Inauguration, Swinging Sixties Style: LBJ’s Big Day, 1965

President and Mrs. Johnson Being Greeted

President Lyndon B. Johnson and First Lady Lady Bird Johnson welcoming a performer in the presidential viewing box at the 1965 Inaugural Gala.

It was fifty years ago today, at three minutes after noon that the incumbent U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn-in for his own full term, elected in his own right as President in the 1964 election.

John F. Kennedy and his successor Lyndon B. Johnson.

John F. Kennedy and his successor Lyndon B. Johnson.

As Vice President, LBJ had inherited the highest office in the land when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963.

And the numerous official events that were part of that year’s Inauguration mirrored the changes which marked the decade of the Sixties over which Lyndon Johnson’s presidency unfolded. Those changes, largely cultural, would soon lead to seismic shifts in the American culture, but from his unpredictability to his exuberant, often impulsive energy, on what was his great day of celebration, LBJ left the stamp of the Swinging Sixties on what was always a staid and formal series of days and events leading up to the solemn assumption of a four-year term as chief executive.

President Kennedy’s murder had not become merely an abrupt and shocking symbol of what would soon enough become a mainstreaming of violence into the American culture, furthered as much by color news reports of Vietnam War casualties as it was by film and television dramas.

President Johnson had to take his oath of office and deliver his speech behind bullet-proof glass on January 20, 1965, the first time such a measure was put in place.

President Johnson had to take his oath of office and deliver his speech behind bullet-proof glass on January 20, 1965, the first time such a measure was put in place.

It was also a very real concern about public security, generally, and that of a President, specifically.

And it was evidenced in many of the changes marked by the 1965 Inauguration.

As the LBJ Library has detailed, there was a total of nearly five and half thousand federal and municipal police, security agents, detectives and armed-service members in full force, on the streets and in and around the buildings where the President would be.

New Mexico Cochiti Indian tribal dancers participating in the Inaugural Parade were even only able to march on the condition that the points of their arrows were removed.

Secret Service helicopters were flown over the Inaugural Parade searching out any suspicious crowd activity.

The 1965 Inauguration marked the first time in history that a President was forbidden from riding  triumphantly in an open car or carriage, due to security concerns.

The 1965 Inauguration marked the first time in history that a President was forbidden from riding triumphantly in an open car or carriage, due to security concerns.

LBJ was able to take his oath of office outdoors and review the parade, but only behind bullet-proof glass. His was the first Inaugural in which a President was no longer permitted to ride in an open car and wave to the people. Crowds were only able to glimpse him under an enclosed bubbletop also made of bulletproof glass. The limousine he rode in and the parade stand he stood in were further plated with inpenetrable steel plates.

The first official Inaugural event took place on Monday, January 18. was one that no longer exists, the “Distinguished Ladies Association,” where women relatives of prominent Democratic political figures (and contributors) were feted was one begun in the mid-2oth century.

The new Vice President Hubert Humphrey and his wife. Although Muriel Humphrey was honored at the 1965 Distinguished Ladies Reception because of who she happened to be married to, in later years she became the only Second Lady in history to also become a United States Senator, a whole different level of distinguished,

The new Vice President Hubert Humphrey and his wife. Although Muriel Humphrey was honored at the 1965 Distinguished Ladies Reception because of who she happened to be married to, in later years she became the only Second Lady in history to also become a United States Senator, a whole different level of distinguished.

By the early 21st century, neither political party sought to include the event at Inaugurations, there being less need to distinguish women as wives of political figures because a vastly increased number were being elected or appointed to federal positions in their own right.

The most sought after and highest-priced ticket ($100) of the festivities was that night’s Inaugural Gala, held at the National Guard Armory were a galaxy of Sixties Pop Culture.

The 1965 Inaugural Gala was the hottest ticket in town.

A Hirshfeld drawing of the diverse celebrities who performed at the LBJ Inaugural Gala.

A Hirshfeld drawing of the diverse celebrities who performed at the LBJ Inaugural Gala.

