The Consequences of Northern Republican Opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964

The 1964 election was in many ways a watershed event in American politics. Although it was a landslide win for President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 itself was a year of some monumental changes in policy. The Economic Opportunity Act was passed that year, launching the War on Poverty, and the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, setting the United States on the policy of tackling employment discrimination as well as ending segregation. As it might be predicted, the vote was largely regional, with most of the North voting for and most of the South against. There was strong pressure to vote against the bill in the South, but there was strong pressure to vote for the bill in the North. In the House, the Civil Rights Act on final vote passed 289-126. The Republican vote on it was 136-35, with 14 of the “nay” votes coming from the South (the former Confederacy plus Kentucky and Oklahoma). There were also two Northern Republicans who cast a “pair” against.

August E. Johansen - Wikipedia
Rep. August Johansen of Michigan, one of the most consistent Northern Republican foes of civil rights legislation. He was defeated in 1964 after ten years in Congress.

Of the 23 Northern House Republicans who voted or paired against on the final vote, this is what happened to them:

H. Allen Smith, California – Reelected.

Del Clawson, California – Reelected.

Glen Lipscomb, California – Reelected.

James B. Utt, California – Reelected.

Bob Wilson, California – Reelected.

Patrick Martin, California – Defeated.

Charlotte Reid, Illinois – Reelected.

Earl Wilson, Indiana – Defeated.

H.R. Gross, Iowa – Reelected.

Ben F. Jensen, Iowa – Defeated.

George Meader, Michigan – Defeated.

August Johansen, Michigan – Defeated.

Victor Knox, Michigan – Defeated.

Durward G. Hall, Missouri – Reelected.

James F. Battin, Montana – Reelected.

Ralph Beerman, Nebraska – Defeated.

Louis Wyman, New Hampshire – Defeated.

Clarence E. Kilburn, New York – Retired.

Don Short, North Dakota – Defeated.

John Ashbrook, Ohio – Reelected.

E.Y. Berry, South Dakota – Reelected.

William Van Pelt, Wisconsin – Defeated.

William Henry Harrison, Wyoming – Defeated.

Of the 22 who were up for reelection in the North, half were defeated! In the Senate, the only Republican who had voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and was seeking to be elected was Edwin Mechem of New Mexico, who lost. This is, of course, on top of Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona being the Republican nominee, who voted against the Civil Rights Act and only won his home state and the Deep South. Incidentally, nearly everywhere Republicans gained in this election in the House was in the Deep South.

26 Northern Republicans who had voted for the act lost, and three Southern Republicans who had voted against lost. 21% of Northern Republicans who had voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and were up for reelection lost reelection as opposed to 50% of Northern Republicans who had voted against and were up for reelection. I’d say that’s a significant difference.


H.R. 7152. CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964.

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