the the Birmingham protests right away the White House said we have to do something we have to move on this and when I say the White House I actually just mean John F Kennedy Kennedy’s advisors said no kanae’s advisors said look it’s gonna go away don’t worry about it there have been protests before we have other issues we have other things we need to press Bobby Kennedy however who has the Attorney General but also his brother’s closest advisor Bobby Kennedy had been dealing with civil rights have been thinking through the issue for a while now and Birmingham really solidified in his mind the need for action and and Bobby Kennedy staff as well it’s Burke Marshall who was the head of the Civil Rights Division Nick katzenback who was then his Deputy Attorney General these men agreed with him and said yes we need legislation we need to do something and so John F Kennedy didn’t need much convincing he said yes I understand the moral imperative let’s do something so in June of 1963 he tells Bobby to have at it and Kennedy and and his deputies sit down and they write a bill basically

over a weekend and it’s not just the minimum it’s not just answering what the protesters want it’s a huge bill it includes all sorts of things that no one expected Kennedy to ever embrace it was stronger voting rights protections it was an expansive comprehensive ban on discrimination in public accommodations not just government-owned public accommodations but anything that served the public there were some limits and this was the source of consternation from liberals later rightly so because there were certain things that were left out but but it was nevertheless so a revolutionary proposal there was a timetable for school integration you brown the brown decision nine years earlier had only been a Supreme Court decision it didn’t put any meat on the books right you could sue because of that decision if you were an african-american parent whose child was prevented from going to school you could sue but that meant you had to have money yet to have time so there was no federal government backing so this this bill said no now we’re going to get behind that decision we’re going to make people integrate schools and there was also a title called title six which ended up being one of the most important pieces of legislation or important pieces of the legislation people didn’t see it at the time but it was a cut-off of federal funds for programs that discriminated so if the federal government gave money to let’s say a school or to a jobs program in Mississippi and the jobs program only gave assistance to white people well the government the federal government would cut that off and this became as you can imagine as the federal government expanded an enormous piece of leverage but at the time people didn’t see it that way anyway so that was the bill that was written katzenback and Burke Marshall essentially wrote it Bobby Kennedy was involved but more even more important than than the details of what those guys are doing was the strategy that they then came up with and this was a strategy that played out through the entire course of the bill long after Kennedy had been assassinated this was a strategy that was concocted within the Department of Justice not Lyndon Johnson had very little to do with it in fact Johnson was saying there were other things that should have been done these guys said no there there are three things that we have to do the first thing is the action has to start in the house right you can have a bill start in either house but they said the house is where it has to happen because the house is dominated by liberals so we know we can get a bill through but we need the momentum of that bill in order to push it through in the Senate where we know there will be a filibuster and filibusters have killed no you know untold numbers of civil rights bills in the past so we need to get a running start so the second thing is that we have to have conservative Republicans on board right from the beginning right because not only is there not only there are a hundred Southern Democrats in the house but they’re probably enough Southern Democrats and Midwestern Republicans who without pulling away some of those Republicans enough of that faction that conservative Alliance to sustain a filibuster so we need to start pulling in those guys immediately convincing them to back a bill that is actually a pretty tall order this is a partisan bill this is a John F Kennedy bill that’s being introduced it’s not bipartisan right it’s John F Kennedy bill at least at the beginning and this is going into you know an election year election year in 64 so Republicans might obviously ask themselves why would we want to support the President on this issue so you have to convince them so the third thing is doing that means controlling the liberal faction both the Republican liberals of which back then there were many and also the Democratic liberals who we’re going to very you know fairly push for more aggressive more expansive civil rights legislation so the point was we want a strong bill but not one that’s too strong that forces away the conservative Republicans so this takes a lot of finesse right and if this is what this is not a strategy that’s being developed in that in the house it’s not something that Congress is deciding it’s something’s being decided from the Department of Justice right these guys are saying we’re going to run this and it goes very much against our understanding not only of how legislation worked back then right the president proposes this Congress disposes but also our impression of how Kennedy and the Kennedy White House worked right we think that they were very hands-off very sort of you know two left feet when it came to Congress but here they were grabbing this bowl and saying we’re gonna drive this right through the stable gates so one of the first things they did on the fourth of July weekend Burke Marshall who is the head of the Civil Rights Division he flies out to peak WA Illinois and all the congressmen had gone home for the long weekend