There was crooning by Bobby Darin, and a touch of grim wit by director and television series host Alfred Hitchcock.

Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn performed ballet at the 1965 Inaugural Gala.

Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn performed ballet at the 1965 Inaugural Gala.

The new Tonight Show host Johnny Cars0n provided a dry-witted but uproarious monologue, while spirited vocal performances were offered by Harry Belafonte and Barbra Streisand.

There was also dancing.

Sex kitten Ann Margret provided some of the more groovy, curvy moves, while those steps of the Ernest Flatt Dancers were all high energy and fast.

The “La Corsaire” pas de deux ballet was performed by Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev.

Both already popular stars, one in comedy the other in drama, a tuneful duet medley of songs was performed by friends and popular actresses Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews, the latter then reaching a zenith with her starring role in the 1964 hit film Mary Poppins.

Julie Andrews Carol Burnett and Woody Allen during rehearsals for the LBJ Inaugural Gala.

Julie Andrews Carol Burnett and Woody Allen during rehearsals for the LBJ Inaugural Gala.

The era’s popular folk music was heard by the famous trio Peter, Paul & Mary, while musical satire of folk music was provided by Allen Sherman (of Hello Muddah, Hello Father fame).

Even though she wasn’t an American, the wildly popular and famously beautiful Italian actress Sophie Loren was even on the Gala stage, along with distinguished actor Gregory Peck.

A stirring dance performance by the world-popular Ballet Folklórico de México was a nod to the nation’s Latino heritage, a remembrance of the Kennedys who had invited the group to perform at the White House, and the LBJ embrace of its proud Texan “Tex-Mex” culture.

Nichols & May went all the way for LBJ.

There were standup comedy and routines of Woody Allen, and the team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May.

President and Mrs. Johnson, Vice President and Mrs. Humphrey standing to acknowledge audience applause at the 1965 Inaugural Gala.

President and Mrs. Johnson, Vice President and Mrs. Humphrey standing to acknowledge audience applause at the 1965 Inaugural Gala.

One of the highlights of the Inaugural Gala was the performance of actress Carol Channing who was, by then, a close friend to the Johnson family.

Channing sings to her friends the LBJs at their gala.

Channing sings to her friends the LBJs at their gala.

Then starring in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Hello Dolly! the year before she had performed a reworked version of the play’s title song into Hello Lyndon! for LBJ’s 1964 presidential campaign.

Now, her appearance causing the show to close the night of the Gala so she could appear, she sang yet another new version, with lyrics forecasting the “Great Society” of LBJ’s full term.

LBJ shakes hands with Johnny Caron while Barbra Streisand has a word with Lady Bird backstage at the 1965 Inaugural Gala

LBJ shakes hands with Johnny Caron while Barbra Streisand has a word with Lady Bird backstage at the 1965 Inaugural Gala

On Tuesday, January 19, the Governor’s Reception and the Vice President’s Reception were held, both events which have largely survived over time.

Van Cliburn offers a gallant kiss on the hand to First Daughter Luci Johnson.

Van Cliburn offers a gallant kiss on the hand to First Daughter Luci Johnson.

That night’s Inaugural Concert, always more sedate that the Gala, took place, as it had previously, at Constitution Hall, with Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt and Gershwin performed by popular classical musicians of the era Isaac Stern and Van Cliburn (a native Texan).

There was even a concession to the rising “youthquake” of the Sixties, with a special “Young Democrats Dance” being held the night before the Inauguration. When word got out about the event, it proved so popular with older teenagers that a second hotel ballroom had to be found to meet the demand.

At the one held in the Mayflower Hotel, First Daughter Lynda Bird Johnson appeared, shaking hands in a receiving line.

At the livelier one in the Willard Hotel, however, the younger Luci Baines Johnson reigned, kicking up her heels and swinging and moving to the Frug, Jerk, Monkey and the famous dance which earned her the nickname of “Watusi Luci.”

