April 23, 2014 - Author Todd S. Purdum and Knoxville resident John G. Stewart talked today about the bipartisanship, vision and sometimes mixed motives that led to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The two spoke and took questions from an audience of about 40 people at a midday booksigning event at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center.
Purdum is a senior writer at Politico and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair who had worked at the New York Times for 23 years. He's the author of "An idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964."
Stewart, who was interviewed by Purdum for his book, was the top legislative aide to Sen. Hubert Humphrey at the time of the bill's passage.
Today's forum was part of a series of events commemorating the 50th anniversary of passage of the landmark legislation. The series continues at 9 a.m. Friday, April 25, at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, 1807 Dandridge Ave., with the former Alabama attorney general and U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted three Klansmen for a 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four girls.
For more information on the series, visit http://www.cityofknoxville.org/civilrightsact.
Ralph Hutchinson of the Oak Ridge Peace Alliance moderated today's forum at the Beck Center.
Stewart praised Purdum's book as "the definitive history" of the bill's passage, and Purdum called the 1964 legislative accomplishment "breathtaking," with its "conflicted feelings" and "mixed motives" as many lawmakers came together and actually voted against their personal short-term interests.
"Fifty years ago, the country was terribly divided, but Washington was functional, and Congress was not so divided," Purdum said.