Last modified on June 10, 2023, at 22:57

Richard Russell, Jr.

Richard Brevard Russell, Jr.
Richard Russell Jr.jpg
Former President pro tempore of the United States Senate
From: January 3, 1969 – January 21, 1971
Predecessor Carl Hayden
Successor Allen J. Ellender
Former U.S. Senator from Georgia
From: January 12, 1933 – January 21, 1971
Predecessor John S. Cohen
Successor David H. Gambrell
Former Governor of Georgia
From: June 27, 1931 – January 10, 1933
Predecessor Lamartine Griffin Hardman
Successor Eugene Talmadge
Former Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
From: 1921–1931
Predecessor ?
Successor ?
Party Democrat
Spouse(s) None (lifelong bachelor)
Military Service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Unit Reserves
Battles/wars World War I

Richard Brevard Russell, Jr. (November 2, 1897 – January 21, 1971) was a United States Senator from Georgia who served for almost four decades in the position until his death. A career politician, he was the governor of the state for two years previously, and a state representative prior to that.

Early life and education

Russell was born the fourth child to Ina Dillard and Richard Brevard Russell, Sr. in Winder, Georgia on November 2, 1897. His father later served as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, while his mother was a teacher. He graduated from the Seventh District Agricultural and Mechanical School in 1914. He entered the University of Georgia in 1915 and graduated with a Bachelor of Law's degree in 1918.

He served in the United States Navy during World War I as it neared its end, and started a law practice with his father after being discharged from the military.

Political career

State legislature

Elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1920 at age 23, Russell was a strong advocate of public schooling and the improvisation of highways.

Governor of Georgia

A fiscal conservative, Russell's tenure as the governor of Georgia was marked with the re-organization of the state governments, the reduction of state expenditures, and a balanced budget. Accomplishing all of it in less than two years, he cut no salaries aside from his own, and would move on to be elected into the U.S. Senate.

Senate career

Russell (left) with Walter F. George (right) in the late 1930s.

Conservative Coalition

While initially a strong supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt's policies and an advocate of the New Deal, Russell later began to split with Roosevelt and became a leader in the Conservative Coalition in 1937. However, he was mostly not a "conservative Democrat" despite what modern-day liberals may insinuate, as his opposition to some of Roosevelt's policies were part of bipartisan criticisms on an economic standpoint;[1] he was furthermore considered a "progressive" like many racists of his time.

Russell faced a challenge in 1936 from incumbent Democrat governor Eugene Talmadge, who ran on a campaign opposing the New Deal. Talmadge was ultimately unsuccessful and lost by a landslide in the primary election[2] as racist white voters in the election cycle backed Russell, Franklin Roosevelt, and Eurith D. Rivers.[1]

Warren Commission

After John F. Kennedy was assassinated, succeeding president Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Russell to the Warren Commission, a body established to investigate he president's death. While most members concluded on the "single bullet theory," Russell, along with John Sherman Cooper, a Moderate Republican from Kentucky, were dissenters of the view, believing the theory was absurd.[3]

Civil rights opposition

Segregationist senators Tom Connally, Walter F. George, Richard Russell, Jr., and Claude Pepper filibustering the Anti-Lynching Bill of 1938; at the time the picture was taken, the blockade had already persisted for twenty days.
Anti-Lynching Legislation

Major legislation:



Russell, a lifelong opponent of civil rights, had led racist Southern Democrats in opposition to civil rights legislation ever since the 1930s. Democrat filibusters led by Russell included blocking Republican anti-lynching bills during the presidency of FDR, where he utilized a mastery of Senate procedural matters to block a 1935 anti-lynching bill for six days, effectively killing it.[4] During the proceedings for the 1935 bill, Russell said that he was "willing to go as far and make as great a sacrifice to preserve and insure white supremacy in the social, economic, and political life of our state as any man who lives within her borders."[5] Three decades during the 1960s, he tried to halt the 1964 Civil Rights Act before the Senate was able to enact cloture.

An advocate and signatory of the Southern Manifesto,[6] Sen. Russell in 1957 successfully helped water down the 1957 Civil Rights Act legislation along with then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, who removed the stringent protections from the original Herbert Brownell text in Title III and transforming it into a far weaker version of what it originally had been.[7] Johnson had previously hatched a deal with Russell (as well as Strom Thurmond, who broke it) that had the important sections of the bill be removed, he wouldn't filibuster it when it came up on the Senate for a roll call vote. It should be furthermore noted that Russell had been a mentor to Johnson.[8]

Despite having been a white supremacist and fierce opponent of equal rights for blacks, which he never repudiated, his niece Sally Russell insisted that the senator had maintained decent relationships with blacks who worked for him,[9] adding on that she thought he "had a very deep courteous attitude, which probably came from being raised in the South."


Russell has the Russell Senate Office Building named after him.[10] Over forty years after it had been named for Russell, liberals such as Chuck Schumer demanded that the building be renamed for RINO John McCain.[11] It should be noted that barely any controversy arose out of naming the building during the time, with the lone opposition in the Senate then coming from Philip Hart (D–MI).[9]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Williamson, Kevin (August 28, 2019). Was Senator Russell a ‘Conservative’ Democrat?. National Review. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  2. GA US Senate - D Primary - Sep 09, 1936. Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  3. Richard Russell and the Warren Report
  4. Little, Becky (January 31, 2019). Why FDR Didn’t Support Eleanor Roosevelt’s Anti-Lynching Campaign. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  5. Barber, Benjamin (March 24, 2021). Confronting the anti-civil rights filibuster. Facing South. Retrieved June 10, 2023.
  6. 1956 "Southern Manifesto". Clemson Strom Thurmond Institute. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  7. DiEugenio, James (October 7, 2018). The Kennedys and Civil Rights: How the MSM Continues to Distort History, Part 2. Kennedys and King. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  8. LBJ and Richard Russell on Vietnam. Miller Center. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Hohmann, James (August 28, 2016). The Daily 202: ‘Dick Russell was a racist. But he was much more than that,’ says niece. Washington Post. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  10. Russell Senate Office Building
  11. FLASHBACK: Who Was Richard Russell, And Why Does Chuck Schumer Want A Fellow Democrat’s Name Removed From A Building?

External links