Congress had passed, after much deliberation, civil rights laws of narrower scope and lesser effect in 1957 and 1960. It proceeded with careful deliberation to pass a stronger bill this time.
The House Judiciary Committee reported a bill in November, just before Kennedy’s assassination. The chairman of the Rules Committee, Howard Smith of Virginia, said he would not allow it to be considered.
Supporters sought the signatures of a majority of House members needed to bring the bill to the floor. They got them after members heard from their constituents over the winter break. The bill went to the floor in February and passed with bipartisan support, 290-130.
In the Senate, Southerners launched a filibuster that lasted 57 working days. It then required 67 votes to cut off debate. But in June, 71 senators voted for cloture and the bill passed 73-27.
Full compliance with the public accommodations section was not immediate. In Georgia, Lester Maddox closed his restaurant rather than serve blacks and was elected governor, narrowly, in 1966.
But after Congress acted in such deliberate fashion, and the Supreme Court upheld the law, white Southerners largely acquiesced. Traditional Southern courtesy replaced mob violence. Minds and hearts had been changed.