Dirksen, Everett (McKinley)(1896–1969) U.S. representative/senator; born in Pekin, Ill. A twin, he was named after President McKinley, one of his father's Republican heroes, and distinguished himself as an orator even in high school. After serving in the army, he worked in family businesses before entering local politics in 1926. In the U.S. House of Representatives (Rep., Ill.; 1933–51), he satisfied his constituents by supporting the New Deal domestic programs while championing isolationist foreign policy. A political pragmatist, he drafted the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, running for the Senate in 1950 with the endorsement of Chicago Tribune editor Colonel Robert McCormack. In the Senate (1951–69) he was a conservative McCarthyite until 1956 when he became an Eisenhower loyalist and moderate, chosen as Republican whip in 1957 and Republican leader in 1959. Ironically the high point of his career came during the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies when he delivered key Republican support for the Test Ban Treaty of 1963 and the Civil Rights acts of 1964, 1965, and 1968.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.