"Watusi Luci" Johnson enjoying the dance that earned her the nickname, at the "Young Democrats Dance" the night before Inauguration Day, 1965.

“Watusi Luci” Johnson enjoying the dance that earned her the nickname, at the “Young Democrats Dance” the night before Inauguration Day, 1965.

Here’s a popular rendition of the only song after which a First Daughter was nicknamed:

The next morning, the First Family shared a quick breakfast of chipped beef on toast and then dressed for the drive from the White House to the U.S. Capitol, where the swearing-in ceremony took place. The First Lady made sure that the First Daughters were dressed and ready on time.

She had less luck with the President, the whole family finally gathering in his room as he suited up in an Oxford gray business suit and gray felt fedora, according to the LBJ Library.

In early morning, Lady Bird Johnson was dressed and ready to begin Inauguration Day, while the President sits in his room.

In early morning, Lady Bird Johnson was dressed and ready to begin Inauguration Day, while the President sits in his room.

As Mrs. Johnson helped daughter Lynda with her coat, and daughter Luci checked out her appearance in a mirror, LBJ was reading the paper.

Although certaintly today its unquestionable that the President’s fashion was formal, some conservative sticklers sniped that it was lax and inappropriate wear, since it broke the presidential tradition of gray striped trousers and a cutaway jacket.

President Johnson taking the oath of office, Inauguration Day 1965, as seen from a citizen's television set at home.

President Johnson taking the oath of office, Inauguration Day 1965, as seen from a citizen’s television set at home.

If any era marked the relaxing of clothing standards for not just women but men, it was the Sixites, the President seemingly leading the way.

As much the event now seems entirely dominated by white males, for the first time there was a greater symbolic visibility of American diversity on display at a Presidential Inauguration, marking the changes that would also emerge in the national profile during the Sixties.

At the swearing-in ceremony which took place on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, religious leaders of the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Greek Orthodox faiths were invited to offer invocation and prayers.

It was President Johnson who decided that he wanted the Bible on which he would place his hand as he repeated the oath of office to be held by Lady Bird Johnson, an unprecedented move which began the tradition which continues.

Lady Bird Johnson started an Inaugural tradition by holding the Bible upon which her spouse repeated the oath of office, but it was the idea of LBJ.

Lady Bird Johnson started an Inaugural tradition by holding the Bible upon which her spouse repeated the oath of office, but it was the idea of LBJ.

In her bright red coat and hat, it was hard not to notice the First Lady, serving as a symbol of American womanhood, at a time when “Women’s Lib” was in its earliest stages. Second Lady Muriel Humphrey, wife of the new Vice President, earned her own inaugural footnote: she was garbed in a wood dress of sky blue which she had designed and sewn herself.

Also at the ceremony, “America the Beautiful” was sung by African-American Leontyne Price. At that moment, in Selma, Alabama, nearly two hundred Black Americans were being arrested simply for attempting to register for the right to vote in the county courthouse.

African-American soprano Leontyne Price is thanked by President Johnson at his Inaugural swearing-in ceremony after she sang, "America the Beautiful."

African-American soprano Leontyne Price is thanked by President Johnson at his Inaugural swearing-in ceremony after she sang, “America the Beautiful.”

LBJ’s signing of the Civil Rights Act five months before the inauguration was a turning point in regional political allegiance, the once “solid South” dating back to post-Civil War Democratic traditon there began to turn, the segregationist hold there becoming Republican.

A band marching down Pennsylvania as part of hte 1965 Inaugural Parade.

Armed service and colonial guards contingencies marching down Pennsylvania as part of the 1965 Inaugural Parade.

However strategically the Secret Service had determined to control the uncontrollable LBJ, he was the President and it was his day. So when he impulsively decided to bolt out of his imprisoning limousine to greet band members of his college alma mater, all the agents could do was encirle him in a protective cordon.

President Johnson did keep within the confines of the protective Inaugural Parade reviewing stand, but whenever he decided he wanted to be heard, some new technology granted him that right.

