A Newsweek poll revealed that 40 percent of black people had taken part in a sit-in, marched in a protest, or picketed a store.
The Senate Commerce Committee held 22 days of hearings from July 1 to August 2 on S. 1732, a bill incorporating the public accommodations section of the administration's bill.
Attorney General Kennedy testified the first two days and said, “the law will set no precedent in the field of government regulation” and will “not seriously interfere with private property rights. ... Therefore the argument that it does should be rejected as a smoke-screen. ... The only right it will deny is the right to discriminate, to embarrass and humiliate millions of our citizens in the pursuit of their daily lives.”
Assistant Attorney General Burke Marshall secretly met with Representative William McCulloch in Ohio to persuade McCulloch to publicly support the administration bill.
McCulloch agreed on three conditions: (1) The administration would not allow the Senate to gut the bill as it had when acting on the 1957 civil rights bill; (2) McCulloch would have the sole power to approve any change that the administration might accept in the Senate, and (3) President Kennedy would publicly give the Republicans equal credit for passing the bill.
Marshall agreed to McCulloch’s terms. McCulloch’s demands for an uncompromising bill—his insistence on no softening of the measure in the Senate—all but assured that the administration would have to attempt something that had never before succeed in American politics: to break a civil rights filibuster in the Senate, rather than avoid one by watering down the bill.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) met in New York City with representatives of at least 50 civil rights groups to plan strategy to support a civil rights bill.
They wanted the bill to include (1) a Fair Employment Practices Commission with the right to hear discrimination charges against any employer and the authority to order legally enforceable remedies; (2) strengthened authority for the Attorney General to intervene in cases of alleged discrimination; and (3) coverage of all public accommodations, including small retail stores.
The groups agreed to set up a Leadership Conference office in Washington DC headed by activist Arnold Aronson. The lobbying team would consist of Joseph Rauh, vice chair of the Americans for Democratic Action; Andrew Biemiller, lobbyist with the AFL-CIO and a former member of Congress; Jack Conway, also of the AFL-CIO; Rev. Walter Fauntroy, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Washington office; and Clarence Mitchell, the NAACP’s Washington representative.
Chicago Tribune headline: “Wilkins Hits Dirksen for Rights Stand”
Senate Commerce Committee hearings continued with statements from Senators John Sherman Cooper (R-KT), Philip A. Hart (D-MI), and Kenneth B. Keating (R-NY).
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley led a “Freedom March” staged by the NAACP at the end of its 54th annual convention. The mayor was booed off the stage by protestors. Dirksen recorded his reaction with these words, hinting at the fine line demonstrators walked in their attempts to force the issue through Congress:
Along with all this, there are unending pronouncements, threats, fabrications, challenges, extreme adjectives, fury, and emotionalism. There are editorials which completely mistake the real issue. There are speeches which miss the point. There are bold statements that any Senator who fails to support cloture is an enemy of freedom, and equality. All this is a carefully calculated effort.
Senate Commerce Committee hearings continued with statements from Burke Marshall, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division, and others.
The president met with leaders of nearly 100 women’s organizations to ask for support of the civil rights bill.
Governor Ross Barnett (D-MS) charged that the Kennedy administration was aiding a “world Communist conspiracy to divide and conquer” the U.S. by inciting racial strife.
Rep. Joe D. Waggonner Jr. (D-LA) said "without apology" that he believed "it is neither illegal nor immoral to prefer the peaceful and orderly separation of the races, without discrimination or rancor of any kind," and said "pure equality is Communism."
Rep. Albert W. Watson (D-SC) said "The racial problem is preeminently a Southern problem; in the South it can only be solved by Southern people, both white and Negro. Legislation by an only slightly familiar Federal Government can only inflame an already very difficult situation."
Alabama’s governor George C. Wallace charged that the passage of a public accommodations bill would destroy free enterprise and a socialist state would result.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by segregationist James O. Eastland (D-MS), began hearings on President Kennedy's bill, S. 1731. The hearings ended in September, but the committee did not report a bill. Dirksen was a member of the committee.
The committee hearings consisted almost exclusively of Senator Sam Ervin (D-NC) reading into the record attacks on the bill. An expert on the Constitution, Ervin argued that the bill was “condemned by its manifest unconstitutionality.” He called it “as drastic and indefensible a proposal as has even been submitted to this Congress.”
