Mission Statement: Our mission is to help people better understand the U.S. Congress, its people, its processes, and the public policies it produces.
The Dirksen Congressional Center is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, private foundation located in Pekin, Illinois, the home of the late Everett McKinley Dirksen (1896-1969). Dirksen served on the Pekin City Council (1927-1931), in the U.S. House of Representatives (1933-1949), and in the U.S. Senate (1951-1969).
His Republican colleagues elected Dirksen as Minority Leader of the U.S. Senate in 1959, a post he held until his death. In that role, he placed a highly visible and key role in politics of the 1960s, helping to write and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Open Housing Act of 1968, all landmarks of the Great Society. Dirksen was also one of the Senate’s strongest supporters of President Lyndon Johnson’s conduct of the war in Vietnam.
The Center promotes a greater public understanding of the U.S. Congress through archival, research, and educational programs.
"The Dirksen Congressional Center has been a wonderful and indispensable addition to the community of scholars interested in congressional history. The Center has offered financial support that scholars need to conduct research into the legislative branch, while it has been instrumental to the organization of conferences, workshops, web-based initiatives, and teaching programs that greatly further our knowledge of congressional history."
Julian E. Zelizer (ed.), The American Congress: The Building of Democracy (New York, NY: Houghton-Mifflin, 2004) xi
“It is also important to note that [the Congressional Research Grants] Program is a vital source of support for types of research not generally funded by organizations such as the National Science Foundation. While Dirksen award amounts are relatively small, they very powerfully combine with other small funding streams (for example, the typically small grants given to faculty by their academic institutions) to render otherwise impossible projects possible.”
Laura S. Jensen, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, (Congressional Research Grant recipient, 2005)
"During the 1960s, Everett Dirksen emerged as the leading voice of those who objected to the Supreme Court's reapportionment rulings, namely the series of decisions that established the principle of "one person, one vote" in all congressional and state legislative apportionments. I arrived at the Dirksen Center with high hopes of learning more about Dirksen's views on the subject, but never imagined that I would find such a wealth of amazing materials. I literally discovered thousands of pages of correspondence, memoranda, and reports that shed important light not only on Dirksen's role in the reapportionment battles, but also on the broader campaign to call a constitutional convention to modify the Court's rulings. My understanding of the topic has been immeasurably enhanced by the chance to have worked in the Dirksen Papers. I am deeply grateful to the Dirksen Center for the financial support that allowed me to do such critical research."
J. Douglas Smith, 2007, and author of On Democracy’s Doorstep: The Inside Story of How the Supreme Court Brought “One Person, One Vote” to the United States (New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 2014)
“Frank Mackaman at the Dirksen Congressional Center in Pekin, Illinois, is a peerless one-man band, a veteran archival librarian and the reigning expert in all things Ev. His monograph on Dirksen’s role in the bill was never far from my side, and I am everlastingly grateful for his help ….”
Todd S. Purdum, An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2014) 380