: William Moore McCulloch was a civil-rights activist and member of the United States House of Representatives from Ohio in the mid-twentieth century. He was instrumental in crafting and passing several key pieces of legislation in the 1960s to ensure equal rights for all Americans, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
William McCulloch was born near Holmesville, Ohio, in Holmes County, on November 24, 1901. He received an undergraduate degree from the College of Wooster. In 1925, McCulloch earned a law degree from The Ohio State University and was admitted to the Ohio bar. He practiced law for a period in Jacksonville, Florida, where he saw firsthand the unconstitutionality of segregation practices in the region. In 1928, McCulloch moved back to Ohio and established a law practice with George Barry in Piqua.
McCulloch became active in politics. A member of the Republican Party, he was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1932. During his tenure, McCulloch rose to important leadership positions, serving as House Minority Leader from 1936-1939, and as Speaker of the House from 1939-1944. He was the first House member to serve three consecutive terms as Speaker.
A constitutional lawyer, McCulloch showed his passion for equal rights early in his career and supported the local NAACP chapter in its drive to end segregated seating in local restaurants. One of the earliest sit-ins in the area was held at the Union Bus Terminal lunch counter and marked the beginning of the end for segregated accommodations in the Piqua area. This was bold stance to take in a rural, white, middle-class, and conservative stronghold where the black population was a mere 2.7 percent at the time.
During World War II, McCulloch served in the U.S. military from December 26, 1943 to October 12, 1945. At age 40 he resigned as Speaker of the House and enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving overseas in Europe. He resumed his political career after the war.
In a special election held on November 4, 1947, voters of Ohio's 4th District elected McCulloch to represent them in the United States House of Representatives, filling a vacancy created by the resignation of Robert F. Jones. McCulloch went on to represent western Ohio in the House in twelve succeeding Congresses through January 3, 1973. He was popular and respected within his district, and his constituents reelected him by margins of 65 to 70 percent throughout his tenure.
Although a political conservative, McCulloch is remembered as a champion of civil rights. Early in his tenure as Representative of Ohio’s 4th District, he played a key role in President Eisenhower’s 1957 and 1960 civil rights bills. As the ranking Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee in the early 1960s, he introduced civil rights legislation in the House, and his bipartisan support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was instrumental in the adoption of that legislation.
McCulloch went on to play key roles in the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act. He fought another major battle in 1969-1970 by defending the renewal of certain temporary provisions in the 1965 Voting Rights Act during the Nixon administration. Directed at Southern states with a history of discriminatory voting practices, a strong provision in the legislation demanded that these states obtain clearance through the Justice Department before making any changes that would affect the voting process. He continued to champion equal rights and to protect the landmark legislation of the 1960s until his retirement in 1972.
McCulloch died in Washington, D.C., on February 22, 1980. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
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; Ohio History--State and Local Government
; Ohio General Assembly House of Representatives
; Civil rights
; United States. Congress. House
; Miami County (Ohio)
; Veterans Places
: Miami County (Ohio)