Richard B. Russell, Jr. Collection, Subgroup A: Georgia Legislative/Speaker of the House PapersRichard B. Russell, Jr. Collection, Subgroup A: Georgia Legislative/Speaker of the House Papers

Richard B. Russell, Jr. Collection, Subgroup A: Georgia Legislative/Speaker of the House Papers

Descriptive Summary

Title: Richard B. Russell, Jr. Collection, Subgroup A: Georgia Legislative/Speaker of the House Papers
Creator: Russell, Richard B., (Richard Brevard), 1897-1971
Dates: 1927-1930
Extent: 2.0 boxes (.5 linear feet)
Collection Number: RBRL/001/RBR
Repository: Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies
Abstract: The Richard B. Russell, Jr. Collection, Subgroup A: Georgia Legislative/Speaker of the House Papers contains a small amount of material which reflects some of Russell's official activities as state representative and Speaker of the House. It includes correspondence, an Armistice Day speech, and an index file that Speaker of the House Russell maintained for House committee assignments.

Collection Description

Biographical Note

Richard Brevard Russell, Jr. held public office for fifty years as a state legislator, governor, and U.S. senator. The highlights of his legislative career included support of non-interventionist foreign policy, passage of the National School Lunch Program, securing funding for military installations and research facilities—including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—and his opposition to equal rights for African Americans, most evident in the filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Russell was born in Winder, GA on November 2, 1897, to Judge Richard B. Russell, Sr. and Ina Dillard Russell, a teacher. He was the fourth of thirteen children and the first son. He earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Georgia in 1918. After a brief period practicing law, Russell ran for and won a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives in 1920. In 1927, he was elected Speaker of the House, a position he held until 1931. In 1930, Russell ran for governor against a crowded field of seasoned candidates, but he was victorious thanks to a grassroots campaign and his skill in door-to-door canvassing. He took the oath of office in June 1931 but only spent eighteen months as governor before the death of Senator William J. Harris presented him with the opportunity to run for the United States Senate.

Russell entered the U.S. Senate in 1933 and served until his death in 1971. He became one of the Senate's most influential members. During his tenure, he served sixteen years as chair of the Armed Services Committee and held a seat on the Appropriation Committee that spanned his tenure in the Senate. Additionally, Russell held positions on the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, the Committee on Immigration, the Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee, and the Democratic Policy and Democratic Steering Committees.

Although he wielded considerable power through these committee appointments, Russell did not seek a position in the Senate leadership. Instead, he supported the ambitions of his protégé, Senator Lyndon Johnson from Texas for majority whip and later for majority leader. Russell ended his career as president pro tempore of the Senate—a post reserved for the member with the longest tenure in the Senate—making him third in the line of presidential succession.

Russell was known for his support of national defense, non-interventionist foreign policy, and his advocacy for agricultural interests (particularly those in Georgia). Russell opposed the United States entangling itself in international conflicts, especially in Vietnam and the Congo. In agricultural policy, the creation of the National School Lunch Program in 1946 was his most significant achievement for the nation's farmers. The program had the double effect of providing nutritious meals for schoolchildren while avoiding an economic crash by giving farmers a way to sell their surplus produce.

Russell's opposition to civil rights legislation overshadowed his many legislative achievements. He began contesting civil rights legislation as early as 1935 when he joined the other 17 senators in the Southern Bloc in voting against the Costigan-Wagner anti-lynching bill. Over three decades, Russell developed a reputation as a defender of “white traditions” and white supremacy.

During the Senate’s debate of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Russell led the Southern Bloc in a sixty-day filibuster in an attempt to prevent the bill’s passage, vowing to “resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races.” The filibuster came to an end only after a partnership of moderate Republicans and northern Democrats introduced a compromise bill that garnered the sixty-seven votes needed to invoke cloture and end the filibuster. The substitute civil rights bill passed on June 19 by a margin of 73-27.

Though Russell advised against attempts to resist the Civil Rights Act at the state level, he remained unapologetic in his criticism of it. In a speech given in the Senate on June 18, 1964, Russell sought to encourage the other members of the Southern Bloc, saying “…there will never come a time when it will be necessary for any one of us to apologize for his conduct or his courage.”

