From Black & Right
“Defensive liberals claim the Dixiecrats, as a whole, defected from the Democrat Party when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (no thanks to Democrats), and became Republicans which they claimed were more accepting of segregationist policies.
Well, I decided to get some opinions on the matter from some historians.
I contacted Professor Larry Schweikart of the University of Dayton for advice. Larry and I worked on a documentary based on a chapter on Ronald Reagan from his best-selling book, A Patriot’s History of the United States.
The idea that “the Dixiecrats joined the Republicans” is not quite true, as you note. But because of Strom Thurmond it is accepted as a fact. What happened is that the **next** generation (post 1965) of white southern politicians — Newt, Trent Lott, Ashcroft, Cochran, Alexander, etc — joined the GOP.
So it was really a passing of the torch as the old segregationists retired and were replaced by new young GOP guys. One particularly galling aspect to generalizations about “segregationists became GOP” is that the new GOP South was INTEGRATED for crying out loud, they accepted the Civil Rights revolution. Meanwhile, Jimmy Carter led a group of what would become “New” Democrats like Clinton and Al Gore.”