Miller Center

Selma, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Lyndon Johnson Tapes

Essays by Kent Germany, Transcripts by the Presidential Recordings Program

The Timeline: July 4, 1964 - August 6, 1965

(L-R): Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., President Lyndon B. Johnson, Whitney Young, and James Farmer. January 18, 1964

When Lyndon Johnson died in 1973, he left behind almost 700 hours of secretly recorded telephone conversations from his presidency. As real-time history, the recordings connect listeners directly to the 1960s—our ears bridging the distance between then and now. We can hear our second-tallest president breathe and eat and laugh and wheel and deal and belch and flush toilets and, in one famous exchange, complain about his pants. And since it is LBJ, we can hear him talk and talk and talk.

One of LBJ’s favorite discussion topics in the months after his historic 1964 electoral victory was voting rights and, specifically, the lack thereof for a vast majority of African Americans in the South. Between November 1964 and August 1965, Johnson recorded approximately 70 telephone calls that addressed the voting rights struggle, the Selma–Montgomery events, and the legislation he eventually signed into law as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Several recordings reveal that Lyndon Johnson began pressuring the Justice Department to develop voting rights legislation and legal remedies at least by 14 December 1964. They demonstrate that he considered solutions to voter registration problems to be a signature part of his immediate post-election agenda and his long-term vision for the Democratic Party. Important conversations also indicate that he had a relatively congenial relationship on the telephone with Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Both men, seemingly, were eager to find common ground politically and to hear suggestions from each other about voting and the need to appoint black officials to high-level federal positions. Their exchanges are as notable for their strained cheerfulness as for their vagueness.

Other LBJ conversations with White House aides and the Attorney General, however, offer examples of Johnson’s anxiety about King. In particular, they highlight Johnson’s desire to avoid creating a public perception that he was close to the prominent civil rights leader. Antagonistic reports from the FBI about King heightened that anxiety.

The Timeline: July 4, 1964 - August 6, 1965

Click dates below to jump ahead in the timeline.

July 4

July 4, 1964

Two days before this phone call, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in a nationally televised ceremony. Martin Luther King Jr. had stood behind him, and Johnson had handed him a souvenir pen from the occasion. In this recorded exchange with press secretary George Reedy about a recent press briefing, the prickly side of the Johnson-King relationship emerged. Excerpt from The Presidential Recordings: Lyndon B. Johnson: Mississippi Burning and the Passage of the Civil Rights Act, June 23–July 4, 1964, eds. Kent Germany and David Carter, vol. 8 (New York: W. W. Norton, 2011), 453–4.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr. and others look on. July 2, 1964

Date: 1964-07-04
Participant: Lyndon Johnson
Participant: George Reedy
Time: 19:25
Location: LBJ Ranch

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President Johnson: Now, you say I’ve been in touch with Martin Luther King [Jr.] continuously.
George Reedy: No, that’s . . . that’s a mis—at the time—mistake. I said that—
President Johnson: I haven’t been in touch with him at all and don’t want to be. You know his record.
Reedy: Yeah, I know.
President Johnson: It’s the last thing. [seeming to quote from some source] “The President has been in continual touch with Dr. King.”
Reedy: I know it; that’s a mistake in the transcript which I’ve gotten corrected. I said, “From time to time he has seen Martin Luther King” is what I said.
President Johnson: [testily] Well, why do you say that?
Reedy: Well, you saw him at the ceremony [signing of the Civil Rights Act on 2 July]—
President Johnson: Well, I say, why do you say it?
Reedy: Because I was asked and because they’d seen you there.
President Johnson: Well, all right, then, don’t—just say if you’ve seen him. Just keep that out, though. I’m sorry he was there. It was very unfortunate he was there, and don’t you get hung in on it. And then you get it in transcript that he’s been in continual touch with him. That’s the last thing I want. They’re making an issue on you, and you’ll hear from King before this [presidential] campaign’s over with.
And then you go to making an explanation; it won’t do any good. So I’d just say . . . that you don’t know a damn thing about who I’ve seen. And you don’t. If they ask you if I’ve seen him, you tell them you don’t know. Don’t get in there that I’m in continuous touch with him. [Pauses briefly.]
And who is making all these mistakes in transcripts? Your transcriber?
Reedy: Well, there aren’t many, sir. They come from time to time.
President Johnson: Well, I mean this one.
Reedy: He made that one. Yes, sir.

