Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Scott Lucas, Everett Dirksen; and the 1950 Senate Election in Illinois

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Scott Lucas, Everett Dirksen; and the 1950 Senate Election in Illinois

Article excerpt

Senate Majority Leader Scott Lucas, a Democrat, was at the height of his power in 1950. After a rocky start, he had become a fairly effective Majority Leader, and could be expected to continue to grow in the job. An ambitious man, 58 years old, who had a national reputation and had been in the running for the Vice Presidential nomination in the past, he could easily have harbored hopes for election to higher office in 1952. First, however, he needed to win re-election to his Senate seat. This was rarely a simple matter in Illinois. It was made more difficult by the fact that Republican Everett Dirksen was running against him. Dirksen had acquired an excellent reputation in the House of Representatives, from which he had recently retired, and he was a superb campaigner.

Both candidates had impressive backgrounds. Scott Lucas (18921968) was born on a farm in west central Illinois! He served as State's Attorney for Mason County, commander of the Illinois Department of the American Legion, and chairman of a State Tax Commission before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1934.2 In 1938 he won election to the U.S. Senate, and in 1944 he was easily re-elected. He had made his way up the Senate ranks relatively quickly, becoming Minority Whip in 1947, then Majority Leader in 1949.3 Everett Dirksen (1896-1969) was born in Pekin, a town on the Illinois River not far from Lucas's birthplace. Dirksen served overseas for 17 months during World War I, joined the American Legion in 1922, was a businessman for a time, and served as Commissioner of Finance for Pekin from 1926 to 1930. Between 1933 and 1949, he represented the 16th Illinois District in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1949 he retired from the House because of a serious problem with his eyes, from which, later, he completely recovered. According to the Washington Post, he was "one of the most powerful and highly esteemed leaders in the House."' He was in many respects like Lucas-both men were attorneys, both belonged to the American Legion, both were physically big, and both had known real poverty when they were young. They had even served in the House of Representatives together for four years, often voting together. Furthermore, they had long been friends. It had been at Lucas's urging that Dirksen had joined the Legion.' However, journalist Neil MacNeil wrote in Dirksen: Portrait of a Public Man that while the two men were similar in many ways, they differed greatly in style. Lucas was a polished, handsome figure who wore costly suits. He was also a bit "stand-offish," and had "the bearing of a statesman burdened with the cares and responsibilities of great office." Furthermore, he had "a gentle irony in his voice and the suggestion of the sardonic in his words." By contrast, Dirksen had "a rumpled, 'just folks"' style.6

In his autobiography Dirksen wrote that, as he considered whether or not to run, in early 1949, he knew Lucas had decided to run for re-election again. He regarded Lucas as a formidable candidate-popular in Illinois, and enjoying the support of President Truman (1884-1972), Senator Paul Douglas (1892-1976), Governor Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965), and the Cook County Organization7 Nevertheless, by April 1949, Dirksen had decided to run for Lucas's seat.8 His campaign manager was Harold Rainville of Chicago, who had worked in Richard Lyons's unsuccessful 1938 campaign for Senator (Lucas had beaten him) and in Dwight Green's successful campaign for Illinois Governor in 1940.9

Around the second week of September 1949, Dirksen paid a visit to Robert McCormick (1880-1955), the archconservative publisher of the Chicago Tribune. Dirksen's wife Louella described the encounter in her book The Honorable Mr. Marigold, My Life With Everett Dirksen, published in 1972. According to Louella Dirksen, McCormick said that in exchange for the Tribune's support there were "certain things you could do for us in Washington." Dirksen responded: "When I am elected, if there is anything I can do for you in Washington, I would be very glad to do so. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.