Flashback Friday: Civil Rights, Southern Manifesto and Voting Rights in Florida

In light of recent Civil Rights related controversies a look back at some of the sorry history of Florida members of Congress during the Civil Rights era.

The Southern Manifesto (1956) from Florida. According to the official US House of Representatives site:

” Howard Smith of Virginia, chairman of the House Rules Committee, introduced theSouthern Manifesto in a speech on the House Floor. Formally titled the “Declaration of Constitutional Principles,” it was signed by 82 Representatives and 19 Senators—roughly one-fifth of the membership of Congress and all from states that had once composed the Confederacy. It marked a moment of southern defiance against the Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka (KS) decision, which determined that separate school facilities for black and white school children were inherently unequal. The Manifesto attacked Brown as an abuse of judicial power that trespassed upon states’ rights. It urged southerners to exhaust all “lawful means” to resist the “chaos and confusion” that would result from school desegregation. Smith had cooperated with several Senators to develop the Manifesto, and Walter F. George of Georgia introduced it in the other chamber.”

Florida:

  • Charles Edward Bennett (D) (Jacksonville)
  • James A. Haley (D) (Sarasota)
  • Albert Herlong, Jr. (D) (Leesburg)
  • D.R. “Billy” Matthews (D) (Gainesville)
  • Paul G. Rogers (D)   (West Palm Beach)
  • Robert L. F. Sikes (D)  (Pensacola)

Non-Signatories:

  • William C. Cramer (R) (St Petersburg)
  • Dante Fascell (D)  (Miami)

Senate

  • George A. Smathers (D-Florida) (Miami)
  • Spessard Holland (D-Florida)  (Lakeland)

It is worth mentioning that despite his poor record on Civil Rights, Senator Spessard Holland was the primary sponsor of a constitutional amendment to ban the poll tax. The feeling among many historians is that he was motivated about protecting poor whites from the planter class and Holland from Polk County did battle with the North Florida/Jacksonville aristocracy in the state that descended from the planter class in Alabama, Georgia and North Florida.

As noted before these were the votes on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965:

Full votes of the Florida Delegation for both momentous pieces of legislation is listed below.

Civil Rights Act of 1964 Final Passage

Florida Reps
NAY   D Sikes, Robert FL 1st
NAY   D Bennett, Charles FL 2nd
AYE   D Pepper, Claude FL 3rd
NAY   D Fascell, Dante FL 4th
NAY   D Herlong, Albert FL 5th
NAY   D Rogers, Paul FL 6th
NAY   D Haley, James FL 7th
NAY   D Matthews, Billy FL 8th
NAY   D Fuqua, Don FL 9th
NAY   D Gibbons, Sam FL 10th
NAY   R Gurney, Edward FL 11th
NAY   R Cramer, William FL 12th

Senate

NAY   D    Holland, Spessard FL

NAY   D    Smathers, George FL

NOTES:

On the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Claude Pepper was the only Democratic Congressman from south of Nashville and east of Beaumont, Texas to vote for the legislation. Outside the Texas delegation which was split heavily on Civil Rights, the south voted as a bloc against the measure.

 

Voting Rights Act of 1965

Florida Reps
NAY   D Sikes, Robert FL 1st
AYE   D Bennett, Charles FL 2nd
AYE   D Pepper, Claude FL 3rd
AYE   D Fascell, Dante FL 4th
AYE   D Herlong, Albert FL 5th
AYE   D Rogers, Paul FL 6th
NAY   D Haley, James FL 7th
NAY   D Matthews, Billy FL 8th
NAY   D Fuqua, Don FL 9th
AYE   D Gibbons, Sam FL 10th
NAY   R Gurney, Edward FL 11th
AYE   R Cramer, William FL 12th

Senate

NAY   D    Holland, Spessard FL

AYE    D    Smathers, George FL

Notes:

Florida had the most yes votes of any southern state except Texas where Civil Rights was never the type of issue as it was in the rest of the South and large numbers of politicians in Texas openly advocated for Civil Rights measures. But this vote indicates that by 1965, unlike the 1950s and early 1960s, Florida was truly becoming a “new south” state.

One comment

  1. Dorothee Custer · · Reply

    And Texas has dug deep into the right!

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