When Ted Kennedy made his first major policy address on the Senate floor in April of 1964, he chose to speak about civil rights an issue that would come to play a prominent role in his legislative efforts over the next five decades. In his 1965 opposition to a poll tax an election-day fee some states levied to discourage blacks from voting Kennedy showed both the fierce intensity and capacity to reach out to colleagues that became hallmarks of his legislative style. He was the chief sponsor of the 1982 Voting Rights Act Amendments, which sought increased minority representation in government, and the Civil Rights Acts of 1991, which strengthened protections against employer discrimination. He also played an active role in establishing a national holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. From his first words on the Senate floor 45 years ago to introducing legislation increasing penalties for discrimination in the work place just last year, Kennedy frequently used his larger-than-life stature to advance the cause of civil rights.
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