vacation that’s where Bill McCulloch lived he was the ranking minority member on the House Judiciary Committee and he was really the guy that you know everyone so quietly looked up to and the Republicans but he was also very conservative he was also very distrustful of Democrats because this was this this was a guy who he’s sort of an unsung hero in the civil rights legislative history not only did he propose multiple bills but he also very often can worked to get his followers his sort of you know his clique in the Republican Party to follow him to back civil rights legislation remember these are people who don’t need to back civil rights legislation these are guys who don’t have more than a handful of blacks in their constituencies so they need to be convinced that’s a moral reason or they need to be given some reason bill McCulloch did that time again but time and again the bills that he would back in the house remember these big bills that they would load up with all sorts of baggage and then throw that baggage off as they went through those would inevitably be whittled down to these tiny little almost meaningless pieces of legislation and many of them failed anyway some of them got through but most of them failed so bill McCulloch wanted to support civil rights but he didn’t believe that the Democrats were honest when when they came to him so Burke Marshall said what do I need to do what I’m honest right I’m telling you it’s not the it’s not Congress doing it this time it’s AUSA’s the Department of Justice and we’re 100% behind it we’re taking a big risk we don’t have to do this we’re doing it so what do we need to do McCulloch said two things first of all the bill needs to make sense it be one of these loaded up bills it has to be something that’s designed to get through it has to answer current pressing issues and it has to be something that doesn’t get whittled down as we go through you need to make that commitment to me so Burke Marshall said yeah I can do that you’ve seen our bill you know what we’re proposing it’s a pragmatic bill it’s big its revolutionary but we think right now there’s the climate out there and indeed there was that the polls showed that the public generally supported civil rights at unprecedented lehigh levels for the moment Burke Marshall said well we know we can do this so let’s go ahead and do it let’s push this through so McCulloch said okay we’ll do it so the bill immediately goes to the House Judiciary Committee and the man who runs the Judiciary Committee is an old New York politician named Emanuel Celler Manny seller who is this a bunk Euler very much a veteran sort of old politician he was loved opera he’s very is one of these quirky guys that I don’t know they don’t really show up in the house anymore but they used to be you used to find these guys and these stories about House politicians there’s just very colorful figures he was one of these guys he was he was also kids loved him because he was great with magic tricks he actually had and and you hear about this the stereotype right but it never actually never see it he was great with rabbit tricks his trick he did it had all these tricks with rabbits and hats right no one actually does those things right in reality you never see a magician do that well he actually could do them and he did them so kids loved that he was also as for if you’re a real political geek he had the he has the the sad distinction of being the the most senior polit the most senior member of the House of Representatives to ever lose a primary race in 1972 he lost his 26th primary race to actually no I’m forgetting he lost to Elizabeth Holtzman which is her significance but in any case so seller seller was this guy people tended to like him but he was also a very inconsistent politician sometimes he ran his he ran his committee with an iron fist other times he just kind of let it float along and this time he said okay I’ll run this with an iron fist don’t worry John I can do this I’ll get this bill through exactly as you’ve given it to me and it’ll be no problem so immediately he pulls it in and you know the first step when you have a bill in Congress as it goes to a subcommittee the subcommittee is you know the specialist committee so there wasn’t a civil rights committee and and what seller did was he said well I’m gonna put it in my personal committee I have this personal committee that technically does antitrust but it’s also where because I’m this dictator I can say any bill I want comes to my bill comes to my committee so don’t worry John I can do it I’ve got my personal my little committee we’re gonna do it well the hearings start the hearings go on all summer right and the subcommittee met 22 different times they took a hundred witnesses testimony from 100 witnesses 1742 pages of testimony which I have they said my own sad distinction of having read and it’s there’s some

great stuff in it but it’s a-you know about 1500 of those pages are not all that exciting then in August the committee goes into executive session which is what committees do is sort of the secret off off limits the public can’t come in period where they actually sit down they say okay we’ve heard all the testimony we’ve got the bill what do we want to do to it how do we want to change it what do we think we’re the experts what do we want to do even the Department of Justice was kicked out katzenback and Marshall had been promised they could sit in they were kicked out and things immediately go off the rails so one of the problems and they should have seen this coming was that even though seller said he had control over this committee the committee was made up mostly of liberals and I’m not I’m not trying to demean liberals at all it may sound like it but you know they certainly had their their set of policies that they wanted to they wanted to advocate and one of the failings of the kennedy administration was that they didn’t pay