Everett McKinley Dirksen (1896–1969) was the leading conservative in the Senate after the untimely death of Senator Robert Taft in 1953. From Illinois, Dirksen first won his Senate seat in a huge upset by defeating the Senate Majority Leader, a Democrat. Dirksen won by campaigning against communism an siding with Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Dirksen was famous for his oratorical skills and likable, down-to-earth appearance. He was also a very shrewd politician who in just his second term was voted by a wide margin of 20-14 to become the Minority Leader in the Senate. So loved by his colleagues that within three years of his untimely death from cancer they renamed a Senate building as the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
In 1966, Dirksen sponsored a constitutional amendment to allow prayer in public school. It attacted 49 votes, far short of the two-thirds (67 votes) needed for passage. In 1964, Dirksen helped write and pass the Civil Rights Act.
He and House Republican leader Charles Halleck conducted weekly press conferences, known as the "Ev and Charlie show."
The most famous quote attributed to Dirksen was his sarcastic account of uncontrolled government spending: "A million here, a million there, pretty soon, you're talking real money." It is uncertain whether Dirksen originated the quip; in recent years inflation has changed "million" to "billion".
Dirksen's speaking voice was so resonant that he recorded four albums. His "Gallant Men" won a Grammy Award and rose to #29 on the U.S. Billboard charts.
- Dirksen, Everett McKinley. The Education of a Senator. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998.
- Dirksen, Louella Carver, with Norma Lee Browning. The Honorable Mr. Marigold: My Life With Everett Dirksen. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1972.
- Dietz, Terry; Republicans and Vietnam, 1961–1968 Greenwood: 1986.
- Hulsey, Byron C. Everett Dirksen and His Presidents: How a Senate Giant Shaped American Politics. (2000). Abstract
- MacNeil, Neil. Dirksen: Portrait of a Public Man. New York: World Publishing Company, 1970.
- Rodriguez; Daniel B. and Barry R. Weingast. "The Positive Political Theory of Legislative History: New Perspectives on the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Its Interpretation" University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Volume: 151. Issue: 4. 2003. pp 1417+.
- Schapsmeier Edward L., and Frederick H. Schapsmeier. Dirksen of Illinois. University of Illinois Press, 1985, the standard scholarly biography