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Richard Russell Jr.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Richard Russell Jr.
Richard B. Russell Jr.png
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
In office
January 3, 1969 – January 21, 1971
Preceded byCarl Hayden
Succeeded byAllen J. Ellender
Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations
In office
January 3, 1969 – January 21, 1971
LeaderMike Mansfield
Preceded byCarl Hayden
Succeeded byAllen Ellender
Chair of the Senate Committee on Armed Services
In office
January 3, 1955 – January 3, 1969
Leader
Preceded byLeverett Saltonstall
Succeeded byJohn C. Stennis
In office
January 3, 1951 – January 3, 1953
LeaderErnest McFarland
Preceded byMillard Tydings
Succeeded byLeverett Saltonstall
United States Senator
from Georgia
In office
January 12, 1933 – January 21, 1971
Preceded byJohn S. Cohen
Succeeded byDavid H. Gambrell
66th Governor of Georgia
In office
June 27, 1931 – January 10, 1933
Preceded byLamartine Griffin Hardman
Succeeded byEugene Talmadge
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
In office
1921–1931
Personal details
Born
Richard Brevard Russell Jr.

(1897-11-02)November 2, 1897
Winder, Georgia, U.S.
DiedJanuary 21, 1971(1971-01-21) (aged 73)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Parent(s)
RelativesRobert Lee Russell (brother)
Alma mater
ProfessionAttorney
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
UnitReserves
Battles/warsWorld War I

Richard Brevard Russell Jr. (November 2, 1897 – January 21, 1971) was an American politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as the 66th Governor of Georgia from 1931 to 1933 before serving in the United States Senate for almost 40 years, from 1933 to 1971. Russell was a founder and leader of the conservative coalition that dominated Congress from 1937 to 1963, and at his death was the most senior member of the Senate.[1][2] He was for decades a leader of Southern opposition to the civil rights movement.[3]

Born in Winder, Georgia, Russell established a legal practice in Winder after graduating from the University of Georgia School of Law. He served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1921 to 1931 before becoming Governor of Georgia. Russell won a special election to succeed Senator William J. Harris and joined the Senate in 1933.[4] He supported the New Deal[5] early in his Senate career but helped establish the conservative coalition of Southern Democrats. He was the chief sponsor of the National School Lunch Act, which provided free or low-cost school lunches to impoverished students.[6]

During his long tenure in the Senate, Russell served as chairman of several committees, and was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services for most of the period between 1951 and 1969. He was a candidate for President of the United States at the 1948 Democratic National Convention and the 1952 Democratic National Convention. He was also a member of the Warren Commission.[7]

Russell supported racial segregation and co-authored the Southern Manifesto with Strom Thurmond.[8] Russell and 17 fellow Democratic Senators, along with one Republican, blocked the passage of civil rights legislation via the filibuster. After Russell's protégé, President Lyndon B. Johnson, signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law,[9] Russell led a Southern boycott of the 1964 Democratic National Convention.[10] Russell served in the Senate until his death from emphysema in 1971.

Early life

Russell enrolled in the University of Georgia School of Law in 1915 and earned a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree in 1918.[11] While at UGA, he was a member of the Phi Kappa Literary Society.

Dominated by white conservatives, Democrats controlled state government and the Congressional delegation. The Republican Party was no longer competitive, hollowed out in the state following the effective disenfranchisement of most blacks by Georgia's approval of a constitutional amendment, effective in 1908, requiring a literacy test, but providing a "grandfather clause" to create exceptions for whites.[12]

Political career - Governor of Georgia, 1931–1933

Russell as governor
Russell as governor

As governor, Russell reorganized the bureaucracy, promoted economic development in the midst of the Great Depression, and balanced the state budget.[13]

Senate career, 1933–1971

Russell at first supported the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. In 1936, he defeated the demagogic former Governor Eugene Talmadge for the US Senate seat by defending the New Deal as good for Georgia.[14]

Russell and President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1963
Russell and President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1963

During World War II, Russell was known for his uncompromising position toward Japan and its civilian casualties. In the late months of the war, he held that the US should not treat Japan with more lenience than Germany, and that the United States should not encourage Japan to sue for peace.[15]

