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Minnesota's 1965 Leaders Honored On 50th Anniversary Of Voting Rights Act

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota's 1965 Congressional delegation got some special recognition Thursday for something it did 50 years ago.

The Minnesota Secretary of State honored four surviving members of the Congressional delegation who came from different political parties, but share a bond. They all worked to pass the landmark Voting Rights Act to reverse decades of discrimination at the polls.

"We were one of the proud states that voted unanimously for the Voting Rights Act," Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said.  "Some were Democrats. Some were Republicans.  All did the right thing."

The new law came after the nation was shocked by the violence at a civil rights march in Selma, Ala.

The President signed the bill a few months later, with Vice President and Minnesotan Hubert Humphrey standing at his side. A young Republican Minnesota Congressman, Al Quie said he voted yes, against many in his party.

"The main reason for government," Quie said, "The main reason for government -- is justice."

Also voting yes in 1965, Democrats Alec Olson and Don Fraser, and then-U.S. Senator Walter Mondale, who expressed frustration that voting rights laws today are being dismantled.

"I think we've been moving backwards in a dramatic, depressing way," Mondale, who was later elected vice president, said. "It's just like the old days before civil rights, when they were consciously raising burdens against the vote."

The secretary of state also honored Minnesota civil rights pioneer Dr. Josie Johnson, who said civil rights she fought for 50 years ago are still in peril.

"The issues that were critical then, and that's freedom, equality, justice, opportunity -- are still in great demand," she said.

Minnesota's 1965 Congressional delegation included six Democrats and 4 Republicans. All of them voted yes for the Voting Rights Act.

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