Richard B. Russell, Jr., Senator from Georgia

By Gilbert C. Fite | Go to book overview

10
Russell and Postwar America

By the end of World War II, Richard Russell was an emerging leader in the U.S. Senate. He was still Georgia's junior senator and worked somewhat in the shadow of Senator George, but his abilities and leadership were being increasingly recognized both in Washington and beyond. In some instances, he was receiving national recognition for his work, especially in agriculture, but mainly he was considered a regional spokesman on domestic policies. Looking at Russell's first ten years in Washington, Ralph Smith of the Atlanta Journal's Washington bureau wrote that he was one of "the abler and more influential" members of the Senate. Since only nineteen senators were senior to him in service, some of his colleagues viewed him as a kind of senior statesman even though in 1945 he was only forty-seven years old.

At middle age, Russell appeared to be everything people imagined a southern gentleman to be. He was courteous, modest, usually even- tempered, considerate, and charming. He commonly dressed in a blue serge suit that sometimes looked a bit worn. His early baldness had become pronounced by the 1940s. When he was outside, he generally wore a felt hat. As his hair receded and gradually disappeared, his nose appeared sharper and his ears larger. One writer thought he looked like everybody's favorite uncle. He was usually smoking a cigarette, a habit he had begun as an early teenager. It was not uncommon for him to smoke two packs or more a day. Except for the health of his mother, Russell had few worries. He was satisfied with his life and felt especially privileged to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Although Russell had not desired the position, by 1945 he had gradually replaced Senator Tom Connally of Texas as head of the southern caucus. Southern senators had turned to Russell more and more for leadership in the battle against the growing campaign for civil rights. They respected his abilities, his knowledge of Senate rules, his organiza

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