During more than four decades in politics, Everett Dirksen earned a reputation as a masterful speaker. By the time of his death in September 1969, the Republican senator from Illinois had reached the stature of a folk hero, recognizable everywhere in the country.
As his biographer noted, “Above all Dirksen was an orator, and his best speeches were free-style, letting him digress with pithy anecdotes and humorous sallies drawn from his large accumulated store. His resonant voice was by turn deep-throated or husky, his style alternatively humble and heroic, and his often rococo vocabulary charmed and tickled his listeners.”
Journalists were drawn to Dirksen, the speaker. One described him as “the last Fourth of July picnic orators; another, as “born with a golden thesaurus on his larynx; and a third said that he sounded like “an unfrocked parson speaking through the bunghole of an empty barrel.” His appearance, too, was distinctive. He was once characterized as “a rather noble old ruin—a Victorian relic with misty blue eyes, a tiara of gray-gold ringlets run amok, and the melancholy mien of a homeless basset hound.”
In large part, Dirksen made his mark at the microphone. We have selected 75 still photographs from his collection that capture him in full glory—at the mike.
Source: Neil MacNeil, “Minority Leader, Major Voice,” 1981, Dirksen Information File, Articles.
Click each image to enlarge and click enlarged image to return to thumbnail size.
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