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Richard Russell: A Featured Biography

Senator Richard Russell of Georgia
Richard Russell, Democrat from Georgia, served in the U.S. Senate for almost 40 years (1932–1971). During World War II Russell chaired a special committee that traveled extensively to observe the quality and effectiveness of war materiel under combat conditions. He chaired the Armed Services Committee during two major wars, from 1951 to 1953 and from 1955 to 1969, and was instrumental in boosting the defense budget. He authored the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and promoted the development of new forms of energy. Russell became known as a “senator’s senator” due to his mastery of Senate rules and procedures. As the leader of the Senate’s Southern Caucus, Russell often used his parliamentary skills to oppose civil rights legislation, including bills to ban lynching and to abolish the poll tax. In 1956 he co-authored the “Southern Manifesto” to oppose racial desegregation, and he led southern senators in their opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Respect for Russell’s legislative skills, even among his opponents, led to the Russell Senate Office Building being named in his honor in 1972.