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LBJ Goes for Broke

LBJ Goes for Broke

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“Mr. President,” Lyndon Johnson said, “I ask for the yeas and nays.”

For a time, to those in the galleries, the vote may have seemed to be going against the Leader. The first two senators called—Aiken and Allott—responded “Nay,” and at the end of twenty- five names, with the roll just finishing the Ds, the tally was 16 to 9 against the amendment. But Johnson, sitting at his desk with the smudged tally sheet in front of him, wasn’t worried. He knew what was coming—and, with the start of the Es, it came. “Eastland?” Aye. “Ellender?” Aye. “Ervin?” Aye. By the time the clerk reached the Ms, the ayes were ahead—and so many of the Ms were from the MountainStates and the Northwest. “Magnuson?” Aye. “Malone?” Aye. “Mansfield?” Aye. “Murray?” Aye. Shortly after midnight—at 12:19 a.m. on August 2—Nixon announced that the amendment was approved, by 51 votes to 42.

On August 29, the Senate passed the 1957 Civil Rights Act. The vote was 60 for and 15 against. President Dwight Eisenhower signed the historic bill into law on September 9.

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