Serving as Democratic whip when Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson resigned in 1961 to become vice president, Mike Mansfield was a logical choice to succeed Johnson. He was reluctant to become floor leader, however, being a Catholic at a time when the nation had just elected its first Catholic president. President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Johnson convinced him to take the job, and Mansfield served a record-setting 16 years as majority leader. His style of leadership, which shared power widely among senators, facilitated enactment of a profusion of legislation in the 1960s and '70s. He was particularly instrumental in guiding the strategy that broke a filibuster and allowed for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 1998, 21 years after leaving office, Mansfield returned to the Capitol to inaugurate the Leader's Lecture Series.
Everett McKinley Dirksen, after eight terms in the House of Representatives, upset the powerful incumbent Scott Lucas and won election to the Senate in 1950. Dirksen became Republican leader in 1959, a post he held until his death in 1969. Senators regarded him as an eloquent and persuasive leader who demonstrated great tactical skills. The press and public loved his seemingly endless supply of anecdotes. Dirksen proved to be an innovative minority leader, launching a series of weekly press conferences with the House Republican leader Charles Halleck—The Ev and Charlie Show. He also initiated the opposition response to the president's State of the Union message. Dirksen's influence was most keenly felt during the debate over the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Declaring that racial integration was "an idea whose time has come," Dirksen supported cloture to end the filibuster and thereby allow for final passage of the bill. Dirksen's contemporaries deemed him "the most powerful member of the Senate."
The fiercely independent Wayne Morse of Oregon, who set a filibuster record in 1953, was first elected to the Senate as a Republican. He broke with that party in 1952, leaving Democrats and Republicans evenly divided in the Senate. Symbolically, Morse moved a chair into the center aisle of the Senate Chamber for a day to show that he belonged to no party. Two years later, the Democratic leader, Lyndon Johnson, persuaded Morse to join the Democratic Conference, giving Democrats a slim majority. Throughout his 24-year Senate career, Morse retained his independent spirit, often confounding leaders of both parties. In 1964, though a proponent of the legislation, he challenged the Democratic leadership's strategy for passing the Civil Rights Act. That same year, Morse cast one of only two dissenting votes against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and subsequently became an unrelenting critic of the Vietnam War. Morse lost his reelection bid in 1968 but tried again for a Senate seat in 1972 and 1974―unsuccessfully. He was in the midst of that last campaign when he died on July 22, 1974.
California Republican Thomas H. Kuchel often played a key role in enacting legislation with far-reaching implications. Appointed to the Senate in 1953, Kuchel won a special election in 1954 and served 16 years. In 1959 he became Republican whip. The liberal Kuchel supported Medicare, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Interstate Highway Act, and was instrumental in establishing the Redwood National Park. As Republican whip, he served as co-floor manager for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, working alongside Democratic whip Hubert Humphrey to enact that landmark bill. As the conservative movement grew in the 1960s, Kuchel became distanced from the Republican Party. He was defeated in the 1968 Republican primary by conservative educator Max Rafferty, who lost the election to Democrat Alan Cranston. “Some of the votes I have cast I know have been very costly to me politically,” Kuchel said in his 1968 farewell address to the Senate. “I think it is . . . vital that the Senate of the United States lead public opinion instead of following it.”
Known as the “Happy Warrior,” Hubert Humphrey represented Minnesota in the Senate from 1949 to 1964, presided over the Senate as vice president from 1965 to 1969, and then returned to the Senate again in 1971. A dedicated advocate for civil rights, Humphrey gained national attention in 1948 for his powerful Democratic convention speech calling for full equality regardless of race, class, or religion. He served as floor manager for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Working closely with his Republican counterpart, Thomas Kuchel, Humphrey skillfully maneuvered that landmark legislation to passage. He also proposed creation of a Peace Corps, pressed for a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union, and sponsored the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment bill of 1978. Following his death on January 13, 1978, Humphrey was accorded the honor of lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda. In 2011 the Senate passed a special resolution to commemorate the centennial of Humphrey’s birth.