enough attention to these guys these guys had you know serious plans they said well we’ve got our own bills we kind of want to push our bills and we think that kennedy is under under s meeting the public sentiment out there we think we can actually get something bigger through and seller says okay if you say so basically and he lets these guys load up the bill with all sorts of other stuff the Liberals had a majority but and liberals Democrats and Republicans they had a majority on the the subcommittee so they put in a fair employment practices committee which Commission which today we know is the OEO EEOC the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission so they they created that but they gave it cease and desist powers right basically created gave it legal authority nor judicial authority they created the extended federal voting rights the federal voting rights package to the states right so the federal government was going to tell the states how to run their elections which had been held to be unconstitutional in the past they also added something called title three authority which was just sort of the the cream on the top of the wish list of civil rights liberals was basically power giving power to the Attorney General to sue any civil rights violation right so they could go in and sue anytime someone ostensibly violated another person’s civil rights which sounds great but unchecked you can imagine in the wrong the hands of the wrong Attorney General could be kind of scary right because well there are a lot of rights and this wasn’t limited to those right so anyway this bill comes out in early October and it doesn’t look anything like what had gone in you know Bill McCulloch was on the subcommittee but he was more or less powerless he was out he was outvoted he comes out and as soon as the bill comes out these guys can speak publicly and Bill McCulloch says this this is a pail of garbage this is I can’t accept this all the other conservative Republicans say this is I can’t back this the Department of Justice the White House they’re up in arms they can’t believe that cellar just completely screwed up the people who are happy obviously the Liberals are happy but you know who else was happy was the Southern Democrats because they saw this bill and they said you know what no moderate out there no conservative Republican no one who might have voted for this bill earlier is gonna vote for this version so we are all for this we’re gonna vote for this version all the way up to the filibuster and then it’s gonna die right so let’s let’s so immediately this bill comes out instead of stopping it starts to generate momentum people there’s certain people want to see this bill start going that’s where the White House comes in first Kennedy says first thing we have to do is get a hold of stellar we have to get him back we have to get a tight rein on him so they call him in they call him on the carpet John Kennedy and separately Bobby Kennedy they just chew him out all right and these are young guys they’re chewing out a guy who’s almost twice their age I chair of the Judiciary Committee one of the most senior members of the House both in terms of years and in terms of power they chew him out they say Manny you screwed up you you just you sold us down the river what happened he said I don’t know I don’t know guys you know they overpowered me whatever he sort of gives his excuses and they say ok from now on you’re off the table right you’re gonna sit over here you’re gonna take orders from us we’re gonna we’re in control and they deputize Nick katzenback to go to mcculloch hat in hand and say look we’re really sorry you know this is not our fault right but what can we do to solve it McCulloch says look I’m incredibly angry with what happened but I believe you Burke Marshall is a good guy he promised me that we would have a good bill so here’s what we’re gonna do first of all we’re gonna rewrite the bill you and me right so a not even the AG but the deputy AG and not that someone other than the chairman of the Judiciary Committee the house the minority ranking

member they’re going to rewrite this piece of legislation now today this might happen occasionally right this kind of involvement back then this never happened the idea that that that someone other than the chairman and someone other than a congressman would sit down and wholesale rewrite a bill was an athame to tradition to the expectations and yet this is what the Kennedy administration was willing to do and is what they were able to do they were able to go in and off-the-cuff rewrite this bill katzenback the legislative genius on top of being just a general genius but he was a late he proved to be a legislative genius there are lots of stories about him but for another time anyway so he said sit sounds from McCulloch they rewrite the bill basically they rewrite the bill to be a compromise to between what was originally submitted and what came out in fact the bill ends up being a lot stronger than Kennedy had initially created McCulloch turns out to not actually be that opposed to the bill the new bill right he says look you know to be honest I’m I’m for civil rights all I want to do is make sure the bill gets through so and I want some credit among the conservative Republicans for having you know taking you guys to the woodshed so let’s give me something here is I can’t accept a fair employment practices committee commission with cease and desist powers but I can take one that has the power to sue in a court okay well that’s that’s still pretty powerful right can sue a company for discriminating against employees that’s still pretty powerful so Ken D says okay he says we need to get rid of title three right this AG power well let’s get rid of title three but they said well let’s stick it let’s actually you know narrow it down limit it to schools right so title three so the Attorney General can sue when it comes to school discrimination okay well that’s pretty good there are a few other things