Public Resource: CBS News Longines Chronoscope: U.S. Senator Richard Russell in 1952

Bradford Hewitt & Paul Martin

Bradford Hewitt & Paul Martin

Public Resource: CBS News Longines Chronoscope: U.S. Senator Richard Russell in 1952

Senator Richard Russell, was one of the leading Dixiecrats in Congress for almost forty-years. He was the Chairman of Southern Caucus in Congress and led the opposition to every civil rights bill in Congress in the 1950s and 1960s. To be honest with you, as a Liberal Democrat, I’m glad he would a Republican today and that he is a big reason why Senate cloture rule was changed in 1975. So that instead of needing 67 votes to end debate, now the Senate needed 60. Because Senator Russell, was in Congress at the height of the civil rights battles in the 1950s and 60s. And those laws could have been passed faster without Russell and the Dixiecrats in Congress.

What is a Dixiecrat? They’re almost gone and out of the Democratic Party now if not gone all together. But today Dixiecrats are Southern right-wing Republicans. Both conservative libertarian, like with Representative Walter Jones from North Carolina and a whole host of so-called Religious-Conservatives in Congress, in the House and Senate. Senator Jeff Sessions, from Alabama, would be an example of a Religious-Conservative Republican in Congress. But from the end of the American Civil War, if not farther back, Dixiecrats were right-wing Democrats. Who believed in states rights and were strong Federalists, as am I. But they believed federalism gave the states the right to deny their residents access based on race. I do not.

In 1952, when this interview was done, the civil rights movement was really just under way. Even though it had already won a big battle in the 1940s with President Harry Truman desegregating the U.S. Armed Forces. Senator Russell, ran for president in 1952 and was a Dixiecrat. And a true Federalist and part of his federalism was that the states could handle their own domestic issues entirely. And even force their residents to be separated by race and allow for business owners to deny people access to their business based on race. And force African-Americans to sit in the back of the bus and go to rotten schools and you can go down the line. So the Dick Russell you see in 1952, is the same Dick Russell that fought against the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act. And other civil rights laws and help for poor people of all races from the Federal Government.

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