Lady Bird Johnson (left), President Lyndon Johnson (2nd from left), Vice President Hubert Humphrey (2nd from right) and Mrs. Humphrey (right) wave and clap as they watch the inaugural parade from behind protective glass. Washington, D.C., January 1965. --- Image by © Dean Conger/Corbis

Lady Bird Johnson (left), President Lyndon Johnson (2nd from left), Vice President Hubert Humphrey (2nd from right) and Mrs. Humphrey (right) wave and clap as they watch the inaugural parade from behind protective glass. Washington, D.C., January 1965. — Image by © Dean Conger/Corbis

The stand was outfitted with a loudspeaker which allowed LBJ to spout out loud enough for the nearby crowds to hear, “You are wonderful people, and you have made this such a lovely day, and we will try so hard to be worthy of your trust and friendship.” According to the LBJ Library, it was “an adaptation of the electronic bullhorn that was part of every Johnson campaign.”

The 1965 LBJ Inaugural Parade also earned one of the most unique benchmarks in presidential history. One of the more distinguished members of the First Family was invited to enjoy the passing floats, military formations and marching bands, making him the very first First Dog to be a presence at an Inauguration.

One of LBJ's two beagles, "Him," honored the newly-inaugurated President with his canine presence; no word on why "Her" was not invited to join and watch the Inaugural Parade. (Corbis)

One of LBJ’s two beagles, “Him,” honored the newly-inaugurated President with his canine presence; no word on why “Her” was not invited to join and watch the Inaugural Parade. (Corbis)

The five Inaugural Balls that night offered a more casual innovation. Cabaret tables were set up to permit guests a chance to socialize, smoke, drink and eat some of the massive cakes which were also a first – and last, innovation provided at Presidential Inaugural Balls.

One of the five elaborately decorated hotel grand ballrooms which hosted the 1965 Inaugural Ball; its chairman Matilde Krim was fastidious in her efforts to make them perhaps the most elaborately detailed, with motifs of the varied landscapes of the United States.

One of the five elaborately decorated hotel grand ballrooms which hosted the 1965 Inaugural Ball; its chairman Matilde Krim was fastidious in her efforts to make them perhaps the most elaborately detailed, with motifs of the varied landscapes of the United States.

LBJ may be loved for his efforts on behalf of education, civil rights fighting poverty, and despised for his Vietnam War policy, but most people agreed that no President loved to dance more than he did.

Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson dancing at one of the Inaugural Balls.

Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson dancing at one of the Inaugural Balls.

Despite warnings about the crush of crowds at each of the balls, Johnson insisted he would swirl and whoosh on the dance floor at his presidential inaugural balls.

And he did as he intended, mostly with his wife but even spotting former President Truman’s daughter at one of the balls and bodily lifting her out of a viewing box to cut it up with him.

One of the less crowded 1965 LBJ Inaugural Balls.

One of the less crowded 1965 LBJ Inaugural Balls.

At the very first ball, the one held in the Mayflower Hotel, LBJ’s first dance was with his wife – but within just fifteen minutes, he’s switched to nine different other women.

Not all of the balls were jam-packed. In fact, because there were so many of them, several provided more than enough floor space for guests to truly relax and enjoy themselves.

The LBJs and Humphreys overlooking an Inaugural Ball crowd.

The LBJs and Humphreys overlooking an Inaugural Ball crowd.

Although George Washington did decide to attend a scheduled New York dancing “assembly,” the private event opened only to subscription members was held several weeks after his inauguration as the first President in 1789.

Washington never danced at an Inaugural Ball because none, in the strictest sense, was organized just for that purpose.

From that point on, all through the 19th century, the early and mid-20th century freshly-inaugurated Presidents were able to only sit above the crowd in the presidential box and watch the crowds polka and waltz to their heart’s content.

(No official Inaugural Balls were held under Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover and F.D.R. and none attended the charity balls held instead)

Just watching from above was not for LBJ. Not even at the dangerously overcrowded Armory Ball.

