Dirksen, Everett M. (1896–1969)

views updated

DIRKSEN, EVERETT M. (1896–1969)

Everett McKinley Dirksen represented Illinois as a United States congressman (1933–1949) and senator (1951–1969). Despite a previous record as an isolationist in foreign affairs and a reactionary in domestic affairs, he contributed to the legislative successes of the Democratic Presidents when he was the Republican leader of the senate in the 1960s. Dirksen was an eccentric—flamboyant in style, florid in oratory, and organ-voiced; he was also a superb parliamentary tactician and a politician who was exceptionally inconsistent in his policies. On matters of constitutional interest, he supported mccarthyism and opposed the censure of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, and savagely criticized the Supreme Court for opinions he disliked, especially on reapportionment, separation of church and state, and the rights of the criminally accused. Dirksen favored bills to curb the Court's appellate jurisdiction, proposed a constitutional amendment to allow prayers in public schools, and led a movement that failed by the vote of one state to convene a constitutional convention. Yet the civil rights act of 1964 and the voting rights acts of 1965 would not have been passed without his support.

Leonard W. Levy


Schapsmeier, Edward L. 1985 Dirksen of Illinois: Senatorial Statesman. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.