some two other tweaks that he made but actually the bill ended up being pretty good my colleague says okay I’ll I’ll back this bill I’ll push it through the one thing I can’t do is promise that Charlie Halleck will back this bill because Charlie Halleck he listens to me he takes my advice but he’s senior he’s senior to me he runs the House Republicans right I can’t promise that he’ll back this so the next thing Kennedy does is he goes to Hallock he says how it we need to talk we need to figure out how to get this bill through Halleck says look you’ve screwed us over you have no control over seller you have no control of your guys how can I trust you and Kennedy Kennedy essentially says you know first of all you can trust me and second of all I’m putting everything I have behind this bill right this suddenly this Kennedy comes out that no one expected and that we’ve forgotten about today Kennedy says to McCulloch all right it says to Hallock I will destroy you right I will destroy you guys if you back out now I will make sure that you pay for it I will run on civil rights next year if I don’t get my bill I will run on civil rights and I will blame you for not getting this bill through and you will pay for it and you know that’s pretty daring so sure enough Halleck the next day this is the day before the Judiciary Committee is supposed to vote on the bill remember Judiciary Committee now has two bills they can vote on right the original the bill that came out of the subcommittee and the compromise so Halleck comes out at the last minute and he says okay I’ll back it I’ll back it I promise and he tells the GOP the Republicans we have to back this bill and he goes especially to the GOP members of the Judiciary Committee says you guys have to vote for it you have to back it and they follow him and they do it and the bill squeaks through Judiciary Committee it just makes it through right by a couple of votes meanwhile of course the Democrats were wrangling their own guys and that White House was doing their work with the Republicans but it was really this ability to reach out to the other party and both to kiss up to them and also to put a stranglehold on them that shows a level of political sophistication and finesse that we don’t associate with the Kennedy White House and by the way Halleck suffered immensely for this arguably Halleck lost his position as Minority Leader the next year and a lot of people blaming blame him for this they say well he he kind of took his own took leave of the rest of us he didn’t listen to us he didn’t talk to us he sort of made his own decision and we don’t want that kind of a guy around but how like interestingly was okay with that when Kennedy at the very last minute the last conversation he had with Halleck Kennedy said you know are you ok doing this are you ok and he said you know sometimes you just have to do what you think is right sometimes you just

to tell the other guys to walk and that’s what I’m gonna do now much later someone asked him why why he did what he did this was after the repercussions were obvious and he said and this is interesting he said once in a while a guy does something because it’s right so I have a I had a few experiences I had a black driver we used to go down this is from he lived in Indiana so we used to go down to Warm Springs Virginia to visit friends along the way we’d stop at some little restaurant and I’d go in and ask if you know the driver could come sit at our table and eat with us and they would say this being Virginia Jim Crow Virginia they would say no no but well we’ll bring him something out and how I said you know I just left I couldn’t deal with that I said you know there’s just that just that wasn’t right and so that’s why he that’s why he went and basically so you know loss basically sacrificed his political leadership his political power for this piece of legislation and I think it’s interesting that did he did that because it speaks to a kind of political courage that you don’t see very often and it also speaks to something that you see throughout the history of the Civil Rights Act which is this sort of coming from very interesting corners individual representatives or or senators you would think wouldn’t normally back a bill like this who later on or even at the time said you know I had it I had an experience once I I was in the south or you know I was talking to a congressman and from the south and and they just something horrible you know something horrible came out of my mouth the the reality of of southern racism was really exposed to me and and that changed my life and it changed my views and it made me willing to take a lot of risks to back transformative legislation and it’s similar in some ways I think to the way that today you hear a lot of people speak about gay marriage and gay rights conservatives who say you know normally I would be expected not to feel this way but my son my daughter my friend someone I’ve met along the way had a particular story that really affected me personally so you see that a lot with civil rights legislation so anyway I kind of wrap up so the bill passes it goes to the rules come and there it sits as I said with judge Smith sitting on top of it Smith says I’m gonna have my own hearings I’m not I don’t want to just let this bill go through I’m at my own hearings it’s gonna be several months before we do anything November 22nd Kennedy is killed the conventional story now begins and I don’t want to slight the immense capabilities or actions that Lyndon Johnson took immediately after taking office to get the bill through but what I do want to say is in the same way that you can’t understand the New Testament without understanding the old testament you really can’t understand this Senate side of the story this Lyndon Johnson side of the story without understanding the kennedy side of the story and the house side of the story and it was kennedy and his team not Johnson who set the game plan it was they who identified the need for a