Stephen Horn’s Notes on Senate Civil Rights Meetings, 1964

Those who respect the law and love sausage should watch neither being made.

Attributed to American writer and humorist Mark Twain


Rarely do historians have a contemporaneous account of the hour-by-hour, behind-the- scenes negotiations vital to deliver landmark legislation. Stephen Horn provides that insight for a crucial period, mid-February to mid-May 1964, when senators and their aides hammered out the bill that became the Civil Rights Act of 1964, often cited as the most important law of the 20 th century.

Horn served as legislative assistant to Senator Thomas Kuchel (R-CA). Senate Minority Leader Everett M. Dirksen (R-IL) had deputized Kuchel, his Republican whip, to chart the legislative strategy for passing the bill, a task that required persuading enough reluctant Republicans to join with the majority Democrats to overcome a filibuster against the measure led by southern Democrats. Horn was a member of a bipartisan group of legislative assistants from the offices of fourteen senators who led the fight for passage.

Horn’s 199 pages of exquisitely detailed notes capture the substance and tone of these bipartisan meetings. The entries contain much information on filibuster and cloture, various proposed amendments, trading of support for the bill for support of other legislation, and attempts to gain Dirksen’s endorsement. Also included are notes on meetings with Hubert H. Humphrey (D-MN), who led negotiations for the Democrats, and other senators and with organized labor, Black, civil rights, and religious groups; and on discussions with Nicholas DeB. Katzenbach, Deputy U.S. Attorney General, on the bill's many legal ramifications.

Everett Dirksen claimed on the eve of the cloture vote on June 10, 1964, that the civil rights bill was “an idea whose time has come.” True enough, but the idea was not sufficient in and of itself. Hard work, so precisely captured by Horn, gave birth to the idea in the proper legislative form.

Sample entry

During a discussion May 11, 1964, of a possible amendment to HR 7152, the House-passed version of the bill, regarding the Attorney General’s right to sue under Title VII:

Humphrey: We are premature on this one. We need to tell Dirksen, “Bring us cloture, then we will work on the amendments.” Here’s what I am worried about. This is the third week we have spent on the jury trial amendment. Russell said that we would vote last Wednesday. The New York and Washington papers are not the only clear air provided once one leaves Washington. There is a need for me to go to the leader [Mansfield]. I said in Des Moines that “the South is not what is holding up the bill. It is the West, Midwest, and East.” You are not going to change [Richard] Russell, [Lister] Hill, [John] Tower, and [John] Sparkman. Clarence [Mitchell], it is time for the NAACP and the AFL-CIO to put their fingers on 81 other senators around here. The plea should be, “Give us the right to vote.” People are getting disgusted. This is what Gordon Allott said some time ago. Out in the country the people wonder what we are doing. Here politics is money. Yesterday on TV, I noted that “it would be helpful if [Martin Luther] King, [James] Farmer, and [George] Meany got together and let them say, “Enough of adult delinquency in the Senate.” Every day we wait for cloture is nibbling away at the bill.”

Links to scanned copies of Horn’s log

File Name Page Range Date Range 1964
SHornLog1 Title Page - 27 February 14 – February 28
SHornLog2 28 - 41 March 3 – March 12
SHornLog3 42a - 73 March 16 – March 31
SHornLog4 74 - 91 April 1 -April 14
SHornLog5 92 - 121 April 16 -April 24
SHornLog6 122 - 151 April 27 – April 30
SHornLog7 152 - 169 May 4 -May 9
SHornLog8 170 – 199 May 11 – May 18