Russell left behind a list of political and legislative achievements and a reputation for mastery of legislative strategy. Despite his other distinctions, racial animus and obstructionism would become the most remembered aspects of his legacy. As biographer Gilbert Fite noted, Russell might well have achieved more, were it not for his racial views.

Scope and Content

Subgroup A. Georgia Legislative/Speaker of the House Papers contains a small amount of material which reflects some of Russell's official activities as state representative and Speaker of the House. It includes correspondence, an Armistice Day speech, and an index file that Speaker of the House Russell maintained for House committee assignments.

Organization and Arrangement

Subgroup A is organized into two series: I. Correspondence/Speech and II. Committee Appointments.


Administrative Information and Restrictions

Access Restrictions

None.

Preferred Citation

Richard B. Russell, Jr. Collection, Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Georgia.

Processing Notes

Clippings have been copied onto bond paper for protection of content.

User Restrictions

Library acts as "fair use" reproduction agent.

Copyright Information

Before material from collections at the Richard B. Russell Library may be quoted in print, or otherwise reproduced, in whole or in part, in any publication, permission must be obtained from (1) the owner of the physical property, and (2) the holder of the copyright. It is the particular responsibility of the researcher to obtain both sets of permissions. Persons wishing to quote from materials in the Russell Library collection should consult the Director. Reproduction of any item must contain a complete citation to the original.

Finding Aid Publication

Finding aid prepared by Russell staff, 2008.

Revisions made by Russell staff, 2010.


Related Materials

Access Points

Armistice Day--United States.
Correspondence.
Georgia. General Assembly. House of Representatives.
Legislators--Georgia.
Russell, Richard B., (Richard Brevard), 1897-1971

Related Collections in this Repository

Richard B. Russell, Sr. Papers

Russell Family Collection

Patience Elizabeth Russell Peterson Papers

Hugh Peterson, Sr. Papers

Herman E. Talmadge Collection

Lamartine G. Hardman Collection

Related Collections in Other Repositories

John C. Stennis Papers, Mitchell Memorial Library, Mississippi State University

Lyndon B. Johnson Papers, Lyndon B. Johnson Library

Richard B. Russell, Jr. Gubernatorial Papers, Georgia Department of Archives and History

U.S. Senate. Committee on Appropriations, Center for Legislative Archives, NARA

U.S. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, Center for Legislative Archives, NARA


Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

 

Subgroup A. Georgia Legislative/Speaker of the House Papers, 1927-1930

Extent: 2.0 boxes (.5 linear feet)
Scope and Content: On 8 July 1920, Richard B. Russell, Jr. announced that he was a candidate from Barrow County in the Democratic primary for the Georgia House of Representatives. At age twenty-three, he was elected and became one of the youngest members of that 198-person body. He received appointments to the committees on rules, constitutional amendments, public property, the University of Georgia and its branches, agriculture, labor, the judiciary and public highways. Russell quickly advanced in the political arena. He was elected Speaker pro tempore by the state House in 1923 and again in 1925. In 1927, he was elected Speaker of the House and re-elected in 1929.
This subgroup of papers contains a small amount of material which reflects some of Richard Russell's official activities as state representative and Speaker of the House. Two series include correspondence/speeches and committee assignment files. See also the description for Subgroup D. Winder Papers.



I. Correspondence/Speech, 1927, 1929

Extent: 2.0 folders
Scope and Contents note: Correspondence pertains to Russell's election as Speaker and to legislation for improving Georgia roads. Speech includes handwritten notes and text for an Armistice Day speech at Barnesville, Georgia.
BoxFolder
I.11Correspondence/Speech, 1927, 1929
I.12Armistice Day Speech - Barnesville, 1929



II. Committee Appointments, 1927-1930

Extent: 3.0 folders
Scope and Contents note: This series consists of the index file that Speaker of the House Russell maintained for House committee assignments. Arrangement is alphabetical by representatives' surnames.
BoxFolder
II.11A-L Card File
II.12Mc-Z Card File
II.13Letters from the Card File