Aug 28

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August 28, 1957: Strom Thurmond Begins Longest Filibuster in Senate History

Senator Strom Thurmond After FilibusterOn this day in 1957, Senator Strom Thurmond began his filibuster in opposition of the Civil Rights Act of 1957. The South Carolinian started at 8:54 PM that evening and continued for 24 hours and 18 minutes, finishing at 9:12 PM the next night.

Thurmond took daily steam baths to dehydrate himself in the days leading up to the filibuster so he could absorb fluids without needing to go to the bathroom. His aides also put a bucket in the cloakroom so he could keep one foot on the Senate floor and relieve himself, but Thurmond never used it.

He spoke against the bill, in support of his grandmother’s biscuit recipe and pontificated on a variety of other random thoughts.  At one point, Arizona Republican Barry Goldwater asked Thurmond to yield the floor to allow for an insertion into the Congressional Record. He did so and used that time to run to the bathroom. In the end, the bill passed and was signed into law on September 9.

The fact that the longest filibuster in history was in opposition to the Civil Rights Act is really, really sad. However, Constitution Daily reports that Thurmond’s bathroom break makes the record debatable. The other claimants to the record could be Oregon Senator Wayne Morse with a 22 hour and 16 minute filibuster against Tidelands Oil legislation in 1953 and New York Senator Al D’Amato with a 23 hour and 30 minute filibuster against a military bill in 1986.

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