Sen. Mark Kirk on Thursday held a ceremony to hang a portrait of a predecessor, Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen, in his office.
Kirk feels a kinship with Dirksen for his record as a “pragmatic moderate,” which was best displayed when he broke the Southern Democratic filibuster against President Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In the 1960s, Dirksen was one of the most recognizable politicians in Washington. But the public didn’t know the face that now hangs on Kirk’s office wall. It knew Dirksen’s voice: deep, syrupy, melodramatic.
Dirksen was the only United States Senator ever to record a Top 40 hit. His patriotic oration, "Gallant Men," went to #29 in 1964, and was a seminal influence on S/Sgt. Barry Sadler’s 1966 smash, "Ballad of The Green Berets."
Our gallant men
Have built us a nation
Passed us a torch of flame
Let us hold it high
And light up the sky
With praise of our gallant men
Tyrants must know, now just as then
They cannot stand, not as long
As there are gallant men
Gallant, gallant men
Dirksen recited these words over a military tattoo, a string section and a men’s chorus. In those days, you didn’t have to sing to make a record. The song was part of an album that also featured Dirksen reading the Gettysburg Address, The Star-Spangled Banner and The Pledge of Allegiance.
Here’s a clip of Dirksen performing “Gallant Men.” If Kirk really wants to honor Dirksen, he’ll make this available on his Senate website, for every Illinoisan to hear.