The Joint Senate House Republican Leadership meeting included discussion of civil rights. In the press conference following, Dirksen was asked if he would support the bipartisan compromise bill produced by the House. The senator repeated his preference for a voluntary approach to public accommodations “where you don’t give the Attorney General power to employ injunctive relief.” With regard to the other seven titles “of the original bill, I said—with some refinement—‘I think I could go along with that.’”
President Kennedy, at a press conference, complained that Congress had not yet passed either the civil rights or the tax cut bills.
President Kennedy’s press conference (video)
Although the House Judiciary Committee had approved the bipartisan compromise civil rights bill on October 29, southern Democrats on the committee stalled the writing of the official report of the bill until November 20.
The Judiciary Committee formally reported the bipartisan bill (HR 7152, H Report 914). Chairman Celler asked House Rules Committee Chairman Howard W. Smith (D-VA) to schedule an early hearing on a rule for floor debate on HR 7152. But Smith, an opponent of civil rights legislation, showed no signs of planning action.
Howard W. Smith (D-VA)
The Joint Senate House Republican Leadership meeting included discussion of civil rights. In the subsequent press conference, Dirksen said:
Kennedy has been guilty of two major blunders.
First, he proposed that taxes be cut while he increased Federal deficit spending. This unprecedented proposal not only met heavy opposition in Congress, but reliable samples of public opinion showed the American people were also opposed to a tax cut without a cut in spending.
Second, the President, who had promised major civil rights legislation in 1961, failed to live up to his promise. It was not until June 19, 1963 that he submitted a civil rights program, only after the crisis of demonstrations and violence forced his hand. Then he expected Congress to act in a few months on a program he had delayed for two and one half years.
Historically, the passage of civil rights legislation is a long, drawn-out affair. This is because many members of Mr. Kennedy’s own political party are opposed to civil rights legislation. Had the President kept his campaign pledge and sent his program to Congress in 1961, new civil rights statutes would have been on the books before demonstrations and violence were ever precipitated.
President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
At 5:55 p.m., Lyndon Johnson called Whitney Young, executive director of the National Urban League, to seek his advice about moving civil rights legislation through Congress.
In an interview with NBC three days after the assassination, Dirksen said that Republicans would work well with the new president: “We have been friends over a long period of time . . . and we always managed somehow to compose our differences and at the same time make the points, so far as our party responsibility was concerned.”
When asked about civil rights legislation, Dirksen recalled the apocryphal story of a man who broke into author Phillip Brooks’s study, saw him pacing up and down, and asked, “What’s the matter with you?” Brooks replied, “I’m in a hurry but God isn’t.” The lesson for Dirksen was “to take our time because only by hewing out on the anvil of discussion do you get solid and durable results.”
Johnson addressed 35 of the nation’s governors in Room 274 of the Old Executive Office Building: “We have to do something to stop that hate, and the way we have to do it is to meet the problem of injustice that exists in this land, meet the problem of inequality that exists in this land, meet the problem of poverty that exists in this land, and the unemployment that exists in the land.”
“Remarks to State Governors After President Kennedy’s Funeral”
At 9:20 p.m., Johnson called Martin Luther King, Jr., to pledge his support for civil rights legislation.
President Lyndon Johnson moved into the Oval Office.
12:30 p.m. In an address before a Joint Session of Congress, Johnson renewed the call for passage of a civil rights bill: "No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long." The new president began intense lobbying with Congress members and activists.
Lyndon Johnson’s Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress (audio)
Richard Bolling (D-MO), a liberal member of the Rules Committee, introduced a resolution to dislodge the bill from Rules. Under House procedures, it was then possible for Judiciary Committee Chairman Celler, on December 9, to file a petition to discharge the Rules Committee from further consideration of the rule, and, in effect, bring the bill to the floor.
On the afternoon after Thanksgiving, President Johnson began to meet with civil rights leaders to reassure them of his commitment to civil rights. He met with Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the NAACP, at 12:30 p.m.