With his deep, robust voice and heartwarming demeanor, Everett McKinley Dirksen was one of the most beloved politicians in the history of the United States. During a career as a senator that spanned 35 years and six presidents, he used his talents not only to help secure the passage of the nuclear test ban treaty and the civil rights act, but to charm and inform the nation. He is remembered for his off-the-cuff statement, "a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you're talking real money."
Affectionately known as "the silver throated Socrates" and "the good old king of the Senate," Dirksen lent his voice to three spoken word albums in which he told stories and shared his unique vision. His Profiles in Courage-like album, Gallant Men, received a Grammy award as "best documentary recording of 1967."
Raised on a small farm in the Illinois city of Pekin, 120 miles southwest of Chicago, Dirksen studied at the University of Minnesota. Enlisting in the United States Army during World War I, he attained the rank of second lieutenant 328th field artillery.
A life-long Republican, Dirksen began his political career when he was elected Commissioner of Finance for the city of Pekins in 1926. A year later, he ran successfully for the Pekin City Council. Although he was defeated when he ran for the House of Representatives in 1929, he succeeded three years later. He remained at the House of Representatives until 1946 when an eye ailment forced him to step down. Resuming his career following his recuperation, Dirksen was elected to the United States Senate in 1950. Chosen the Senate Minority Whip in 1953, he became minority leader four years later. He served as a senator until his death during lung surgery on September 7, 1969. His efforts to make the marigold the national floral emblem in 1960 caused Richard Nixon to claim "We shall always remember Everett Dirksen in the terms he used to describe his beloved marigolds: hardy, vivid and uniquely American."