“At its best, public television would help make our Nation a replica of the old Greek marketplace, where public affairs took place in view of all the citizens.”
-President Lyndon B. Johnson
On this day in 1967, LBJ signed the Public Broadcasting Act (S.1160).
Photo: President Lyndon B. Johnson delivering remarks prior to the signing in the East Room of the White House. November 7, 1967.
Read the full remarks at the American Presidency Project.
-from the LBJ Library
Johnson in Vietnam
After attending a summit in the Philippines with the Heads of State and Government of Australia, Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, President Johnson traveled to Vietnam. He visited with U.S. military personnel in Cam Ranh Bay on October 26th.
President Lyndon B. Johnson in Vietnam: With General William Westmoreland and the fighting men, 10/26/1966
Click it…or ticket!
This 1965 Corvette Stingray was a gift to LBJ’s daughter Luci on her 18th birthday. Unlike most cars manufactured in the sixties, it was equipped with seat belts.
On September 9, 1966, LBJ signed legislation setting new standards for vehicle safety, which included equipping all cars with seat belts beginning in 1968.
-from the LBJ Library
Happy Birthday, LBJ!
Here’s the first photograph ever taken of Lyndon Baines Johnson. He was born approximately six months earlier, on August 27, 1908, in central Texas. No word on the teddy bear’s photographic history, but at least we know it had nicely brushed fur the day this was taken.
-from the LBJ Library
"President Lyndon B. Johnson listens to tape sent by Captain Charles Robb from Vietnam, 07/31/1968"
In this White House photo taken by Jack Kightlinger on July 31, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson listens to a tape recording from his son-in-law Capt. Charles Robb, who was a Marine Corps company commander serving in Vietnam (and later Governor and Senator from Virginia).
LBJ Signs the Medicare Bill
On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law. The event took place at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and LBJ told the nation that Medicare “all started with the man from Independence.”
Truman was the first president to publicly endorse a national health insurance program.
As a Senator, Truman had become alarmed at the number of draftees who had failed their induction physicals during World War II. For Truman these rejections meant that the average citizen could not afford visiting a doctor to maintain health. He stated “that is all wrong in my book. I am trying to fix it so the people in the middle-income bracket can live as long as the very rich and the very poor.”
Truman’s first proposal in 1945 provided for physician and hospital insurance for working-aged Americans and their families. A federal health board was to administer the program with the government retaining the right to fix fees for service, and doctors could choose whether or not to participate. This proposal was defeated after, among many factors, the American Medical Association labeled the president’s plan “socialized medicine” taking advantage of the public’s concern over communism in Russia.
Even though he was never able to create a national health care program, Truman was able to draw attention to the country’s health needs, have funds legislated to construct hospitals, expand medical aid to the needy, and provide for expanded medical research.
In honor of his continued advocacy for national health insurance, LBJ presented Truman and his wife Bess with Medicare cards number one and two in 1966.
Image: Harry S. Truman’s Medicare Card #1.
Photo: President Lyndon B. Johnson shakes hands with former President Harry S. Truman at the signing of the Medicare Bill. LBJ Library #34897-14.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965
An act to enforce the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States and for other purposes, August 6, 1965.
This “act to enforce the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution” was signed into law 95 years after the amendment was ratified. In those years, African Americans in the South faced tremendous obstacles to voting, including poll taxes, literacy tests, and other bureaucratic restrictions to deny them the right to vote. They also risked harassment, intimidation, economic reprisals, and physical violence when they tried to register or vote. As a result, very few African Americans were registered voters, and they had very little, if any, political power, either locally or nationally.
In 1964, numerous demonstrations were held, and the considerable violence that erupted brought renewed attention to the issue of voting rights. The murder of voting-rights activists in Mississippi and the attack by state troopers on peaceful marchers in Selma, AL, gained national attention and persuaded President Johnson and Congress to initiate meaningful and effective national voting rights legislation. The combination of public revulsion to the violence and Johnson’s political skills stimulated Congress to pass the voting rights bill on August 5, 1965.
The legislation, which President Johnson signed into law the next day, outlawed literacy tests and provided for the appointment of Federal examiners (with the power to register qualified citizens to vote) in those jurisdictions that were “covered” according to a formula provided in the statute. In addition, Section 5 of the act required covered jurisdictions to obtain “preclearance” from either the District Court for the District of Columbia or the U.S. Attorney General for any new voting practices and procedures. Section 2, which closely followed the language of the 15th amendment, applied a nationwide prohibition of the denial or abridgment of the right to vote on account of race or color. The use of poll taxes in national elections had been abolished by the 24th amendment (1964) to the Constitution; the Voting Rights Act directed the Attorney General to challenge the use of poll taxes in state and local elections. In Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966), the Supreme Court held Virginia’s poll tax to be unconstitutional under the 14th amendment.
Because the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the most significant statutory change in the relationship between the Federal and state governments in the area of voting since the Reconstruction period following the Civil War, it was immediately challenged in the courts. Between 1965 and 1969, the Supreme Court issued several key decisions upholding the constitutionality of Section 5 and affirming the broad range of voting practices for which preclearance was required. [See South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 327-28 (1966) and Allen v. State Board of Elections, 393 U.S. 544 (1969)]
The law had an immediate impact. By the end of 1965, a quarter of a million new black voters had been registered, one-third by Federal examiners. By the end of 1966, only 4 out of the 13 southern states had fewer than 50 percent of African Americans registered to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was readopted and strengthened in 1970, 1975, and 1982.