Russell's support for first-term senator Lyndon B. Johnson paved the way for Johnson to become Senate Majority Leader. Russell often dined at Johnson's house during their Senate days. But, their 20-year friendship came to an end during Johnson's presidency, in a fight over the 1968 nomination as Chief Justice of Abe Fortas, Johnson's friend and Supreme Court justice.[16][page needed]

In early 1956, Russell's office was continually used as a meeting place by Southern fellow senators Strom Thurmond, James Eastland, Allen Ellender, and John Stennis, the four having a commonality of being dispirited with Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 ruling by the US Supreme Court that said that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.[17]

In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy requested Russell place the Presidential wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns during an appearance at Arlington National Cemetery for a Memorial Day ceremony.[18]

Russell scheduled a closed door meeting for the Senate Armed Services Committee for August 31, 1961, at the time of Senator Strom Thurmond requesting the committee vote on whether to vote to investigate "a conspiracy to muzzle military anti-Communist drives."[19]

In late February 1963, the Senate Armed Services Committee was briefed by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara on policy in the Caribbean. Russell said afterward that he believed that American airmen would strike down foreign jets in international waters and only inquire on the aircraft’s purpose there afterward.[20]

In January 1964, President Johnson delivered the 1964 State of the Union Address, calling for Congress to "lift by legislation the bars of discrimination against those who seek entry into our country, particularly those who have much needed skills and those joining their families."[21] Russell issued a statement afterward stating the commitment by Southern senators to oppose such a measure, which he called "shortsighted and disastrous," while admitting the high probability of it passing. He added that the civil rights bill's true intended effect was to intermingle races, eliminate states' rights, and abolish the checks and balances system.[22]

Letter from Russell about Civil Rights Act

Although he had served as a prime mentor of Johnson, Russell and Johnson disagreed over civil rights. Johnson supported this as President. Russell, a segregationist, had repeatedly blocked and defeated federal civil rights legislation via use of the filibuster.[23]

Unlike Theodore Bilbo, "Cotton Ed" Smith, and James Eastland, who had reputations as ruthless, tough-talking, heavy-handed race baiters, Russell never justified hatred or acts of violence to defend segregation. But he strongly defended white supremacy and apparently did not question it or ever apologize for his segregationist views, votes and speeches. Russell was key, for decades, in blocking meaningful civil rights legislation intended to protect African Americans from lynching, disenfranchisement, and disparate treatment under the law.[24] After Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Russell (along with more than a dozen other southern Senators, including Herman Talmadge and Russell Long) boycotted the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.[25]

From 1963 to 1964, Russell was one of the members of the Warren Commission, which was charged to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963. Russell's personal papers indicated that he was troubled by the Commission's single-bullet theory, the Soviet Union's failure to provide greater detail regarding Lee Harvey Oswald's period in Russia, and the lack of information regarding Oswald's Cuba-related activities.[26][27]

In June 1968, Chief Justice Earl Warren announced his decision to retire. President Johnson afterward announced the nomination of Associate Justice Abe Fortas for the position. David Greenburg wrote that when Russell "decided in early July to oppose Fortas, he brought most of his fellow Dixiecrats with him."[28]

Russell was a prominent supporter of a strong national defense.[29] He used his powers as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1951 to 1969, and then as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee as an institutional base to gain defense installations and jobs for Georgia. He was dubious about the Vietnam War, privately warning President Johnson repeatedly against deeper involvement.[30]

A statue of Russell by Frederick Hart is in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building.
A statue of Russell by Frederick Hart is in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building.

Legacy

Russell was seen as a hero by many of the pro Jim Crow South. While undoubtedly a skilled politician of immense influence, his legacy is marred by his lifelong support of white supremacy. Russell publicly said that America was “a white man’s country, yes, and we are going to keep it that way.” He also said he was vehemently opposed to “political and social equality with the Negro.” Russell also supported poll taxes across the South and called President Truman's support of civil rights for black Americans an “uncalled-for attack on our Southern civilization."[31]

Russell has been honored by having the following named for him:

