All of a sudden it became a deadly serious matter, and the two Senators, both 61, peeled off their coats, handed them to aides, and huffed and puffed their way into what turned out to be a ten-minute rasslin’ match.
Thurmond had all the best of it: a trim, 170-pounder, he is the Senate’s No. 1 physical fitness bug, does not smoke or drink (not even carbonated beverages), just that morning had done 59 push-ups on his office carpet. Yarborough is a fairly flabby 200-pounder.
Grunt, groan, wheeze—and down went Yarborough, with Thurmond atop him. “Tell me to release you, Ralph, and I will,” said Thurmond. Yarborough looked bravely up from his position on the terrazzo floor and averred: “I’m waiting for my second wind.”
Ohio’s Democratic Senator Frank Lausche came rushing up, warned both rasslers that they were running the risk of heart attacks. Said Thurmond: “I’ll release him if he wants to be released.” Yarborough allowed as how he was still waiting for that second wind.
Finally, Washington’s Democratic Senator Warren Magnuson, the Commerce Committee chairman, heard of what was happening and hurried out of the committee room. Cried he: “Let’s break this up.” At that point Thurmond, apparently tired of sitting on Yarborough, said with characteristic gallantry: “I will have to yield to the order of my chairman.”
Thereupon he arose, and all the Senators went into the committee room to vote, 16 to 1, for confirming Collins. The lone dissenter was—guess who?