White House Meeting with Civil Rights Leaders. June 22, 1963
Photograph of meeting with Civil Rights leaders. Front Row Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, Roy Wilkins, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Walter P. Reuther, Whitney M. Young, A Philip Randolph Second Row Second From Left Rosa Gragg Top Row Third From Left James Farmer
From the Abbie Rowe White House Photographs series
The White House to Kremlin “Hotline”
Hot Line Teletype Machine
Lyndon B. Johnson Museum Collection
Established 50 years ago on June 20, 1963 and announced on August 30, 1963 by the Kennedy White House, the Kremlin-White House teletype “Hotline” was established in the aftermath to the Cuban Missile Crisis - to be used only in an emergency to ensure clear communication between the President and the Soviet Premier.
The White House Hotline teletype machine was used for the first time for communication between President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexsei Kosygin during the Six Day War in the Middle East.
May 12, 1966. Lady Bird, President Johnson, Max Brooks, W.W. Heath, and Bill Moyers, among others, meet with architect Gordon Bunshaft to see his concept model for the future Presidential Library which will be built on the UT Austin campus.
In his oral history, Bunshaft describes the presentation:
Bunshaft: The President walked in and he said, “Mr. Bunshaft, I only have five minutes.” God, I ran him back and forth between these two things, and he stayed about fifteen minutes. I didn’t ever figure out how he could understand what I was talking about. This is a complex building, if you see it, especially on drawings. I ran him back and forth. That was a Friday. He didn’t say a word [about] whether he liked it or not. He left and Mrs. Johnson said, “Well, we’ll have to do a lot of thinking and talking about this.” Then that was the end of it. Monday the President called up Heath in Texas and said, “I approve the design.”
Mulhollan: From a lengthy fifteen minute briefing.
B: Yes. That floored everybody, because we assumed it would take at least a month. […] Frank [Stanton] had thought that the President might talk of this. He didn’t know about the approval. In fact, I didn’t either Tuesday. And [Johnson] described the building to his wife. After dinner, President Johnson described every damned detail of this building to Mrs. Stanton.
M: And got it right.
B: Got the whole damned thing. Now, how the hell he could have understood it and remembered it from fifteen minutes is beyond me. In fact, the next meeting I had, I talked to one of the secretaries, Juanita Roberts, and I said, “Look, he must have come back and studied that model.” The model was taken away the next morning, but he could have come back that evening. She’s very close, not his secretary, she’s an assistant; she’s not out there, but she’s in Washington—anyhow, swore up and down that the President never went back.
— Transcript, Gordon Bunshaft Oral History Interview I, 6/25/69, by Paige E. Mulhollan, Electronic Copy, LBJ Library.
April 28, 1965. 4:40 PM. Ambassador Bennett sends this cable from Santo Domingo to the White House less than two hours after the previous one. It begins: “Regret report situation deteriorating rapidly.”
LBJ’s secretary Juanita Roberts (foreground at her desk, in 1968) hand-delivers it to the President seven minutes after it is received, interrupting a meeting with foreign policy advisors.LBJ Library, National Security File, Country File Dominican Republic, Bennett “HELP,” Box 48, #7c.
March 20, 1965. LBJ holds a news conference from the LBJ Ranch to announce that he has federalized the Alabama National Guard at Governor Wallace’s request.
“I have called selected elements of the Alabama National Guard into Federal Service. Additionally, I have military police put in position at both Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. In addition, we have Federal marshals, FBI agents on duty in that area at this time….
“Over the next several days the eyes of the Nation will be upon Alabama, and the eyes of the world will be upon America. It is my prayer, a prayer in which I hope all Americans will join me earnestly today, that the march in Alabama may proceed in a manner honoring our heritage and honoring all for which America stands.”
Read the full text here.
March 7, 1966. In a rare handwritten letter to President Johnson, General de Gaulle states the reasons for his decision to withdraw France from the military aspects of NATO.
“…France considers that the changes that have occurred, or are in the process of occurring, since 1949, in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere, as well as the evolution of her own situation and her own forces, no longer justify, in so far as she is concerned, the arrangements of a military nature made after the conclusion of the Alliance, either jointly in the form of multilateral agreements, or by special agreements between the French Government and the American Government.”
This decision led to the withdrawal of American bases from France and the relocation of NATO headquarters from Paris to Brussels. To read the full translation, see the Foreign Relations of the United States Series.
We interrupt this regularly scheduled LBJ Time Machine:
To tell y’all that we have posted the 1934 love letters between LBJ and Lady Bird, available in full for the very first time, on the web. You can find them here: searchable, downloadable, and transcribed.
LBJ and Lady Bird met on September 5, 1934 and ”committed matrimony,” as Lady Bird described it, on November 17 of that same year. These 90-odd letters are their correspondence during the time of their (brief) courtship, while he was in Washington and she was in Texas. Enjoy—and Happy Valentine’s Day, from us to you.
— LBJ Presidential Library Archives Staff
Does 90 letters in 90 days in 1934 equal 5,000 text messages in 2013?
The love letters of LBJ and Lady Bird have finally been digitized and released to the public this morning. You can read them all at www.lbjlibrary.org.
Image: LBJ sent this photo to Lady Bird during their courtship. The caption reads “For Bird—A lovely girl with ideals, principles, intelligence, and refinement from her sincere admirer, Lyndon” (Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library)