Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate

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Author: Robert J. Dole  | Date: August 5, 1965

President Johnson Signs Voting Rights Act in President’s Room

On August 5, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act. This landmark legislation provided an effective means for federal enforcement of the Fifteenth Amendment’s bar against racial discrimination affecting the right to vote. It served as a cornerstone for Johnson’s Great Society program, redressing with action injustices at the ballot boxes that the constitutional amendment had unsuccessfully addressed with words ninety-five years earlier.

The signing of that significant measure took place in the President’s Room just outside the Senate chamber. Located at the west end of the Senators’ Lobby, the President’s Room is one of the most grandly embellished rooms in the Capitol. Its walls and ceiling display magnificent frescoes by Constantino Brumidi. First opened in 1859, the room was designed to provide a private office for the president in the Capitol.

Over the past century and a quarter, chief executives have used the President’s Room on various substantive and ceremonial occasions. Until 1937, the president’s term expired every fourth year on March 3, the final day of the congressional session. This made it necessary for the chief executive to come to the President’s Room in the session’s final hours to sign newly passed legislation. It was on such an occasion in March 1865 that Abraham Lincoln received word that Confederate General Robert E. Lee desired a meeting with Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln responded that Grant was to hold no meeting except for the purpose of accepting the surrender of Lee’s army.

President Woodrow Wilson regularly used the President’s Room to confer with senators and to lobby for his legislative programs. President Reagan, who visited that chamber immediately following his 1981 swearing-in ceremony, used it more than any chief executive since Franklin Roosevelt.

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Chicago: Robert J. Dole, "President Johnson Signs Voting Rights Act in President’s Room," Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate: A Series of Bicentennial Minutes Presented to the Senate During the One Hundredth Congress (Washington, D.C.: U.S Government Printing Office, 1989), in Original Sources, accessed February 28, 2020, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=AK1WK7QJGM23FGS.

MLA: Dole, Robert J. "President Johnson Signs Voting Rights Act in President’s Room." Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate: A Series of Bicentennial Minutes Presented to the Senate During the One Hundredth Congress, Washington, D.C., U.S Government Printing Office, 1989, in , Original Sources. 28 Feb. 2020. originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=AK1WK7QJGM23FGS.

Harvard: Dole, RJ 1989, 'President Johnson Signs Voting Rights Act in President’s Room' in Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate: A Series of Bicentennial Minutes Presented to the Senate During the One Hundredth Congress, U.S Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.. cited in , . Original Sources, retrieved 28 February 2020, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=AK1WK7QJGM23FGS.