Flashback Friday: Senator George Smathers on the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Florida Senator George Smathers was a confidant of three Presidents, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. Having served with all three in Congress, Smathers became a hot item around Washington. The Senator was also for much of his tenure one of the most influential Democrats back home in Florida. His rise to the Senate in the divisive and toxic 1950 US Senate Primary where the moderately conservative Smathers upset the New Deal liberal incumbent Claude Pepper. Smathers won with the backing of Florida’s business community and the liberal use of red-baiting to describe Pepper who was an iconic star among the backers of the New Deal throughout the country.

Smathers in 1964 joined the Southern Democratic filibuster of the Civil Rights Act. Every week Smathers recorded a report on video to be sent back to Florida and this is a particularly interesting one for those who are fascinated by the legislative fight and tactics of both sides in the Civil Rights debate.  For years I’ve studies the techniques Richard Russel’s southerners used to conduct the filibusterer and how LBJ maneuvered to have cloture invoked and the bill passed against the odds. Content is from Florida Memory.


One comment

  1. […] former US-Senator and then-US Congressman Claude Pepper, but his campaign emulated the tactics of George Smathers who held the seat and was retiring from the US Senate. In fact Smathers, a close friend of Richard […]


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