bipartisan conservative Republican and liberal Republican and Democrat coalition to get the bill through and they figured out how to do it and that’s and that’s something that you just don’t think of the kennedy administration being able to do now a lot of people accuse kennedy of being a mediocre president of being you know great image great very moving guy very charismatic but not someone who got a lot of legislation through but I think that the Civil Rights Act proves otherwise and it’s true that the bill still had seven months to go and a lot of water to carry before Lyndon Johnson was able to sign in but it was Kennedy’s performance on the bill his ability to identify the the the points of weakness among the different factions and bring them together manipulate them to push through the bill and his ability to craft pieces of the piece of legislation but his ability and his the ability of his deputies which were appointed by him and very much worked in coordination with him so I’d argue that on this issue we’re really counted can be proved to be as much a master of congressional politics as his vaunted successor Lyndon Johnson so with that – just open the floor to questions if anyone has any and and will actually see

this gentleman oh I absolutely agree and and like I said at the beginning I I think the conventional story leaves out a lot of things I was really wanted to focus on one thing but one of the other things that tends to leave out is the role that the the movement particularly dr. King had not only on instigating legislation right Birmingham was very important but continuing to bring pressure through the course of the march on Washington was is often at the even at the time some people said well that was very nice but it won’t mean anything to the representatives and the Senators but what it did do was a demonstrate of the country that not only could not only did african-americans have grievances but they could come together and express them and you know to be perfectly honest a lot of people were worried that something bad would happen and it didn’t obviously it proved to be a great moral high point in American history and people saw that and and you’re right absolutely right st. Augustine was very critical especially during the Senate filibuster people were able to go home at night and read the papers and say this is exactly what we’re talking about I think that’s an excellent point and that will be it’s a major part of the book yes sir right well it’s a funny it’s it’s a funny story and and it’s an important part obviously of the story but it’s an important part of the story that I’ll tell and if I had had more time I certainly would have talked about that because the person who introduced it was judge Howard Smith from the Rules Committee now there’s a lot of debate about why Howard Smith introduced the ability happened on the floor of the house and there’s a great it was the the wags in Washington called it ladies day because immediately he offered this proposal and people started joking and laughing and saying oh why would we include that or you know the older guys all sort of looked at that and said well that no they would actually Emanuel Celler was one of the guys who sort of dismissed it with some vaguely sexist jokes and or not even vaguely sexist they were very sexist jokes and you know saying oh women have lots of power now I can’t even get a word in edgewise at home and the sticky stuff that but what was amazing was the bill it was it actually ended up being supported and majority of people members in the House voted for it and it stayed in now the debate is why did Howard Smith do it right he said at the time and a lot of people argued afterward that it was simply to kill the bill right that enough people would oppose it after that there would be sort of toxic to the old boys who were in the house and in the Senate that they would vote against the bill and I don’t think that that’s wrong I think that Howard Smith did have that in mind he said as much but he also if you look at his biography Howard Smith had this weird sort of background where he was very much in favor of women’s rights he had always voted for the Equal Rights Amendment he was personal friends with Alice Paul who was a major feminist leader major backer of the early early backer of the ER a at the head of the

National Woman’s Party and she had convinced him in the fall of 63 to add this as a piece of legislation his justification was look if this bill protects black people white men are already protected white women are not going to be protected so we need this in order to protect them that was his that was her argument to him and he agreed with that so his support for it was sort of two-sided and what’s unfortunate is for many years after the bill was passed both the EEOC and courts at various levels would side simply with that sort of the joking fluke sabotage theory right they would say well sex isn’t supposed to be there it’s only there because this art segregation has tried to kill the bill so it’s a fluke there’s no reason for it to be there we’re just going to ignore it and there’s a very good case and in fact a lot of people have done this historical work that I can’t claim this to be my original work there’s been some very interesting work in the archives done recently that makes the case that Smith actually did not only plan to bring the bill to put that in for reasons other than trying to sabotage it but that through the course of the legislative debate both with this bill and on civil rights in general through the years there was a lot of consideration of adding sex discrimination to any kind of employment bill or any kind of employment discrimination bill so it was wrong for the EEOC to later say well there’s no legislative history here this is just a fluke no actually it really was something that was intended to be there the old boy network simply didn’t like that you know yeah well at that point it was Johnson and because this it it didn’t enter