See also

References

  1. ^ root. "Richard Brevard Russell". www.nga.org. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  2. ^ "Sen. Richard B. Russell". The American Legion. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  3. ^ "Civil Rights Movement". Black History. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  4. ^ "William J. Harris biography". Genealogy Magazine. Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  5. ^ "The Great Depression and the New Deal (1929 to 1941)". U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Korea. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  6. ^ "National School Lunch Act". Food and Nutrition Service, USDA. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  7. ^ "Warren Commission – Introduction". National Archives. August 15, 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  8. ^ "Southern Manifesto introduced, March 12, 1956". Politico. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  9. ^ "LBJ signs landmark Civil Rights Act, July 2, 1964". Politico. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  10. ^ "The 1964 Democratic National Convention and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party – the DLG B". blog.dlg.galileo.usg.edu. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  11. ^ "Russell, Richard Brevard, Jr. – Biographical Information". bioguide.congress.gov. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  12. ^ "August 21: Georgia's Literacy Test". Today in Georgia History. Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting. 2011–2013. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  13. ^ "Richard B. Russell, Jr. Collection, Subgroup A: Georgia Legislative/Speaker of the House Papers". Archived from the original on June 11, 2010. Retrieved December 5, 2010.
  14. ^ Boyd, Tim S. R. (2012). Georgia Democrats, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Shaping of the New South. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. p. 35. ISBN 9780813061474.
  15. ^ "Correspondence between Richard Russell and Harry S. Truman, August 7 and 9, 1945, regarding the situation with Japan." Papers of Harry S. Truman: Official File. Truman Library
  16. ^ Laura Kalman (1990). Abe Fortas. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300046694. Retrieved October 20, 2008.
  17. ^ Woods, Randall (2006). LBJ: Architect of American Ambition. Free Press. p. 303. ISBN 978-0684834580.
  18. ^ "Russell to Honor Dead; Georgia Senator to Put Wreath at Tomb of Unknowns". New York Times. May 24, 1961.
  19. ^ "Sen. Thurmond Ask Probe of Plot to Muzzle". Yuma Sun Newspaper. August 30, 1961.
  20. ^ "U.S. Maps Tougher Policy In Caribbean". Sarasota Herald Tribune.
  21. ^ Johnson, Lyndon B. (January 8, 1964). "91 – Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union". American Presidency Project.
  22. ^ "South's Senators To Fight 'Rights'". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. January 9, 1964.
  23. ^ Oberdorfer, Don (March 13, 1965). "The Filibuster's Best Friend". Saturday Evening Post. 238 (5): 90. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  24. ^ Caro, 2002
  25. ^ Kornacki, Steve (2011-02-03) The "Southern Strategy," fulfilled, Salon.com
  26. ^ "Senator Russell's papers show he disagreed with Warren report". Rome News-Tribune. Vol. 150, no. 246. Rome, Georgia. AP. October 17, 1993. p. 6–A.
  27. ^ "HSCA Report, Vol. 11" (PDF). p. 14.
  28. ^ "The Republicans' Filibuster Lie". Los Angeles Times. May 3, 2005.
  29. ^ Gilbert C. Fite, Richard B. Russell, Jr., Senator From Georgia (1991) pp. 349–70.
  30. ^ "LBJ AND RICHARD RUSSELL ON VIETNAM". UVA Miller Center. May 27, 1964.
  31. ^ Zeitz, Joshua. "Why It's Time to Rename the Russell Office Building". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  32. ^ Rubin, Jennifer (August 29, 2018). "Republicans can't even agree to take a segregationist's name off a building". Washington Post.
  33. ^ "Facilities". September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  34. ^ "Georgia State Parks – Richard B. Russell State Park". gastateparks.org. Archived from the original on 30 June 2017. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  35. ^ "Richard B Russell Airport". Archived from the original on May 4, 2009.
  36. ^ "Senator Russell's Sweet Potato Casserole". My Food and Family.
  37. ^ "Senator Russell's Sweet Potato Casserole – Lost Recipes Found". lostrecipesfound.com.

Further sources

Primary sources

Scholarly secondary sources

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia
1930
Succeeded by
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Georgia
(Class 2)

1932, 1936, 1942, 1948, 1954, 1960, 1966
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Georgia
1931–1933
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee
1951–1953
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee
1955–1969
Succeeded by
Preceded by President pro tempore of the United States Senate
1969–1971
Succeeded by
Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee
1969–1971
U.S. Senate
Preceded by  U.S. senator (Class 2) from Georgia
1933–1971
Served alongside: Walter F. George, Herman Talmadge
Succeeded by
Honorary titles
Preceded by Dean of the United States Senate
January 3, 1969 – January 21, 1971
Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 28 July 2022, at 00:44
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