November 5, 1964

After his resounding victory over Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, Johnson made a series of thank-you calls from his Texas ranch, including ones to several major national civil rights leaders. In his conversation with Martin Luther King Jr., he offered his appreciation for support during the campaign and then outlined his hopes for expanding the War on Poverty and the fight for economic justice.

Three weeks before this call, King had been announced as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Date: 1964-11-05
Participant: Lyndon Johnson
Participant: Martin Luther King Jr.
Time: 15:20
Location: LBJ Ranch

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Martin Luther King Jr.: Hello?
President Johnson: Doctor?
King: Yes, Mr. President!
President Johnson: Well, I just wanted to tell you that . . . how mighty proud I was of a lot of folks last Tuesday. And Hubert Humphrey left here about 30 minutes ago, and I still haven't shaved or got off my bathrobe. I was up all night the night before, and I thought I'd call half a dozen or so folks and tell them how much I appreciated their confidence, and what a good job I thought they'd done, and how they'd justified our faith, and how many more now we've got to help get out of their bondage.
King: Yes, well, we're certainly all very happy about the outcome. It was just such a great victory. And I certainly appreciate your calling. It . . . We have some bright days ahead, I think.
President Johnson: Well, it was a great tribute to the intelligence and the judgment [and] the patriotism of the Negro people, that they couldn't mislead them and they couldn't fool them, and . . .
King: Yes.
President Johnson: Their leaders, I think, made great progress from them. And I know they all take great pride in your great honor [Nobel Peace Prize]. And I wired you the other day, but I was moving pretty fast—
King: Oh, yes.
President Johnson: —and I don't know what day it was. As a matter of fact, I don't know where I am hardly!
King: [Laughs.] I know, I know.
President Johnson: I'm kind of like . . . I'm like Dr. Theodore Francis Green, you know.1 He was at one of Miss [Perle] Mesta's parties one time looking [at] a little book.2 I asked him, I said, "Mr. Chairman"—he's about 87 years old—and then I said, "What are you trying to do, see where you're going from here?" And he said, "No, I'm trying to find out where I am." [Both laugh.]
King: Yeah. Well, I know! You really need some real rest. I know what you've gone through the last few days.
President Johnson: We'll be back up there working on our program, and we're going to have a . . . we're going to spend a lot of time with [Sargent] Shriver on our poverty thing.3 I wish you'd give a little thought to it, because that offers a lot of opportunity for our young people—
King: Yes.
President Johnson: —that have been denied. And we've got nearly a billion dollars this year—
King: Mm-hmm.
President Johnson: —and we ought to get it going around the first of the year in pretty good shape. Then next year we can do it a lot bigger and expand it. And it offers a lot of economic hope, too. And I'll be calling on you, and we'll all have another meeting and try to get our heads together on the things ahead. We got this behind us now, and we've got to move on the next four years and make some advances.
King: Yes.
President Johnson: I'll be in touch with you.
King: Well, good, good. And again, let me congratulate you and say what a great moment we think this is for our country. It was a great victory for the forces of progress and a defeat for the forces of retrogress. And I think we have some great challenges and opportunities ahead, and we're all with you.
President Johnson: Thank you, Doctor, thank you so much. I just wanted to give you a ring.
King: Give my best regards to the Madam . . .
President Johnson: Sure will.
King: . . . and to your lovely daughters.
President Johnson: Sure will. She had a hard . . . [Dr. King attempts to interject] she took on a pretty hard assignment, didn't she? [Laughs.]
King: I'm telling you, but she did it beautifully and eloquently. We're all mighty proud of her.
President Johnson: Thank you so much.
King: All right.
President Johnson: Bye.
King: Bye-bye.
President Johnson: We'll be seeing you when we get back to Washington.
King: What's that?
President Johnson: I'll be calling you when we get back to Washington. We all ought to get together and kind of see where we go from here.
King: Very good. Well, that's what I wanted to do, and that'll be fine. You get back to Washington when?
President Johnson: I'll be back probably the middle of next week.
King: Fine. All right, Mr. President. Thanks so much for calling.
President Johnson: Bye . . . bye. Bye.
King: Mm-hmm.

Late November 1964

Complicating Johnson’s relationship with King was a feud between King and the powerful FBI director J. Edgar Hoover that intensified just before Thanksgiving. On 18 November, Hoover told a group of reporters that King was the “most notorious liar” in the United States.4 Two days later, the issue came up in a long LBJ conversation with FBI assistant director Cartha “Deke” Deloach. Most of that call dealt with other matters, but LBJ did take time to advise that Hoover knew King “better than anybody in the country. [. . .] and there's no reason why he [Hoover] ought to get in a fight with—argument with him [King]” (Conversation WH6411-25-6431).

