Everett McKinley Dirksen (January 4, 1896 – September 7, 1969) was a Republican U.S. Congressman and Senator from Pekin, Illinois. As Republican Senate leader he played a highly visible and key role in the politics of the 1960s, including helping to write and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Open Housing Act of 1968, both landmarks of Civil Rights legislation. He was one of the Senate's strongest supporters of the Vietnam War.
Dirksen was born to Johann Friedrich Dirksen and his wife Antje Conrady, German immigrants who lived in Pekin, Illinois, a small city near Peoria, Illinois. Everett had a fraternal twin, Thomas Dirksen. Dirksen grew up on his parents' farm on Pekin's outskirts. He attended the local schools and then entered the University of Minnesota. He was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. However, he dropped out during World War I to enlist in the U.S. Army, serving as a second lieutenant in a field artillery battery. After the war, he went into private business. His political career began in 1927, when he was elected to the Pekin city council.
After losing in the 1930 Republican primary, Dirksen won the nomination and the congressional seat in 1932, and was re-elected seven times. His support for many New Deal programs marked him as a moderate, pragmatic Republican. During World War II, he lobbied successfully for an expansion of congressional staff resources to eliminate the practice under which House and Senate committees borrowed executive branch personnel to accomplish legislative work. Dirksen was able to secure the passage of an amendment to the Lend-Lease bill by introducing a resolution while 65 of the House's Democrats were at a luncheon. The amendment provided that the Senate and the House could, by a simple majority in a concurrent resolution, revoke the powers granted to the President.