Everett McKinley Dirksen (January 4, 1896 - September 7, 1969) was a Republican U.S. Congressman and Senator from Illinois. His personal conviction and political courage helped pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, raising civil rights legislation above the state level, where it had remained blocked for decades.Pragmatic and broadly non-partisan, he shifted from being a major Republican critic of Truman and confidant of Eisenhower to become an ardent Republican supporter of LBJ.
Dirksen was born in Pekin, Illinois - about 120 miles southwest of Chicago, Illinois - where he grew up on a small farm. He served in the United States Army during World War I. His political career began in 1927, when he was elected to the Pekin city council.
After recovering, he was elected to the Senate in 1950. His canny political skill, rumpled appearance, and convincing, if sometimes flowery, overblown oratory, made his national reputation, and eventually brought him to the position of Minority Leader. He held that position until his death following cancer surgery on September 7, 1969 at Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, DC.
He is most often remembered for the quote: "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you're talking real money". Unfortunately, hard evidence that he actually ever made this remark has yet to be found.
At the vote for closure on the filibuster against the Civil Rights Act, Dirksen had this to say
- "Victor Hugo wrote in his diary substantially this sentiment, 'Stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come.' The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing of government, in education, and in employment. It must not be stayed or denied."