The FBI, though, was already on the attack. One day after that phone call, on 21 November, an agent acting at Hoover’s behest flew to Miami and mailed an anonymous package, without a return address, to King’s offices in Atlanta. According to the 1976 report by the Church Committee (the popular name for a Senate select committee on U.S. intelligence activities chaired by Idaho Democrat Frank Church), it contained a hostile letter and an audiotape produced by an FBI specialist under the supervision of FBI assistant director William Sullivan (investigators found a copy of the letter in Sullivan’s files in 1971). The letter accused King of being a “colossal fraud” who had only “one way out” before “your filthy, fraudulent self is bared before the nation” in 34 days. The audiotape compiled highlights from FBI surveillance and likely included material from King’s stay at Washington’s Willard Hotel in January 1964. Sources conflict about what the tape revealed, some claiming they had a hard time hearing anything identifiable except room noise and difficult-to-discern conversation. The implication, however, was that the FBI believed they had audio of King engaged in an adulterous affair. A high level assistant to Hoover testified that Hoover specifically wanted a copy sent to Coretta Scott King “to precipitate their separation, thereby diminishing Dr. King’s stature.”5

The package left Miami, arrived at King’s office a few days later, and was put in a pile of other mail where it lay until late December or early January. The Church Committee did not tie President Johnson to this FBI plan, though Church Committee investigators did find that Johnson clearly knew about the FBI surveillance of King that had begun in the Kennedy administration. They also learned that Johnson had received a warning on 28 November 1964 that the FBI was shopping audio recordings of King to several reporters. Attorney General Katzenbach and Assistant Attorney General Burke Marshall flew to the LBJ Ranch to tell the President about this potential political bombshell. Marshall reported that Johnson was “shocked” at hearing about the attempted leak, and the three men talked about it as a “very nasty piece of business that had to be stopped.” Neither Katzenbach nor Marshall could say with certainty what Johnson did, but Katzenbach believed that “Johnson’s intervention” ended this particular effort and other “similar activities” for the rest of his term as head of the Justice Department.6

December 10, 1964

Martin Luther King Jr. accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.

December 14, 1964

A month after the election and before Martin Luther King Jr.’s serious involvement in Selma, Alabama, President Johnson implored Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to get moving on voting rights legislation. Memoranda and reports show that the Justice Department responded to this pressure, developing recommendations four days later for a possible constitutional amendment, for shifting voter registration authority to federal officials, and for eliminating literacy tests and poll taxes for non-federal elections. Those efforts expanded in January 1965. Excerpt from a forthcoming addition to Presidential Recordings Digital Edition.

Date: 1964-12-14
Participant: Lyndon Johnson
Participant: Nicholas Katzenbach
Time: 11:30
Location: Unspecified

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President Johnson: I want you to undertake the greatest midnight legislative drafting that's happened since [Tommy] Corcoran and [Benjamin] Cohen wrote the Holding Company Act. . . . On that, I basically believe that if we can have a simple, effective method of getting them registered—now, if the state laws are too high and they disqualify a bunch of them, maybe we can go into the Supreme Court and get them held unconstitutional. Or, if the registrars make them stand in line too long, maybe we can work that out where the postmasters can do it. Let's find some way—


Katzenbach: Oh–well, let's go into all the other alternatives and then—
President Johnson: Let's just get—let's get the best people you've got. Now, Joe Rauh has been talking about postmasters.
Katzenbach: Mm-hmm.
President Johnson: Let's see what you can do. And we're going to need it pretty quick.

December 18, 1964

Martin Luther King Jr., his wife Coretta, and others came to the White House for a congratulatory visit after King received the Nobel Peace Prize. According to the White House daily diary, President Johnson and Vice President-elect Hubert Humphrey met with King and his wife in the Oval Office from 5:31 P.M. until 6:05 P.M., at which point they went to an aide’s office for nine minutes to meet the rest of King’s party, then all came back to the Oval Office. Johnson then put in some contact lenses and went outside with his family to light the national Christmas tree.

January 4, 1965

President Johnson delivered his first State of the Union message after being elected in his own right. It was a broad-ranging speech detailing the vast Great Society agenda, and Johnson listed voting rights as a key part of his immediate objectives. In a list of nine items that he planned to propose with special messages to Congress in the next six weeks, one of the proposals sought to “eliminate every remaining obstacle to the right and the opportunity to vote.” In a later section, he declared that his administration would provide “opportunity” to “Negro Americans, through enforcement of the civil rights law and elimination of barriers to the right to vote.”

