Florida 500: Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 Votes

LBJ and MLK Jr. at the bill signing for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

LBJ and MLK Jr. at the bill signing for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

2013 marks 500 years since Juan Ponce de León first landed in our state and claimed the territory for Spain. While the first PERMANENT colonial settlement did not occur until 1565, next year is rightfully the 500th anniversary of our state’s founding. For this we at the Political Hurricane want to cover the important events and personalities that have shaped our state all year long.

Earlier today my colleague Dave Trotter wrote an excellent piece about the restoration of Spanish rule to Florida in 1565, and the first genocide in Florida history. Four hundred years later African-Americans in the south still did not have full civil rights and had been systematically disfranchised from the voting roles by various Jim Crow measures. Martin Luther King Jr. made a concerted effort to integrate St Augustine during the 400th anniversary of the events Dave Trotter referenced in his piece. We will have an article on MLK Jr. in St Augustine on the MLK Jr. Day later this month.

Today let’s focus on the momentous congressional legislation pushed by President Lyndon Johnson and passed over the objection over the vast majority of the Florida Delegation. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 received zero votes from members from the Deep South and very few from the peripheral south. The only vote in favor of final passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from Florida was by Rep. (former Senator) Claude Pepper, who courageously fought reactionary forces throughout his political career.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 received a higher percentage of support among Florida’s delegation than among any other southern state except Texas (which at this time was less “southern” than Florida) , something we can be proud of. The act pushed by LBJ after the Selma Massacre got the support of several Florida congressmen including Rep. Charlie Bennett who represented the very conservative and racially polarized city of Jacksonville. This vote caused Bennett his only intense problems at home in his long and distinguished political career, but he survived in office until 1992.

Full votes of the Florida Delegation for both momentous pieces of legislation is listed below.

Civil Rights Act of 1964 Final Passage

Florida Reps
NAY   D Sikes, Robert FL 1st
NAY   D Bennett, Charles FL 2nd
AYE   D Pepper, Claude FL 3rd
NAY   D Fascell, Dante FL 4th
NAY   D Herlong, Albert FL 5th
NAY   D Rogers, Paul FL 6th
NAY   D Haley, James FL 7th
NAY   D Matthews, Billy FL 8th
NAY   D Fuqua, Don FL 9th
NAY   D Gibbons, Sam FL 10th
NAY   R Gurney, Edward FL 11th
NAY   R Cramer, William FL 12th

Senate

NAY   D    Holland, Spessard FL

NAY   D    Smathers, George FL

Voting Rights Act of 1965

Florida Reps
NAY   D Sikes, Robert FL 1st
AYE   D Bennett, Charles FL 2nd
AYE   D Pepper, Claude FL 3rd
AYE   D Fascell, Dante FL 4th
AYE   D Herlong, Albert FL 5th
AYE   D Rogers, Paul FL 6th
NAY   D Haley, James FL 7th
NAY   D Matthews, Billy FL 8th
NAY   D Fuqua, Don FL 9th
AYE   D Gibbons, Sam FL 10th
NAY   R Gurney, Edward FL 11th
AYE   R Cramer, William FL 12th

Senate

NAY   D    Holland, Spessard FL

AYE    D    Smathers, George FL

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