Time: The Weekly Magazine

The September 14, 1962, issue of Time: The Weekly Magazine featured Senate Minority Leader Everett McKinley Dirksen on the cover. The accompanying 3,500-word story, “The Leader,” was based on reporting by Neil MacNeil, congressional correspondent for the magazine. He, along with Time writer Jeffrey Birnbaum, interviewed the Republican senator from Illinois for 10 hours.

September 14, 1962, issue of Time: The Weekly Magazine featured Senate Minority Leader Everett McKinley Dirksen on the coverThe Dirksen Congressional Center houses MacNeil’s collection. Although the interview notes do not survive, MacNeil filed more than 40 pages of reporting with his editors. They are reproduced at macneil_reports_emd.pdf.

Among other topics, MacNeil explores Dirksen’s transformation from “the fierce and brutal partisan” who joined the Senate in 1950 to the widely-respected Senate leader of the early 1960s. The reporter delves into Dirksen’s leadership philosophy and practice, citing examples from then-current legislation. He also reports on Dirksen’s relationship with President John Kennedy’s administration.

Some of the background information was not for attribution, including the following statement given to MacNeil by Bobby Baker, secretary of the Senate Democrats:

I’ve seen a lot of Republican leaders in the Senate in the past 20 years—the most dynamic period in the history of the world. Most of the Republican leaders were inflexible—[Charles] McNary, [Wallace] White, Ken Wherry, [Robert] Taft and [William] Knowland. Taking all things into consideration, Dirksen is by far the ablest leader they’ve had. He’s been a fantastic help to the Kennedy administration—and Kennedy knows it. If he was mean, he could be a spoiler, like Charlie Halleck [R-IN and House Minority Leader]. I’ve never dealt with a more honorable and fair man, a fellow who will go further than you yourself. He’s changed, and he’s developed into a real Senate man, he’s close to being the head of the club. When he came here, he was a sort of demagogue. But now, he’s totally unselfish. The Republicans had a crisis a few years back, a real crisis, over a fellow who thought he was entitled to go on the Appropriations Committee. Dirksen got off the committee. He got off the committee, one of the most powerful in Congress, to help a colleague out and solve the crisis. I like Sid Yates [Dirksen’s Democratic opponent in the 1962 Senate campaign in Illinois], but my party would be in a hell of a mess—Kennedy would be in a hell of a mess—if Dirksen gets defeated. Dirksen’s not an obstructionist. Charlie Halleck is a gut fighter, and if Dirksen acted like Halleck, Kennedy would be in real deep trouble.

Read MacNeil’s reporting at: macneil_reports_emd.pdf