For 24 hours and 18 minutes, South Carolina’s finest stood in the well of the Senate, a water bottle strapped to his leg and lozenges on hand for his throat, protesting a civil-rights bill. Harry McPherson, who was counsel to then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, recalls leaving the Senate at 1 a.m. and returning at 7 the next morning only to find Thurmond still reading voting rights laws and reciting Anglo-Saxon histories of juries, among other things. “No one took him seriously. You had to outlast him to get over his filibuster,” McPherson said. But the scrappy Thurmond, who had children into his 70s and
once wrestled a fellow senator in the Capitol halls, was a famously fit politician. A visit to the Senate steam room helped, enabling the Democrat to absorb, rather than expel, fluids throughout the day-long affair. Within two hours after Thurmond finished his filibuster, the Senate
passed the bill 62 to 15.