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Interviews with news makers and discussion of topics important to Southwest Michigan. Subscribe to the podcast through Apple itunes and Google. Segments of interview are heard in WestSouthwest Brief during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

WSW: Book Explores Powerful Congressman Now a "Footnote to History"

Bob Duke/Texas A&M Press

Retired Eastern Michigan University Professor Bob Duke says a key ally of President Lyndon Johnson has "slipped through the cracks" of history.

Duke, who has a PhD from Western Michigan University is the author of LBJ and Grassroots Federalism: Congressman Bob Poage, Race and Change in Texas. Duke says he wanted to write about how Johnson made things happen by working with member of Congress. 

Duke says he focused on one place, Waco, Texas, to see how Johnson and Poage worked together to make government work for the citizens. Duke says both Johnson and Poage were products of Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal." He says those programs were a partnership between federal and local governments. Duke says Johnson continued to operate that way in Congress and as President. 

Interview with Bob Poage - web version

Poage long served as Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and President Kennedy considered appointing him Secretary of Agriculture. But Duke says Poage remained a segregationist even as the country was changing, and Johnson was seeking support for civil rights legislation. Duke says the split over segregation caused divisions between Johnson and Poage.  

Credit Bob Duke/Texas A&M Press
Bob Duke

Despite Johnson's reputation for persuading members of Congress, he never asked Poage to vote for the Civil Rights Act. Duke says as far as he can tell, Johnson didn't need Poage's vote in the House. So the President spent his time working on getting the votes needed in the Senate. 

Bob Duke sings about Lyndon Johnson and Bob Poage

In addition to his book, Duke also wrote a song about Johnson and Poage. He performed it in our studio when he came in for his interview. 

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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