into the bill until it was on the floor so this was late January January 26th 1964 and you know Johnson said I could take or leave it Johnson didn’t actually think it would hurt the bill that much he’s politically said you know the chances of it winning or losing one or two votes it’s not really worth killing it and the political capital that would come with that because when when it was added women’s groups everywhere were coming out of the woodwork they said this is great this is what we wanted and it’s telling that actually on the day that it was voted dozens mean as many women as could pack into the gallery were there to watch it this is a Saturday it was a Saturday session all these people were there this meant something it was something that wasn’t a fluke it was really a historic moment and so Johnson said look I’m not gonna try to pull that out unless it unless something really looks unless it looks deadly so and it ended up not being that important so sure yes sir it’s hard it’s it’s an impossible question to answer I mean it’s an impossible it oh it will repeat the question he said well isn’t it true that all this being said the bill could never have made it through to Johnson’s desk if Kennedy hadn’t been killed and you can certainly make that argument and I mean there’s it’s certainly true that people rallied behind the bill you know what the both public and and certain members of Congress because it was Kennedy’s bill and they said well we owe it to the president what that meant in terms of votes ultimately you can’t say I mean you can say that there aren’t that many people in the Senate who on the record said I’m voting for this because of Kennedy because Kennedy was killed there very few people who said I’m voting for this bill because Lyndon Johnson is making me do it right Johnson’s influence well but that’s actually part of the story right the conventional wisdom is that Johnson went in and used his power to force a bunch of senators to vote for the bill but there’s actually very little evidence that he did that with anyone there’s one person Carla he was Carl Hayden who Johnson did more or less win over everyone else who moved over it was a result of work by by the Johnson White House but these were all guys who stayed over from the Kennedy White House these

are guys captain back and Burke Marshall and Mike manna toast and Larry O’Brien and all these people who sort of came from the White House to scour the halls of Congress every day to make sure the bill survived so it’s it’s one of those questions it’s you know if Lee had had better artillery at Gettysburg yes maybe I mean I think and I think you can I think there is evidence for that case but I also think that there’s strong evidence that the bill had so much momentum behind it by the time Kennedy was killed that if as long as the right decisions were made it was going to it was gonna make it is there well think of some I’ll get to these guys and then I’ll come back to you let’s see okay you and then I’ll take the gentleman the back well I mean it’s interesting it’s a you know the the idea had been around for several years Johnson was one of the first advocates of a civil right of a civil rights service or a community relations service is what it was called it was interesting it was proposed actually as far as a part of this bill it was proposed by it was sorry it was originally included by the White House and then was removed bill McCulloch for variety of reasons didn’t wanted to stay in there the White House didn’t actually care but then they sort of included it they borrowed a little bit from the liberal strategy they said we’ll have some things we can throw away CRS is one of them basically the idea for them was to have something in there well that they could throw away there’s some other arguments behind it but but then it was put back in by a representative from I believe from South Carolina during the house debate he submitted it now this is a southern Democrat but you know someone who voted against the bill but nevertheless said you know I’m not look I’m relatively soft on civil rights but he said you know what we need is a bill what we need is something that softens the blow of the federal hammer right we need somebody that goes in and says before we get to legislature before we get to illegal activity before we get to sanctions let’s see if we can just work this that’s what basically what this is was an agency that ended up being in the Commerce Department that went into communities primarily in the south but eventually in other parts of the country and sort of looked for racial conflicts that they could put out they started looking primarily at desegregation issues going into you know if there was a theater that refused to allow in blacks that went in and said look how let’s work something out and most cases actually very successful they did a lot of very good work it ended up being later on when sort of the seasons of riots began it went in and more focused on you know trying to suss out why were people rioting right and it was somewhat less successful there but so is everybody else I mean it was a very difficult knotty question answer and it was eventually you know killed it was a relatively short-lived agency but it it is like you said one of those it was a sleeper part but oh I’m sorry you’re right it was whittled down I didn’t mean it was the activism that it undertook was based on yes sir is that right Wow Wow I that’s a great

