Although Church was in favor of civil rights legislation, his interest in the subject was, according to his legislative aide, Ward Hower, “only intellectual,” not “a visceral thing.” The plight of black Americans “was not a big issue to Frank Church,” perhaps because out of the six hundred thousand persons who lived in Idaho in 1957, only about one thousand were black. In 1957, Idaho had only two representatives in the House, “so,” Hower explains, “the Senate was the key for Idaho, like it was for the southerners. In the Senate, Idaho is equal to New York. For all the western senators, the Senate is their states’ protection. The right to filibuster is important to them.” He felt an identity with the southern senators’ need to preserve the Senate’s rules. But, Hower says, Church also knew that a reconciliation with Johnson was essential for his career, and “he was looking for a way to do something major for Johnson”—and “he understood that the civil rights bill was a key to Johnson’s strong ambition to be President.” And it was this understanding that, in mid-July, first got Church involved more deeply in the civil rights fight. In January, on the vote that had angered Johnson, Church had voted against the South; on July 24, Church voted with it. Johnson’s attitude toward him became noticeably warmer.
Johnson had appealed to Church partly on pragmatic grounds; Hower, for one, believes that Church’s desire for a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee was the key: “I don’t think anything explicit was ever said—you didn’t deal with Lyndon Johnson that way. But you knew that if you did him a favor, when the time came, if he could do you a favor. . . . This w as the w ay Lyndon Johnson operated. There was a tacit quid pro quo.” But Johnson had also appealed to elements in the young senator’s character that were not pragmatic. “You’re a senator of the United States,” he told Church. “You have to function as a senator of the United States.”
A long article that, unlike some accounts of LBJ, focuses on his considerable skills of persuasion and the civil rights bill.
But the threat was never far, as this snippet illustrates.
The café is open.