President Johnson looked longingly down at the crowds at the Armory Ball, the largest but also the most crowded…

It was “not recommended” by aides and security agents that the President descend to the Armory ball dance floor because of the crowds….

The 1965 LBJ Inaugural Ball at the Armory.

In that inimitable LBJ style that both delighted and angered people, he had his way and his waltz….

lbj ball

At one of the less crowded Inaugural Balls, the Johnsons and the Humphreys were able to enjoy some real dancing with breathing room.

It all added up to one more light-hearted, Swinging Sixties footnote for LBJ’s big day: he became the first President in history to dance at his own Inaugural Ball.

Providing the dance music were not only some of the era’s most popular orchestral dance bands such as Meyer Davis, Lester Lanin, Guy Lombardo and Peter Duchin but also jazz legend Louis Armstrong (then hitting the top of the charts with his version of Hello Dolly!) and a popular, melodious folk song quartette of the era known as The Brothers Four, most familiar for their renditions of Yellow Bird, and Try to Remember (The Kind of September). 

Lady Bird Johnson in her 1965 Inaugural Ball gown,

Lady Bird Johnson in her 1965 Inaugural Ball gown,

For Lady Bird Johnson, the most memorable moment of the entire 1965 Inaugural was a line her husband spontaneously called out during his Inaugural Address as he looked down on the silent tens of thousands of faces looking up to him, entrusting him as their leader.

The Brothers Four performing in 1965.

The Brothers Four performing in 1965.

Part of being what it meant to be an American, he declared, was the “excitement of becoming,” which he described as, “always becoming, trying, probing, failing, resting and trying again – but always trying and always gaining.”

One guest later reflected that, in hindsight, the most haunting moment for her of the 1965 Inaugural festivities was hearing the poignant rendition by The Brothers Four of the song Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” Within just two years, it would become what she called a “rallying hymn for peace” against the escalation and worsening carnage of the Vietnam War, a tragedy which soon consumed LBJ and haunted him until he decided not to seek the presidency again in 1968.

Just eight years later, two days after the 1973 Inauguration of his successor Richard Nixon, President Johnson died.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson, creator of the "Great Society," which first addressed many of his nation's social ills for the first time was also overwhelmed by a Vietnam War which could never be won. Seen here with active duty serviceman in the conflict.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson, creator of the “Great Society,” which first addressed many of his nation’s social ills for the first time was also overwhelmed by a Vietnam War which could never be won. Seen here with active duty serviceman in the conflict.


Categories: Preisdential Inaugurations, The LBJs, Uncategorized

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11 replies »

  1. . . . a long time ago, and sometimes, I wonder if it wasn’t a better time.

  2. I HAVE A HARD TIME LOOKING AT LBJ AS PRE. I’VE READ THOUSANDS OF HOURS SINCE 11/22/63 AND THERE ARE A MULTITUDE OF FACTS THAT IMPLICATE JOHNSON . HE WAS IN A WORLD OF TROUBLE WITH BRIBERY INVESTIGATIONS INVOLVING SOL ESTES AND ( DRAWING A BLANK ) THERE WERE POWERFUL FORCES AT WORK THAT WANTED JFK BROUGHT DOWN AND I TRULY BELIEVE LBJ WAS WELL AWARE WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN IN DEALEY PLAZA . BECOMING THE PRES. WAS THE ONLY WAY HE COULD HAVE ESCAPED PRISON . HE WAS A DETESTABLE CRUDE MAN WHO’S AMBITION CONSUMED HIM AND WOULD KILL TO ATTAIN HIS GOALS . PS THERE IS SO MUCH I COULD WRITE BUT I WOULD BORE YOU. —— THANK YOU FOR YOUR UPDATES, I LOVE LOOKING AT JACK AND JACKIE. AMERICA WILL NEVER HAVE THAT YOUTH AND IMAGE AGAIN.