January 15, 1965

As President Johnson prepared for his first and only formal inauguration, he spoke to Martin Luther King Jr. about legislative work that was well underway. Before King could get to what he considered “the main thing I wanted to share,” which was the desire for Johnson to appoint a black official to a Cabinet-level position, Johnson launched into a lobbying effort of his own. He urged King to highlight outrageous voting rights abuses and to appeal to members of the Senate and House committees, all critical for the passage of Great Society legislation, especially in voting, poverty, health, education, housing, and urban affairs.

An area of clear agreement between the two was the pressing need to get more African Americans registered to cast ballots. At their 18 December meeting at the White House, Johnson had talked to King about the strategies he had been developing with the Attorney General. He continued that discussion here, outlining his directives to the Justice Department to find the best ways to end literacy tests and put local registration under federal control, possibly in the post office. Johnson wanted King not to “publicize” that information until they could figure out a way to avoid a filibuster and a slowdown on the other related Great Society legislation. King replied that he had been “very diligent” in maintaining confidentiality. The two also discussed the ways that moderate white voters and black voters would form a coalition to remake the Democratic Party in the South.

Johnson predicted that they would have a “breakthrough” on voting rights legislation, and it would be “the greatest achievement of my administration.” What he wanted from King was for him to “get in there and help us,” to which King answered, I certainly will. You know you can always count on that.”

Date: 1965-01-15
Participant: Lyndon Johnson
Participant: Martin Luther King Jr.
Time: 12:06
Location: LBJ Ranch

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President Johnson: Hello.
Martin Luther King Jr.: Hello?
President Johnson: This is Lyndon Johnson, I had a call—
King: Who [unclear].
President Johnson: —from you, and I tried to reply to it a couple of times, Savannah and different places, and they said you were traveling, and I got to traveling last night. [Unclear comment by King.] Just got down here to meet the Prime Minister [Lester Pearson] of Canada this morning. And I—I had a moment and I thought maybe we better try to—I better try to reply to your call.
King: Well, I certainly appreciate your returning the call, and I don’t want to take but just a minute or two of your time. First I want to thank you for that great State of the Union message. It was really a marvelous presentation, and I think we are on the way now towards the Great Society.7
President Johnson: I’ll tell you what our problem is. We’ve got to try . . . with every force at our command, and I mean every force . . . to get these education bills that go to those people under $2,000 a year income. A billion and a half [dollars], and this poverty [bill] that’s a billion and a half, and this health [bill] that’s going to be 900 million next year right at the bottom. We’ve got to get them passed before the vicious forces concentrate and get them a coalition that can block them. Then we have got to—so we won’t divide them all and get them hung up in a filibuster.8
We've got to—when we get these big things through that we need, Medicare, Education—I’ve already got that hearing started the 22nd in the House and the 26th in the Senate—your people ought to be very, very . . . uh . . . diligent in looking at those committee members that come from urban areas that are friendly to you to see that those bills get reported right out, because you have no idea. It's shocking to you how much benefits they will get. [King acknowledges.] There’s 8 billion, 500 million [dollars] this year for education compared to 700 million when I started, so you can imagine . . . you can imagine what effort that’s going to be.
King: Yes.
President Johnson: And this one bill is a billion and a half. Now, if we can get that and we can get our Medicare—we ought to get that by February—then we get our poverty [bill], that will be more than double what it was last year. Then we’ve got to come up with the . . . qualification of the voters. That will answer 70 percent of your problems.
King: That’s right.
President Johnson: If you just clear it out everywhere, make it age and read and write. No tests on . . . what [Geoffrey] Chaucer said or [Robert] Browning’s poetry or constitutions or memorizing or anything else.
King: Yes.
President Johnson: And then you may have to put them in the post office, let the Post Master—that’s a federal employee that I control who they can say is local; he’s recommended by the congressman, he’s approved by the senator, but if he doesn’t register everybody I can put a new one in.
King: Yes.
President Johnson: And it’s not an outside, Washington influence. It’s a local man. But they can just all go to the post office like they buy a stamp. Now, I haven’t thought this through, but that’s my general feeling, and I’ve talked to the Attorney General, and I’ve got them working on it. I don’t want to start off with that anymore than I do with 14(b) because I wouldn’t get anything else.9
King: Yes, yes, yes.
President Johnson: Do you—
King: That’s right.
President Johnson: And I don’t want to publicize it, but I wanted—that's—I wanted you to know the outline of what I had in mind.
King: Yes. Well, I remembered you mentioned it to me the other day when we met at the White House, and I have been very diligent if not . . . making this statement.
President Johnson: Well, your statement was perfect about the votes—important, very important, and I think it’s good to talk about that, and I just don’t see how anybody can say that a man can fight in Vietnam, but he can’t vote in the post office.
King: Yes. Yes. Well, this brings in—I'll tell you, the main thing I wanted to share with you really grows out of conversations that I have had with all of the civil rights leaders—I mean, the heads of the civil rights organizations—
President Johnson: Yeah.
King: —as well as many people around the country as I have traveled [unclear]. We have a strong feeling that it would mean so much to, first, the health of our whole democracy [unclear] to the Negro, and to the nation, to have a Negro in the Cabinet. We feel that this would really be a great step forward for the nation, for the Negro, for our international image, and do so much to give many people a lift who need a lift now, and I’m sure it could give a new sense of dignity and self-respect to millions of Negroes who—millions of Negro youth who feel that they don’t have anything to look forward to in life.
President Johnson: I agree with that. I have not publicly shouted from the housetop, but I have had them sit in with me. I—the first move I made was to put one on the [National] Security Council—10
King: Yes—

