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Senate Madness - Round Two: 20th Century Era

1. LBJ vs. 9. Robert Wagner

1. Lyndon Johnson, D - Texas, 1908-73
Lyndon Johnson was dubbed the “Master of the Senate” by author Robert Caro, and he drew the blueprint for what we think of as the modern majority leader. LBJ understood the rules and what made senators tick. Ironically, his greatest accomplishments – passing the Great Society measures and the Civil Rights Act – came when he was president, earning him the nickname "Super Majority Leader." As a young majority leader, Johnson helped usher through President Eisenhower’s civil rights bill that only passed by weakening key enforcement provisions to pacify Southern Democrats.

9.Robert F. Wagner, D - New York, 1877-1953
Robert F. Wagner, the Depression-era, German-born New Yorker and Banking committee chairman, is responsible for some of the most sweeping social and economic legislation in history, such as Social Security and the National Labor Relations Act. He also introduced legislation urging the creation of Israel in 1945 (Taft-Wagner). After leaving the Senate, he devoted himself even more to that cause. He was on the cover of Time in 1934 and his portrait hangs in the Senate Reception Room, along with Arthur Vandenberg, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Robert M. La Follette, Sr., and Robert A. Taft, Sr.

12. Richard Russell vs. 13. John Sherman Cooper

12. Richard Russell, D-Ga., 1897-1971: He served in the U.S. Senate for nearly 40 years, becoming the dean of southern conservative Democrats during the 1950s and 1960s. Russell chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee during the Korean and Vietnam wars, and he staunchly opposed the civil-rights legislation of that era. Due to his legislative acumen and skill, one of the Senate office buildings is named after him. 

13. John Sherman Cooper, R-Ky., 1901-1991: Cooper was a notable post-World War II senator, who backed the early civil-rights legislation, supported Joseph McCarthy’s censure, and later opposed the Vietnam War. He also was the first U.S. ambassador to East Germany. 

11. Mike Mansfield vs. 14. John Stennis

11. Mike Mansfield, D-Mont., 1903-2001: Succeeding Lyndon Johnson as Senate majority leader after LBJ was elected vice president, Mansfield helped deliver many of the Great Society’s legislative accomplishments -- like Medicare and Medicaid. He also played a key role in breaking the filibuster against the civil-rights legislation.

14. John Stennis, D-Miss., 1901-95: Nicknamed the “Father of America’s Modern Navy” (he has an aircraft carrier named after him) and his era’s “Conscience of the Senate” (he wrote the first ethics code), Stennis served in the Senate for 41 years, the fourth-longest tenure in history. No senator had greater influence over military matters in the 1960s and 70s than Stennis  did, and he was put in charge of touchy political investigations – ranging from charges against Joseph McCarthy to the Pentagon not allowing rank-and-file to speak out against communism. In a political world in which winning is everything, Stennis told a roundtable of political advisers working on his last campaign in 1982, which he won: "There is one thing you really need to understand before we go any further. We don't have to win." He was the first Democrat to publicly oppose Joseph McCarthy, but being from Mississippi, he opposed integration -- though in his later years, he backed civil-rights measures. He also was a believer in supporting a president, regardless of party, on foreign policy and military matters, even if he disagreed.

2. Everett Dirsken vs. 10. William Fulbright

2. Everett Dirksen (20th), R-Illinois, 1896-1969: When you have a building named after you, you did something. The 37-year member of Congress believed in governance, in compromise, and was a pivotal figure in getting the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts passed. He voted as minority leader for cloture to end the filibuster of the Civil Rights Act. He held the position as Republican leader until the day he died. Dirksen’s also responsible for the modern-day televised response to the president’s State of the Union. (By the way, Dirksen is also 10-seed Howard Baker’s father-in-law.)

10. William J. Fulbright (20th), D-Arkansas, 1905-95: The longest-serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Fulbright played a key role in turning the tide of public opinion against the Vietnam War. Though he supported the initial action, he held televised hearings on the country’s escalation of the war and unchecked presidential power. Fulbright became close to Lyndon Johnson, who helped engineer his ascendance to head of Foreign Relations. Johnson lobbied Kennedy to make Fulbright his secretary of state, but -- because of Fulbright’s complicated Southern politics being from Arkansas and signing onto the Southern Manifesto opposing the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Ed decision – Kennedy refused, labeling him a segregationist. Ironically, had Johnson’s lobbying of Kennedy won out, those Vietnam hearings, which fueled the anti-war movement may have never happened. Fulbright was also the only senator to vote against funding Joseph McCarthy’s subcommittee on investigations. His namesake legacy, of course, is the Fulbright Scholarship, established in 1946, which has become a highly competitive exchange program of American and international scholars to foster deeper understanding between countries. He supported a national center for the arts and his legislation led to the creation of the Kennedy Center.