  3. Thanks for the great post, Carl. I believe LBJ truly wanted to make America better for all of its people, particularly the poor and the oppressed. Unfortunately Vietnam overshadowed the latter half of his presidency, but history I believe will remember him in a much softer light than he is seen today.

    And you are right….the man loved to dance!

  4. Mr. Murray you are right about the things you say about Lyndon. He was crude, he was mean, he could be very evil. The Sol Estes scandal is one of money that he magically slipped out of – thanks to large contributors like the Kellogg and Root who saw him to be in their best interest. It didn’t stop there and those familiar with Johnson are well aware of it. Johnson had an unusual relationship with J. Edgar Hoover both admiring his chicanery and his ability to threaten people and actually being frightened of him. I believe both John and Bobby Kennedy were a great threat to him. Whether he knew who would assassinate Kennedy I don’t know. I tend to agree that several were there to kill Kennedy probably coordinated by dark forces in our government. I personally think the final, fatal shot came from a Secret Service agent. I think that shot was a mistake, it was unintentional. The rest, however, were not. Johnson had a lot of friends and he knew some pretty evil folks. The Kennedys were not without their own flaws. I personally do believe that given President Kennedy’s rather bad physical condition he probably would not have lived to 1968. I think he would have died in office. Ralph Yarborough who was both a gun enthusiast and a Congressman from Texas was convinced that shots were fired by Secret Service agents. I think that a weapon was left with its safety off after the first and second shots and I believe the agent who killed Kennedy was probably exhausted when he acted out of instinct, attempting to fell an assassin. We may never know the truth. Most of the principals are dead. The physical evidence was destroyed (samples, x-rays, autopsy notes). Most of the government evidence has disappeared over time.

    • I would certainly like to respond to both Kevin and Mr. Murray. I am not an expert on the assassination of President Kennedy nor of President Johnson’s financial arrangements – nor do I even pretend to be, other than reading the outrageously divergent opinions and views on these matters in the larger context of definitively researched and footnoted biographies of these men. Some of the most wildly insistent ones are rather enthusiastically forwarded to be absolute fact. One now making the rounds even seeks to imply Mrs. Kennedy as a conspirator. From my own professional work I do know, however, that there are so many instances when what may well be a single, random act committed by a single, random person who (even with dark motivations and nefarious, even close associations who have an interest in doing away with a figure in power) end up radically, forever altering the larger course of history. It is so dramatic and devastating that it simply cannot be accepted that there were not powerful forces behind them. I intensively researched two such instances – the assassination of President McKinley and the death of President Harding. In each case, there were cogent, methodical theories reached which were made plausible by a particular arrangement of the established facts yet which were not true. McKinley’s assassin, for example, wildly wed himself to the movement known in the 1890s as “anarchism,” and was so vociferious in his espousal of it that it seemed to have become his sole form of identity as a human being – and so fixated on doing away with McKinley that even the leading American anarchist of the age – Emma Goldman, explicitly sought to distance the movement from him. And yet, conspiracy theories abounded that this was all part of a larger, organized, planned global plot in which the assassin was chosen and trained, with backup individuals also there in Buffalo to kill McKinley if the intended assassin somehow failed to do so. In fact, there was at the time also a rife whispering campaign that because McKinley was shot in Buffalo in the state of New York and because this elevated to the presidency his Vice President Theodore Roosevelt and because Roosevelt had been Governor of New York and Police Commissioner of New York City and further, that he was on personal terms with powerful industrials like J.P. Morgan who felt McKinley was not harsh enough against organized labor, that Roosevelt (like LBJ) was behind a plot to fell McKinley. One source even claims that TR used former NYC policemen to help carry it out. The article which I published here is not intended to serve as a forum for those experts who know the details of such theories. I do not believe in censoring opinions on this website, appreciative as I am of the time and effort made by those who write and of their showing the enormous respect of even reading the work – and thus permit these comments to be published. Several experiences, however, have led me to a policy of asserting that public comments not become far afield from the topic of the articles here. I will conclude this particular thread, however, with a thought about Presidents, generally. Not any single one of them has led Administrations of either all good or all bad policy. I often mention that Nixon may have subverted the Constitution with decisions made to avert the investigation of the Watergate scandal – and also conceived of and enacted the first “war on cancer” through NIH, established the Environmental Protetion Agency and more fully funded the National Endowment of the Arts than did JFK and LBJ. LBJ, a former public school teacher of impoverished Mexican-American children in San Marcos, felt intensely compelled to destroy the elements which create poverty – and there are many, many layers to this, including the civil rights of all Americans regardless of their race – and yes, he also escalated the horror of the Vietnam War. Even Eisenhower, who I greatly admire, lied to the world about the US’s purpose behind the U2 plane shot down over the Soviet Union. Even Millard Fillmore must be credited for ending flogging in the U.S. Navy – while blamed for furthering the spread of slavery. Most people do not have the time or inclination for nuance, but I at least adhere to the belief – as drawn from conclusions based on my own experiences with humanity – that no single one person is so evil that they must be hated. I’ve said far more here than I intended. I will conclude finally that I do have other articles planned here related to LBJ, including the images and documents of his first days following his first swearing-in and in doing that research was startled by how many, many political and other leaders he pressed for support in a full investigation into the assassination of his predecessor.