story I wish I’d talked to you for me for that book well I ran into a few other people who had interesting you know great sort of man-on-the-street stories but that’s a that’s a fantastic one Thanks student yes it did two things the first of all was a title for which included the requirement that school districts implement timetables right for desegregating that was very much a part of the wishlist of civil rights advocates in Washington and it was there from the beginning and that came with a variety of federal sanctions if they didn’t implement them and legal recourse and but it also title six which at the time was not understood to be an education plank this was the plank that said federal money cannot be used for discriminatory purposes well at the time people were thinking well that means you know some aid programs and farm programs there actually wasn’t that much that fell under that well not long after that the federal government passed the education bill are the Johnson passed his mammoth education bill which just opened the floodgates for billions of dollars in federal aid basically created the federal aid the federal education sort of infrastructure that we know today all of that fell under Title 6 and so very quickly the federal government said oh you you like this right this money that we might have for you well you can’t use that in segregated school districts school districts said we don’t we’re not that awful you know or we are awful but we would really like that money so well desegregate the one thing that’s interesting the bill didn’t include and it very explicitly didn’t include it included a rule against it was use it was there was a statement that said nothing in this bill can be used to construe forced or let’s say anything against de facto integration or a de facto segregation right so essentially said school districts that are by law segregated will attack those anything in the north things that school districts that are white or black because of residential or class reasons we won’t deal with that nevertheless the bill created a momentum and the legal history is is a pretty complex one but and outside the scope of the book fortunately because it’s but very quickly that also became a reality for many school districts in the north you know required busing and school integration across de facto lines so yes yes well this gentleman had his hand up first but I would like to get another student so how about two yes okay yes sir this is the last one so well that’s a good question and it’s it’s I mean so fascinating one and it’s one where the scholarship has only really started to the historical scholarship has only really started to approach it the political there’s actually a lot of really good political science it’s fairly numbers intensive on the changes that emerged after civil rights legislation I would argue that though a lot of the changes that were attributed to the civil rights act in terms of attitudes on the part of politicians we’re already happening I mean it’s not that it was at all correct to say the South was becoming less racist or less that Jim Crow is fading away but there certainly were places where political attitudes were changing you had a lot more people from outside the region moving into the region you had a lot more just people white people who are educated who kind of realized that this was wrong a lot more money coming in businesses investing and businesses saying look we don’t want to be associated with Jim Crow so and that was all happening by the 50s what you had though by the mid-60s was sort of a dynamic where certain people say more enlightened politicians like Al Gore senior is a great example someone who voted against the Civil Rights Act but voted for the Voting Rights Act

and because he saw in the Civil Rights Act in the passage of the bill and its immediate consequences evidence of the change that was coming and he said I am you know by nature a progressive guy I supported or I didn’t oppose Jim Crow because that was what my voters told me to do but I now feel like I have the space to become a liberal on civil rights william fulbright in the same way and and there were some surprising people in the deep south who made that transition but a lot of others went the other direction and said look I actually don’t think that business interests are all that interested and they don’t want to be associated with Jim Crow but they’re not progressive they don’t care about really fighting discrimination they just don’t want to be associated with white and black soda fountains so I’m gonna play the minimum I’m gonna say the Civil Rights Act has basically wiped the slate clean and I’m going to associate myself with the more conservative elements that are out there and I’m gonna make the bet in the long run the south changes in terms of the sort of bare minimum racial opinions but remains a fairly conservative place racially and doesn’t change as much on those deep social level as some might expect and those guys Strom Thurmond is a great example of someone who said you know I’m I’m actually gonna switch parties completely I’m gonna go over to the Republicans and you had a number of Republican politicians or people who were let’s say up-and-coming politicians who saw this new split emerging and said I’m gonna go with this kind of newly modified the sort of new Republican Party that is figuring out how to marry small government and racial animosity and how those two can go together under the excuse of well you don’t have to talk about this stuff anymore cuz the Civil Rights Act took care of it all right I mean that’s the unfortunate and it I don’t I’m not blaming the Civil Rights Act but it certainly is an unfortunate consequence of the passage of such a landmark bill is it allowed certain people to say I don’t have to worry about this I don’t have to think about this anymore I can just say it’s all written off and anyone who tries to raise it as an issue is a pinko liberal doesn’t belong here in the south Democrat right so that’s that’s sort of the way things went and I don’t want to demean the people who really did come to sort of an apotheosis and become racially liberal or adopt racially liberal views as a result of what happened in the 50s and 60s but they were unfortunately outnumbered by those who took a more cynical perspective so with that I guess I will say thank you very much again to Adam and the star Center and I appreciate all of you coming out on such a beautiful day to hear me go on and on about my current obsession so you