Attorney General Kennedy testified before the committee several times. He also had to endure continuing hostile questioning from Ervin. Eastland refused to call any other witnesses who strongly favored the bill.
During Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Senator Thomas J. Dodd (D-CT) supported the controversial public accommodations provisions saying that by opening any facility for public business, “the owner necessarily abandons much of his right to privacy; …his property assumes a public character, a public purpose, and a public foundation.”
AFL-CIO president George Meany announced his support of the civil rights bill. Other organizations supporting the bill in whole or in part included the National Lawyers Guild, the Medical Committee for Civil Rights, and the National Student Association.
During Senate Commerce Committee hearings, baseball commissioner Ford Frick said that baseball had been almost totally integrated without any of the ill effects predicted. Commissioners of the American and the National Football Leagues said desegregation had posed no problem for professional football.
The Gallup Poll posed the following question to a sample of southerners: "Do you think the day will ever come in the South when whites and Negroes will be going to the same schools, eating in the same restaurants, and generally sharing the same public accommodations?” Eight-three percent responded, "Yes, will." Thirteen percent said "No, will not." The rest were undecided. The same question was asked in August 1957—only 45 percent responded "Yes."
The Joint Senate House Republican Leadership meeting included discussion about the March on Washington. When asked about the possibility of a Senate filibuster of the civil rights bill, Dirksen responded: “But unless all signs fail, this thing is not going to slide through the Senate very easily, I’m sure.” He also defended the right of demonstrators to assemble on August 28 and stated his intention to be in the Capitol, conducting legislative work.
During Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Attorney General Kennedy, who was permitted to speak for the first time, said no part of the bill was “of more vital and immediate significance” than the public accommodations section. He said,
Many millions of white people, especially in the North—people who until recently assumed that the Negro was satisfied with the great social progress of the past twenty years—are now faced with the startling discovery that it’s not true; that whatever progress Negroes have made is inadequate to their need for equality. And none of us can deny that their need is real; that their frustration is genuine. We have been unreasonable about it, or ignorant of it far too long.
Organizations seeking a stronger civil rights bill included the United Auto Workers, the American Veterans Committee, and the American Friends Service Committee.
The National Governors’ Conference met in Miami Beach, deliberated extensively on civil rights, and instructed its executive committee to give “top priority” to the issue.
During Senate Commerce Committee hearings, Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the NAACP, supported the public accommodations legislation and answered critics who said the provisions would violate states’ rights, who said blacks should be patient, and who said demonstrations had hurt the civil rights cause.
Robert W. Kastenmeier (D-WI) introduced HR 7702 to fill what civil rights groups considered gaps in the Kennedy administration bill, HR 7152.
The National Council of Churches, the National Catholic Welfare Conference, and the Synagogue Council of America stated, “The religious conscience of America condemns racism as blasphemy against God.”
Erwin N. Griswold, Dean of the Harvard Law School and a member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, said Congress had the authority to bar discrimination in public accommodations, either through the commerce clause or the 14th Amendment.
In a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee, Attorney General Kennedy said FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had reported to him that “we have no evidence that any of the top leaders of the major civil rights groups are Communist-controlled.”
James Farmer, national director of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), urged a broader bill to strengthen the section on voting, with state and local elections added.
Chairman Celler admonished Farmer, stating that such an addition would kill the bill. Farmer responded, “When we ask for one-half a loaf, we get one-quarter of a loaf. We ought to ask for what we want and then fight for it.”
The Pentagon directed commanders of military bases to work to end discrimination and authorized them to designate as off-limits to servicemen any areas near bases which practiced “relentless discrimination” against blacks.
A representative of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Leadership Conference urged Celler’s subcommittee to substitute provisions of H.R. 7702, the stronger civil rights bill introduced by Kastenmeier.
In a meeting with representatives of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Emanuel Celler agreed to demands to strengthen H.R. 7152, threatening the administration’s strategy to obtain bipartisan support and a bill that could survive Senate action unchanged.
Former president Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “We must eliminate every possibility of differentiating between political and economic rights on the basis of color.”
Mississippi State Senator John C. McLaurin accused Attorney General Kennedy of “deliberately white-washing” alleged connections between communism and leaders of the civil rights movement. McLaurin said that Kennedy’s July 25 letter to the Senate Commerce Committee denying any evidence of such ties was “the most brazen cover-up ever perpetuated on the American people.”