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Senator Dirksen was instrumental to the passage of civil rights legislation in 1957, 1960, 1964, 1965, and 1968. Dirksen crafted the language for the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which prohibited discrimination in housing. He fine-tuned the language of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, which helped break the filibuster of the Democrat senators. He borrowed justifying language from the diary of Victor Hugo and said: “it was an idea whose time had come.” Dirksen argued that a law aimed at ending discrimination by hotels, restaurants, and other business employers met the standard set by Hugo.
When President Johnson signed the bill, he handed the first pen to Dirksen as a token of his appreciation for his critical role in getting the bill passed into law.
Author: Frances Rice