Steve Flowers Weekly ColumnRickey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: Feb 11 2014 9:35 AM
Over the years some of you have inquired about the use of the filibuster in the halls of the U.S. Congress and Senate. The word itself is not something that the average citizen is familiar with or totally knowledgeable of its meaning. A filibuster is simply a fancy word for talking a piece of legislation to death. It is a dilatory tactic that senators use to delay a vote on a bill and hopefully tire out the proponents of a prospective law.
The filibuster is most times associated with the Senate. Under the parliamentary rules of both the U.S. Senate and the Alabama State Senate, the length of time that a senator can debate a bill is longer than the time limits allowed in the House of Representatives. Therefore, the filibuster is primarily orchestrated in the Senate. Our forefathers designed these rules to allow the Senate to be the more deliberative body. They wanted the upper chamber to be more like the British House of Lords.
The ability to filibuster has long been a part of Senate history. The best depiction of the senate filibuster is the scene portrayed by Jimmy Stewart filibustering for hours on the floor of the U.S. Senate in the famous movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
The legendary South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond holds the record for the longest talk-a-thon on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Thurmond stood on his feet for a talking record of 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act. Some of the topics he used in his historic filibuster were historic documents. He read from and recited the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and President George Washington’s farewell address.
The South has had some legendary and colorful political characters. Georgia had Gene Talmadge. Louisiana had Huey Long. Mississippi had Theodore Bilbo. We had Wallace and Folsom. Strom Thurmond is South Carolina’s contribution to the southern political folklore of our greatest politicians. Indeed, none of the above can match Strom’s endurance and longevity in the southern political arena.
Strom was born in 1902 in Edgefield, South Carolina. This small hamlet had amazingly produced several South Carolina governors before Strom. The most famous of which was the legendary populist “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman.
Strom studied at Clemson University and was first a teacher and superintendant of education. He then became a lawyer and quickly became a Circuit Judge. In 1947, he was elected Governor of South Carolina. He became a national figure a year later. In 1948, when Harry Truman insisted on promoting civil rights as a major plank in the Democratic Party platform, most of the southern delegates walked out of the Democratic Convention. They joined hands and created the Dixiecrat Party. Gov. Strom Thurmond became the presidential candidate of the Dixiecrat ticket. Thurmond and the Dixiecrats carried the Deep South states. However, Truman prevailed over Republican Thomas Dewey and captured the White House.
Strom was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1954. In 1964, he led the Republican Revolution in the South. His change to the Republican Party paved the way for the South’s transition to the Republican Party. He literally unscrewed his desk from the senate floor, picked it up and moved it from the Democratic side of the aisle to the Republican side of the aisle. His dramatic move was the beginning of the end of the Democratic South. The rest is history.
His ability to pick up and move a 200-pound antique senate desk illustrated his uncommon energy and legendary fitness. Strom did hundreds of sit-ups and pushups every day. He neither smoked nor drank. He did, however, like women. He fathered children into his mid 70’s and had a penchant for fondling women in the senate elevator.
Strom served as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. His tenure on the Armed Services Committee, coupled with his incomparable seniority allowed him to bring home the bacon to South Carolina.
He retired from the U.S. Senate in 2012 after having served a remarkable 48 years. Strom Thurmond was the oldest person to have served in Congress and was a Senate member longer than anyone else in U.S. history. He died at the age of 101 in his hometown of Edgefield.
See you next week.