      • Your article and subsequent reply to Mr. Murray were great !
        As a boomer, the transition from the Kennedys to the Johnsons is still well remembered.
        I now think LBJ was a pretty good president- who made the huge mistake of letting Robert McNamara and the “military industrial complex” get the US too involved in Vietnam. I think LBJ later realized this.
        From what I have read, LBJ was very egotistical, impatient and yes, crude. Of course he was NOT involved in the assassination, but LBJ wasted no time in enjoying his role as president.
        Like JFK and Robert, Lyndon had a genuine capacity for empathy and compassion. The “Great Society” which LBJ wanted as his presidential legacy, was his own reaction to the effects of extreme poverty.
        And, who can forget the terrific Lady Bird? The epitome of southern graciousness and a very genuine person as well.
        I understand Mr. Anthony is doing more LBJ articles. Terrif! I have a couple of things that perhaps could be answered:
        Everyone (including Ethel) says how much LBJ and Bobby disliked each other. Was it really that intense? I have heard several 1964 phone calls between the two- each sounds pretty friendly. And I feel that if LBJ hated Bobby so much he would not have campaigned so extensively for him to be New York senator. They would remain in contact through the years.
        My last question has to do with LBJ and THE car. How did they ever convince Lyndon to ride around in the assassination limousine? Yes, it was all redone for safety- BUT my research indicates ALOT of the original limo was reused. Exterior panels- including the trunk panel that JBKO climbed upon (and LBJ dented while standing on it at a campaign), fenders, doors, etc. The rear compartment also reused trim pieces too. Did LBJ know beforehand that the car would return looking so much like the assassination version? He did put his foot down on the blue exterior color and changed it to black- but when? I have seen pics from 1966 that show the car as blue.
        Great articles though, I enjoy them!

