A bomb exploded at the Birmingham home of Arthur Shores, a local black activist; one man was killed and more than a dozen injured in the riot that followed.
The House Ways and Means Committee approved the president’s tax cut bill, 17-8, removing the obstacle to marking up the civil rights bill.
The Kennedy administration wanted the tax cut enacted into law before the civil rights bill. There was a perpetual fear that the Republicans might make a deal with the southern Democrats on both bills. The Republicans would vote against the civil rights bill in return for southern Democrats helping to vote down the tax cut. In that way, the two seemingly unrelated bills were linked.
At 2:30 p.m., Celler's House Judiciary Subcommittee No. 5 began markup of HR 7152.
Markup is a process by which a bill is read sentence-by-sentence by a clerk. As each section is read, members can offer amendments to add, revise, or delete language. Each amendment is discussed and voted on by a voice vote, a show of hands, or a roll call. After all the sections have been considered, the bill (as amended) is put to a final vote by the chairman. If this process occurs in a subcommittee, the bill, if approved, goes to the full committee which, again in closed session, can accept the subcommittee measure in its entirety, completely reject it, amend it, or simply not act on it at all.
Chairman Celler intended to report out a bill much stronger than the president’s for three reasons. First, a strong bill would maintain his credibility with civil rights leaders. Second, he left himself room to grant concessions to conservatives during the full committee markup, thereby giving them cover with their constituents and maintaining their friendship. Third, although he would trade away a portion of the bill, he would receive credit for bringing a decent bill, one that stood a chance of passing.
Alabama Governor George Wallace backed down and permitted integration of public schools after President Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard.
A confidential source provided the Chicago office of the FBI with a leaflet advertising a “March for Civil Rights” scheduled to begin at Dirksen’s office in the Old Post Office Building on September 12. FBI agents anticipated a crowd of from 5,000 to 10,000. When the appointed time came, however, only about 900 protestors marched through the Chicago loop.
Dirksen met with representatives of ten civil rights groups in the Pick-Congress Hotel lobby after flying in from Washington to address the National Federation of Republican Women. “I have talked with Negro leaders for many years and I have heard Attorney General Kennedy testify in the Senate, and I have heard nothing yet that changes my position,” he told them.
Chicago Tribune headline: “900 March, Picket; Dirksen Won’t Budge”
Four young African-American girls were killed in a church bombing in Birmingham. Twenty other youngsters were injured. Rioting killed two more children. It was the 21st time in eight years that blacks had been the victims of bombings in the city; like the other instances, the September 15 crime went unsolved.
“The Birmingham Church Bombing: Bombingham”
“Birmingham Church Bombing”
President Kennedy issued a statement expressing outrage and grief over the Birmingham bombings:
I KNOW I speak on behalf of all Americans in expressing a deep sense of outrage and grief over the killing of the children yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama. It is regrettable that public disparagement of law and order has encouraged violence which has fallen on the innocent. If these cruel and tragic events can only awaken that city and State—if they can only awaken this entire Nation—to a realization of the folly of racial injustice and hatred and violence, then it is not too late for all concerned to unite in steps toward peaceful progress before more lives are lost.
The Negro leaders of Birmingham who are counseling restraint instead of violence are bravely serving their ideals in their most difficult task—for the principles of peaceful self-control are least appealing when most needed.
Assistant Attorney General Burke Marshall has returned to Birmingham to be of assistance to community leaders and law enforcement officials—and bomb specialists of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are there to lend every assistance in the detection of those responsible for yesterday's crime. This Nation is committed to a course of domestic justice and tranquility—and I call upon every citizen, white and Negro, North and South, to put passions and prejudices aside and to join in this effort.
“Statement by the President on the Sunday Bombing in Birmingham"
Dirksen met with religious leaders about civil rights and was photographed with them.
Martin Luther King Jr. and several black leaders from Birmingham met with President Kennedy. King told the president, “The real problem we face is this. The Negro community is about to reach a breaking point.” The president maintained that the administration had no legal grounds for sending troops.
The president told a group of white civic leaders from Birmingham that he was powerless to curtail black demonstrations. “It may be the feeling in Birmingham that this administration can move these people in and out,” the president said. “I’m just telling you flatly that we can’t do it.” When asked if the demonstrations would imperil the civil rights bill, Kennedy responded:
I think that probably we’ll get through it, as we do in most … But it will take a lot of action by the church groups—Negro and white—and I think we’ll get through it. I think this bill, I think is very important because I think it’s going to give us a good deal, a breathing spell for many years. If we don’t get it by, there’s going to be demands for more legislation next year. And I think you’ll find this bill, like a lot of other bills which you dread, that it isn’t going to be very bad. That’s my view and it will be very helpful.
Dirksen recalled that during this week he met with black comedian and activist Dick Gregory for a half an hour. When Gregory questioned him, Dirksen said, “Give me and those who share my views at least the benefit of conscience and conviction in approaching the matter, and you approach it in the same fashion.”
Senate Majority Leader Mansfield and Minority Leader Dirksen began efforts to extend the life of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. They announced their intention to offer an amendment to H.R. 3369 to make the commission a permanent agency and expand its jurisdiction.
Mansfield and Dirksen, facing a southern filibuster, agreed to modify their amendment to extend the life of the Civil Rights Commission by removing the section calling for an increase in the commission’s jurisdiction.
The full House passed the Kennedy tax cut bill, so House Judiciary chair Celler moved to bring H.R. 7152 out of his subcommittee.
House Subcommittee No. 5 tentatively approved a more far-reaching civil rights measure than the administration had proposed, however. In particular, Titles II (public accommodations), III (desegregation of public facilities), and VIII (current Title VIII to be replaced with one increasing the powers of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) were strengthened. [See October 2]
According to one observer, “From the Kennedy administration’s point of view, the subcommittee was completely out of control.” Too liberal a bill might not pass in the House and certainly would fail in the Senate.
Dirksen appeared on ABC’s Issues and Answers and responded to questions on civil rights. With regard to his continuing opposition to Title II and to black complaints that he favored commercial interests above human rights, he said, “My job as legislator is to think not about one segment or one section or one group, it is to think about the interests of all of the people of this country.” He grounded his opposition to Title II in the Constitution and in an 1883 Supreme Court decision denying Congress the authority to regulate public accommodations under the 14th Amendment. He explained that, in his view, the Constitution would be imperiled if property were subject to federal intrusion on the scale contemplated by the bill.
Senate debate over the Mansfield-Dirksen proposal to extend the life of the Civil Rights Commission began.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued its third biennial report to the president on civil rights problems. The unanimous report dealt with voting, education, employment, housing, justice, health facilities and services, urban areas, and the armed forces.
Despite expressing some hopefulness about the future, the commission warned, “The present conflict has brought about some progress, but it has also created the danger that white and Negro Americans may be driven even further apart and left again with a legacy of hate, fear and mistrust.”
President Kennedy voiced frustration with the civil rights purists when meeting with the Rev. Eugene Carson Blake of the National Council of Churches. “The fact of the matter is, as you know, that a lot of these people would rather have an issue than a bill,” the president said. “But, as I said from the beginning, to get a bill, we have got to have bipartisanship.”
The key to bipartisanship, to getting enough Republican support in the House, was Bill McCulloch, who could deliver 60 votes.