August 22, 2014
July 2 marked the fiftieth anniversary of one of the most important laws Congress has ever passed … the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The House overwhelmingly passed the bill, and with a northern and Democratic majority, the outcome wasn’t really in doubt. The Senate was another matter. While LBJ and the bill’s Senate floor manager, Hubert Humphrey, deserved a lot of credit, so did Senate Republican leader Everett Dirksen. He delivered northern Republicans needed to get to the total needed for cloture, or closing off debate. Half a century ago, it was sixty-seven, as opposed to the sixty needed today.
Any which way, Johnson, a Democrat, needed some Republican votes in the Senate. But he especially needed them because southern Democrats weren’t on his side. They were determined to filibuster or block the Civil Rights Act. Many of them were powerful committee chairs and had a lot of senatorial friends outside the South. Two of them were Nevada’s Alan Bible and Howard Cannon, who faced difficult choices.
From our perspective, the choices might not have seemed difficult. But while the Senate still runs in part on seniority, back then, personal relationships were more important. Bible and Cannon were close to LBJ, but they also were close to the southerners.
On the surface, Bible might have seemed more likely to go along with the president. They had become close when Johnson was Senate minority leader. He talked Bible into running for reelection after his first term in the Senate, when Bible planned to leave and go back to Nevada. In turn, Bible received some plum committee assignments.
But Bible had been in the Senate for nearly ten years when the Civil Rights Act came up. He had built ties to the southerners, who helped him on that mattered to Nevada. While the South used claims of states rights to fight civil rights legislation, Nevadans used similar claims to keep the federal government from interfering in the gaming industry. Remember that at the time, Nevada was the only state with legal gambling.
Cannon had more reasons to vote for cloture, especially that year. As Las Vegas city attorney, Cannon had told the city that it might be wise not to pass a civil rights ordinance, since he considered the Nevada Constitution unclear on the subject. But now he was up for reelection, and might need African American votes against a tough, popular opponent, then-lieutenant governor Paul Laxalt. Maybe, as lawyers will do, he simply represented his clients, and felt differently as a U.S. senator.
When the cloture vote came, Cannon was one of the last to vote. By the time he did, the Senate had the needed sixty-seven. The final cloture vote was seventy-one to twenty-nine, Cannon for and Bible against. Both of them voted for the final bill, which required a simple majority.
Then the House easily passed it. But Nevada’s lone vote was a no. Walter Baring, the state’s only congressman, was a Democrat, but he had broken with his party over John Kennedy’s New Frontier. He opposed civil rights legislation. And when he ran for reelection that year, in the Democratic primary, his campaign used that opposition to its benefit with voters who felt similarly, and Baring won another term. But the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was law, and Nevadans had played a variety of parts in it.
See discussion rules
|Sep 5, 2014 | The Beatles|
It's been a half century since the Beatles had a 'hard day's night,' right here in Las Vegas.
|Aug 22, 2014 | Civil Rights Act|
When the Civil Rights Act was passed a half century ago, not everyone within Nevada's political circles was onboard with it. The decision was not a simple one for some Nevada Senators.
|Aug 1, 2014 | Bob Bailey|
How much can one person accomplish? If you're like Bob Bailey, quite a bit. From show business to civil rights on the Strip, Here's Senator Richard Bryan with a look back at the life of Bob Bailey.
|Jul 11, 2014 | Remembering Bob Faiss|
Mixing law with the gaming industry seemed a natural fit for one Las Vegas attorney, who passed away recently. Here's a look back at the influence of attorney Bob Faiss on the gaming industry.
|May 16, 2014 | Viva Las Vegas|
"Viva Las Vegas" turns 50 in a few days. We'll hear how Las Vegas itself starred in the iconic movie, along side Elvis. Moviegoers got a taste of Southern Nevada and a song to go with it!
|May 9, 2014 | Sagebrush Rebels|
A rancher challenging federal authority over land rights in Nevada has been in the news recently, but it's not the first time the subject has been a hot topic. Remembering the "Sagebrush Rebellion" on Nevada Yesterdays.
|Apr 18, 2014 | Metro Battles Corruption and the Mob|
Efforts to drive organized crime out of Las Vegas, left one former Metro officer, Kent Clifford, with some controversies of his own.
|Mar 21, 2014 | Natalie Rittenhouse|
Family connections run deep for some pioneer families of Southern Nevada. Perhaps they aren't too well known these days. They should be. They are among the important pioneer families of southern Nevada.
|Mar 7, 2014 | Test Ban|
Strange as it may seem now, there was a time when detonating a nuclear bomb was healthy for Nevada's image.
|Feb 21, 2014 | Green Felt Jungle|
The pen is mightier than the roulette table? Some books over the years have tested that notion. Fifty years ago, a book about Las Vegas became a best-seller. But not everyone was happy with what the book had to say about the influence of organized crime on Las Vegas casinos.
|Jan 16, 2014 | Martin Luther King, Jr.|
Fifty years have gone by since Martin Luther King, Jr. made his way to Las Vegas, in a visit that had an impact. Local leaders had won the right to patronize once segregated casinos, but they hoped King would reinvigorate the local movement.
|Jan 3, 2014 | Treaty of Ruby Valley|
A treaty that was signed in the territory of Nevada 150 years ago is still raising questions. The Western Shoshone tribe has been offered tens of millions of dollars by the US government, but they say no thanks. In 1974, sisters Mary and Carrie Dann of Beowawe, became symbols of the tribes resistance.
|Dec 5, 2013 | Lon Simmons|
We take a look at how a legendary sports-broadcaster forged a path from Las Vegas to Candlestick Park. Switching from pitcher to broadcaster turned out to be a home run decision for Lon Simmons. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays.
|Nov 20, 2013 | JFK and Las Vegas Connections|
Elements of John F. Kennedy's ties to Las Vegas have been mixed in with the
puzzle-pieces surrounding his death. Las Vegas and Nevada were part of the orbit of the Kennedys, their allies, and their enemies. Senator Richard Bryan connects the dots on Nevada Yesterdays.
|Sep 20, 2013 | Constitution|
How about the great State of Washoe or Esmeralda? When residents of this territory considered statehood 150 years ago, it took more than one attempt to get them to agree on a name and on how much to tax the lucrative gold and silver mines.
|Sep 1, 2013 | Sawyer v. Sinatra|
It was around Labor Day 50 years ago, that Nevada's little black book caused some friction for Frank Sinatra. A mobster who was in the black book was seen in the Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe and Sinatra was part owner...
|Aug 2, 2013 | Dorothy Gallagher|
Dorothy Gallagher never gave up on access to higher education for people living in rural areas.
|Jul 12, 2013 | A Big Fight|
Some boxing matches in Las Vegas have carried more weight than just a heavyweight title.
|Jun 14, 2013 | Tarkanian, Part II|
UNLV's Runnin' Rebels were coached by a man who was thought to be something of a rebel himself.
|Jun 7, 2013 | Tarkanian, Part I|
To make it into the Basketball hall of fame, Jerry Tarkanian must have done something right.