        • Dear Chip – Wow, what an incredible comment and commentary – I appreciate it. You ask some excellent questions. I would have to say I agree with you on LBJ’s accomplishments as President. He was determined to eradicate poverty in the U.S. as much as he could, and he believed that a government as powerful as ours and a nation as prosperous as ours had a humanitarian duty to go as far as it could in helping citizens help themselves in raising the quality of their life, largely through education. I am convinced he did more for education on a national level than any other President. And yes, the Vietnam War was horrific and he and McNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff refused to shudder long enough as the numbers of young American men being killed only continued to rise – it was reckless to continually send thousands and thousands more. And this, I believe, speaks to a larger point about Presidents: it is not about their historical reputation, their ego at being a President under which a nation “lost” a war – when it comes at the cost of so many hundreds of thousands, millions of lives (if you include the Vietnamese, and how even more horrific to consider that their lives were any less worthy of protecting). So his record, like that of Nixon is a mixed one – based on the cost of human life destroyed in the process of winning that “honor” in “peace with honor.” That’s my opinion. As to LBJ and RFK, I think there is an interesting distinction almost never made – between documentary sources (such as the taped phonecalls and the written record of the presidential papers) and oral history sources consisting of the personal recollections and opinions of others. To me, in a preliminary overview, this seems to suggest that the “feud” was fed more by others, perhaps their spokespeople and agents and friends and supporters, who infused their own dislikes of each rival. That said, of course, political figures like LBJ and RFK were wily enough to know not to leave too distinct a permanent record which might show them as petty. Many suggest, for example, that the documentary record of a warmth between the LBJS and Jackie Kennedy which is reflected in their extensive correspondence, is mitigated if not shown to be merely superficial politeness, by her own oral history. Again – that said, Mrs. Kennedy was reflecting what she believed to be her husband’s opinion of LBJ. Regarding the car – I draw an absolute blank. I’ve never read or come across anything in my research which suggested President Johnson’s view about using the car in which JFK was murdered. On a certain practical level, it was only a symbol as much as people transferred onto it the memories of horror, but at the end of the day it was just a big piece of metal and glass that was extremely expensive utilitarian object and it came at far less cost for the taxpayers to renovate than to replace.

          • Thank you. You are so good about responding to others’ comments. Your writing is terrific too.
            What started my comments was seeing 2 pictures of LBJ and RFK. One was taken in Nov. 1964 and shows “Landslide” (Lyndon’s alleged sometime nickname) and the RFKs sitting in the back of THE redone car campaigning for Bobby. Talk about creepy. RFK has his “resigned to this” smile- sorta sad looking. Another shows LBJ & Lady Bird with Bobby in the back seat at another event. Sargent Shriver is turned on a jump seat. This time Landslide looks tired and not too happy. Bobby seems distracted.
            Another was taken in 1967 at the dedication of the USS JFK. At some point LBJ stopped to talk to JBKO and RFK. This time, RFK has his more sincere smile- even looks like he is enjoying talking to the Prez.
            I think it’s odd that LBJ wasted NO time completely remodeling Air Force One- which was EXPENSIVE, but would accept the parade car as is.
            Hearing the Kennedy tapes- recorded in spring 1964- certainly left nothing to the imagination as to how the Kennedy’s really felt about the Johnsons. I was disappointed that Caroline released them early. I think the original intention was NOT to release them while the children of those referred to were still alive.
            JBKO could sometimes be really nasty in her assessment of others. Her comments on Lady Bird (acting like a trained dog while campaigning for LBJ) and Pat Nixon (dowdy- BUT if she tried, Pat could be very Park Avenue) were pretty dismissive. I think the cocktails while recording with Schlesinger didn’t help. It was interesting to hear JBKO relate how JFK thought LBJ could never handle the presidency.
            I am sure the Johnson and Nixon daughters were not too impressed hearing what JBKO had said.

          • Most of all I found the tapes a perfect time piece. I know that in later years she confessed to feeling great regret about the way she handled William Manchester and about her behavior (“emotional things”) in the immediate months after the assassination, even mortified at banning her friend George Plimpton from releasing a pleasant and harmless story about an afternoon with her children in Newport. These tapes were made at a time when she felt extreme bitterness, frustration, and rage at the horrific and sudden death of her husband, specifically, and nasty feelings towards those who still had their spouses. She even snapped at her secretary that “at least you have your husband.” Any yet, really, it was the best time to provoke her recent memories in discussing the Administration and her husband. At this point, understanding context certainly in light of their own fathers and the attacks on them (LBJ and Nixon) for political decisions they made, and recognizing when the criticism of their fathers went overboard – yet grasping fully the tempo of their times, that the four adult daughters likely have a nuanced response.

  5. Thoroughly fascinating… wonderfully insightful… thanks for this!

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