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Political Figures, Lawyers, Politicians, Journalists, Social Activists (1950s Interviews)

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Published on Oct 4, 2012

Interviewees:
Harold Himmel Velde, United States political figure
Hugh D. Scott, Jr., American lawyer and politician
John V. Beamer, U.S. Representative from Indiana
Orland K. Armstrong, Republican United States Representative, journalist, and social activist
Edward L.R. Elson, Presbyterian minister and Chaplain of the United States Senate
Richard Russell, Jr., American politician from Georgia

Richard Brevard Russell, Jr. (November 2, 1897 -- January 21, 1971) was an American politician from Georgia. A member of the Democratic Party, he briefly served as Governor of Georgia (1931--33) before serving in the United States Senate for almost 40 years, from 1933 until his death in 1971. As a Senator, he was a candidate for President of the United States in the 1952 Democratic National Convention, coming in second to Adlai Stevenson.

Russell was a founder and leader of the conservative coalition that dominated Congress from 1937 to 1963, and at his death was the most senior member of the Senate. He was for decades a leader of Southern opposition to the civil rights movement.

Russell competed in the 1952 Democratic presidential primary, but was shut-out of serious consideration by northern Democratic leaders who saw his support for segregation as untenable outside of the Jim Crow South. When Lyndon Johnson arrived in the Senate, he sought guidance from knowledgeable senate aide Bobby Baker, who advised that all senators were "equal" but Russell was the most "equal"—meaning the most powerful. Johnson assiduously cultivated Russell through all of their joint Senate years and beyond. Russell's support for first-term senator Lyndon Johnson paved the way for Johnson to become Senate Majority Leader. Russell often dined at Johnson's house during their Senate days. However, their 20-year friendship came to an end during Johnson's presidency, in a fight over the Chief Justice nomination of Johnson's friend and Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas in 1968.

While a prime mentor of Johnson, Russell and the then-president Johnson also disagreed over civil rights. Russell, a segregationist, had repeatedly blocked and defeated civil rights legislation via use of the filibuster and had co-authored the Southern Manifesto in opposition to civil rights. He had not supported the States Rights' Democratic Party of Strom Thurmond in 1948, but he opposed civil rights laws as unconstitutional and unwise. (Unlike Theodore Bilbo, "Cotton Ed" Smith and James Eastland, who had reputations as ruthless, tough-talking, heavy-handed race baiters, he never justified hatred or acts of violence to defend segregation. But he strongly defended white supremacy and apparently did not question it or ever apologize for his segregationist views, votes and speeches.) Russell was key, for decades, in blocking meaningful civil rights legislation that might have protected African-Americans from lynching, disenfranchisement, and disparate treatment under the law. After Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Russell (along with more than a dozen other southern Senators, including Herman Talmadge and Russell Long) boycotted the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.

A prominent supporter of a strong national defense, Russell became in the 1950s the most knowledgeable and powerful congressional leader in this area. He used his powers as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1951 to 1969 and then as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee as an institutional base to add defense installations and jobs for Georgia. He was dubious about the Vietnam War, privately warning President Johnson repeatedly against deeper involvement.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_....

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