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Lucius Mendel Rivers
Birth: Sep. 28, 1905
Berkeley County
South Carolina, USA
Death: Dec. 28, 1970
Birmingham
Jefferson County
Alabama, USA

US Congressman. A member of the Democratic Party, he served in the US House of Representatives from South Carolina's 1st congressional district from January 1941 until his death in December 1970. Born in Gumville, South Carolina he moved with his family to St. Stephen, South Carolina in 1907 where his father farmed. At age 15, his father died and the family eventually relocated to North Charleston, South Carolina where they ran a boarding house. After graduating from Charleston High School in 1926 he attended the College of Charleston for three years and the University of South Carolina School of Law at Columbia, South Carolina for two years, graduating from neither. The law school dean at the University of South Carolina advised him to take up another profession because although he knew the assignments, he suffered from stage fright. Determined to become a lawyer, he returned to College of Charleston, took classes to prepare himself for the bar examination, and passed in 1932. Unable to find employment in Charleston law firms, he started his own practice. In 1930 he ran as an independent Democrat for state representative on the Charleston County delegation but was defeated. In 1933 he won a seat on the Charleston County delegation in a special election and the following year he ran for re-election and became the chairman of the delegation for having received the most votes of any state House candidate on the Charleston County ticket. As a state Representative, Rivers served on the Judiciary and Education committees. In 1935 he became the state president of the Young Democrats and was a delegate to the 1936 Democratic National Convention. That same year he was appointed as a Special Assistant to the US Attorney General. Upon the death of South Carolina 1st district congressman Thomas S. McMillan in September 1939, he made plans to run for his congressional seat. He quit his federal job in February 1940 and opened a law practice in Charleston to provide a base for his campaign and in August of that year, he won the Democratic primary followed by the general election and he took office in January 1941. The following March he was appointed to the Naval Affairs Committee. His first legislative success was in 1942 when he authored a bill to build an oil pipeline from Mississippi to the Southeast coast to reduce the transportation costs of the product. The bill was passed by Congress and signed by President Roosevelt, but Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes refused to construct the pipeline because of the opposition by Big Oil. His first major success was the repeal of the federal tax on colored oleomargarine. The tax was first implemented because margarine was a much cheaper substitute of butter which threatened the interests of the dairy farmers. When he first introduced the bill in 1944 to repeal the tax, it was vigorously opposed by Midwestern Representatives and the bill died in the agriculture committee. Undeterred, he reintroduced the bill every year and made so many speeches in favor of the repeal of the tax that he was nicknamed "Oleo" Rivers. In 1949 he circulated a petition in the House of Representatives to force the bill out of the Agriculture Committee and to the full House for a vote and it ultimately passed the House and was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman in 1950. A firm segregationist, he voted against every civil rights bill, and in 1954 he joined the entire South Carolina delegation in signing the Southern Manifesto. During the 1952 Democratic National Convention, he became disillusioned with the Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson and he openly supported Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Presidential election because he said that he would be sensitive to Southern concerns. However, his long-held distrust of Republicans was reinforced shortly after Eisenhower became president when he ordered the desegregation of all schools on military bases and did not grant him patronage privileges, despite the fact that he was the only Democratic politician to support Eisenhower in 1952. During the 1960s he softened his vocal opposition to civil rights legislation. He had risen in the ranks and his power in the House depended upon the continual support of national Democrats. He shifted his approach from defending segregation to the maintenance of law and order. A strong advocate of the US military, in 1963 he established, through the vehicle of the House-Senate Conference Committee, the principle of linking military retired pay to increases in the Consumer Price Index, similar to the practice for retired federal civil servants. In 1964 he championed the cause of "hospital rights," guaranteeing medical care in military hospitals for military retirees and their dependents. In 1965 he became chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and after becoming chairman, he helped secure the first military pay raise since 1952, despite opposition from the Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and President Lyndon B. Johnson. He was also instrumental in establishing the additional enlisted pay grade of E-9 and helped secure mobile home allowances and cheap air fares for soldiers returning from Viet Nam. Initially skeptical of the US escalation of the Vietnam War, once it began he became one of its strongest supporters. In July 1968 when Alabama Governor George Wallace asked him to be his running mate for the 1968 Presidential election, he declined the offer, as to not risk losing his chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee. He strongly supported the constant upgrading of US military preparedness, regardless of the cost. He supported making all US Navy ships nuclear powered, and he championed development of the C5A Galaxy military airlift jet airplane, despite its huge cost overruns. In early December 1970 he travelled to Birmingham, Alabama to undergo heart surgery and died there from complications at the age of 65. In 1971 the submarine USS L. Mendel Rivers was named in his honor. In December 1999 he was named as one the "Magnificent Ten Charlestonians Who Shaped the 20th Century" by Charleston Magazine for his efforts to expand the military in his district. (bio by: William Bjornstad) 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  Lucius Hampton Rivers (1864 - 1915)
  Henrietta McCay Shepard (1875 - 1961)
 
 Spouse:
  Margaret Middleton Rivers (1913 - 2004)*
 
 Siblings:
  Dorrell Earle Rivers (1897 - 1952)**
  Berniece Ruth Rivers Riggs (1899 - 1949)**
  Lucius Mendel Rivers (1905 - 1970)
 
*Calculated relationship
**Half-sibling
 
Burial:
Saint Stephen Episcopal Church Cemetery
Saint Stephen
Berkeley County
South Carolina, USA
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: Bert Thornley
Record added: Jan 27, 2002
Find A Grave Memorial# 6128037
Lucius Mendel Rivers
Added by: Creative Commons
 
Lucius Mendel Rivers
Added by: Stonewall
 
Lucius Mendel Rivers
Added by: Stonewall
 
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Your support of Lieutenant Calley and his My Lai Massacre was despicable.
- Lark
 Added: Apr. 24, 2015
You are still the only one who ever stood up to North Korea's bullying ways. You were a Great Man and we need someone like you now - Rest In Peace - You richly deserve it - God Bless You
- Edward Tribou
 Added: Oct. 4, 2014

- rosie mcnaughton
 Added: Feb. 5, 2014
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