By Will E Sanders
PIQUA — A new book released last month provides an in-depth and personal look into the life of Piqua Congressman William Moore McCulloch and the instrumental part he played with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
McCulloch, of Piqua, was a Republican congressman who served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio’s 4th District and who served from 1947 to 1973 through 12 terms. He is most recognized for his role in the historical passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Mark Bernstein, author of “McCulloch of Ohio: For the Republic,” said that when it comes to history he believes there are stories that are told too often and stories that are never told at all, which was one of the reasons why wanted to write the book on McCulloch. The book is available for purchase through major online book websites for $22.50.
The story of McCulloch, both as a key supporter of civil rights, as a congressman and as a person, is an important American story that has never really been told, Bernstein said.
Bernstein said a much broader hope for his book is that it serves as a lesson to those who read about McCulloch.
“McCulloch argued that more could be achieved through reconciliation and good faith dealing than could be achieved through partisanship,” he added. “I think that is a very pertinent lesson for today’s America.”
To quote one description of the book taken from the book’s jacket: “This book tells a story of civic valor. That is, the willingness to place nation ahead of self and justice ahead of expediency. As the reader will learn, its title character — longtime Ohio Congressman William M. McCulloch — played a pivotal role in the passage of the major civil rights legislation of the 1960s. The larger story is not what he did, but why, and how. William McCulloch fought for justice and equality because it was in his nature to do so. The purpose of the fight, he said, was not to achieve victory, but to create the reconciliation that civil society requires.”
Director of the Piqua Public Library Jim Oda, also a noted local historian, said the book, while scholarly in some respects, is quite readable, and that Bernstein covers new ground in the book.
“This book focuses on McCulloch,” Oda said. “Most of what has been written has concentrated on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. … This book talks about his beginnings and how his experiences formed the basis for his support and his drive for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. … McCulloch was not a self-promoter. He was not about I. He was about we – what can we accomplish.”
McCulloch joined a noted Piqua law firm early in his career and became “a pillar of the Piqua community.” After all, Oda said, it was from Piqua that his political career took off.
Oda stuffed envelopes for the Republican party in 1960 when he was nine years old. He said that McCulloch wrote him a letter of thanks for his work, which is something Oda remembers fondly to this day.
“McCulloch was a mainstream Republican at a time when the African-American vote was decidedly democratic and he was from a mainstream Republican district with a very small African-American population,” Oda said. “He was taking a risk of losing his base support. He didn’t because people in his district believed in his integrity.”
He added in closing: “This is one of the things that Mark Bernstein really brings out.”
Will E Sanders may be reached at 773-2721 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall.