Everett Dirksen

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Everett McKinley Dirksen
Dirksen painting.jpg
Former Senate Minority Leader
From: January 3, 1959 – September 7, 1969
Predecessor William F. Knowland
Successor Hugh Scott
Former U.S. Senator from Illinois
From: January 3, 1951 – September 7, 1969
Predecessor Scott W. Lucas
Successor Ralph Tyler Smith
Former U.S. Representative from Illinois's 16th Congressional District
From: March 4, 1933 – January 3, 1949
Predecessor William E. Hull
Successor Leo E. Allen
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Louella Carver
Religion Reformed
Military Service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Service Years 1918–1919
Rank Second Lieutenant
Battles/wars World War I

Everett McKinley Dirksen (January 4, 1896 – September 7, 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 communist infiltration of the Democrat Party and FDR and Truman administrations, as well as through his criticism of the Marshall Plan.[1]

Dirksen was famous for his oratorical skills, tremendous wit, 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. Being so beloved by his colleagues that within three years of his untimely death from cancer, Democrats approved renaming a Senate building as the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Political career

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Senator Everett Dirksen (left) with President Lyndon Johnson, 1966

Though Dirksen died only shortly after the Stonewall Riots, he had already spoken out against homosexuality. In 1952, he said that if the Republican Party did well in the elections, the "lavender lads" (homosexual men) would be fired from the State Department. That same year, he defended movement conservative and fellow Senator Robert Taft at the Republican National Convention and criticized Rockefeller Republican Thomas Dewey for his embarrassing loss to President Harry S. Truman only four years earlier.[2]

Along with 21 other mostly conservative Republicans, Dirksen voted against the D.C. establishment's censure of Sen. Joseph McCarthy.[3]

Dirksen helped write and pass the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In 1966, Dirksen sponsored a constitutional amendment to allow prayer in public school. It attracted 49 votes, far short of the two-thirds (67 votes) needed for passage.

He and House Republican leader Charles Halleck conducted weekly press conferences, known as the "Ev and Charlie Show".

Political wit

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.

See also


Primary sources

  • 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.

Secondary sources

  • 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


  1. The Wizard of Ooze: Everett Dirksen of Illinois. Mad Politics: The Bizarre, Fascinating, and Unknown of American Political History. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  2. Documentary Fan (March 7, 2012). Everett Dirksen Defends Taft. YouTube.
  3. Two references:

External links