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Georgia-Born Secretary Rusk Has Icy Exchange with Senator Thurmond (D-S.C.)

July 10, 1963 - Dean Rusk (left), who rose from a rural Georgia background to become Secretary of State, did battle today with Senator Strom Thurmond (D-S.C.) over President Kennedy’s civil rights bill. The scene was a jam-packed caucus room in the Old Senate Office Building at a hearing of the Commerce committee. In his formal statement, Mr. Rusk told the committee that “the Communists clearly regard racial discrimination in the U.S. as one of their most valuable assets.” A main theme in Soviet comment on the recent racial tension, Mr. Rusk said, is that “inaction by the U.S. Government is tantamount to support of what they call ‘the racists.’” The clash came when Senator Thurmond asked: “Mr. Secretary, by coming here and testifying in this nature, aren’t you lending at least tacit support to and approval of the Communist line?” Mr. Rusk stiffened, and his voice was icy as he replied: “Of course not, Senator. I am here as Secretary of State of the United States to advise the committee of my views as to the relationships between these problems here at home and our foreign policy. I consider that relationship very grave. And I would certainly hope that no committee of the Congress would ever take the view that a Secretary of State can’t come before it without having it said he is supporting a Communist line.” When Senator Thurmond asked Secretary Rusk whether he approved of the Negro demonstrators, Mr. Rusk replied: “If I were denied what our Negro citizens are denied, I would demonstrate.”


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