Excerpt. For several minutes, the two men talk about efforts to place black Americans in Cabinet-level positions.

President Johnson: Every corporation I talk to—and I talked to about 30 of them yesterday--they are looking for Negroes that can do the job that a George Weaver does or a Carl Rowan does, or a fellow like Weaver does.13 If we have some of them, and if you have some of them, and you get them to Hobart Taylor, we can find companies that will use a man of that quality.14 Then when they get in, they can look after the ones below them like you’re looking after your people.
King: Well, I—I think you’re right, and we're certainly going to continue to work in that area.
President Johnson: There’s not going to be anything, though, Doctor, as effective as all of them voting.
King: That’s right. And I think—11
President Johnson: That'll get you a message that all the eloquence in the world won’t bring because the fellow will be coming to you then, instead of you calling him.
King: And it’s very interesting, Mr. President, to notice that the only states that you didn’t carry in the South—five southern states—have less than 40 percent of the Negroes registered to vote. Very interesting to notice that and I think professors at the University of Texas, in a recent article, brought this out very clearly, so it demonstrates that it’s so important to get Negroes registered in large numbers in the South, and it would be this coalition of the Negro vote and the moderate white vote that will really make the New South.
President Johnson: That’s exactly right. I think it’s very important that we not say that we’re doing this and we’re not doing [this] just because it’s Negroes or whites, but we take the position that every person born in this country, when they reach a certain age, that he have a right to vote, just like he has a right to fight [chuckles], and that we just extend it whether it’s a Negro, or whether it’s a Mexican, or who it is.
King: [Unclear.]12
President Johnson: And number two, I think that we don’t want special privilege for anybody. We want equality for all, and we can stand on that principle, but I think that you can contribute a great deal by getting your leaders and you, yourself, taking very simple examples of discrimination where a man’s got to memorize [Henry Wadsworth] Longfellow, or whether he’s got to quote the first ten amendments, or he’s got to tell you what Amendment 15 and 16 and 17 is, and then ask them if they know and show what happens, and some people don’t have to do that, but when a Negro comes in, he’s got to do it. And if we can just repeat and repeat and repeat—I don’t want to follow [Adolf] Hitler, but he had an idea—
King: Yeah.
President Johnson: —that if you just take a simple thing and repeat it often enough, even if it wasn’t true, why, people’d accept it. Well, now, this is true, and if you can find the worst condition that you run into in Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana, or South Carolina where—well, I think one the worst I ever heard of is the president of the school at Tuskegee [Institute], or the head of the Government Department there, or something, being denied the right to cast a vote, and if you just take that one illustration and get it on radio, and get it on television, and get it on . . . in the pulpits, and get it in the meetings, get it every place you can, pretty soon the fellow that didn’t do anything but follow—drive a tractor, he'll say, "Well, that’s not right, that’s not fair."
King: Yes.
President Johnson: And then that will help us on what we’re going to shove through in the end.
King: Yes. You’re exactly right about that.
President Johnson: And if we do that, we'll break through as—it’ll be the greatest breakthrough of anything, not even excepting this ‘64 act, I think the greatest achievement of my administration. I think the greatest achievement in foreign policy—I said to a group yesterday—was the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
But I think this’ll be bigger, because it’ll do things that even that ’64 Act couldn’t do.
King: That’s right. That’s right. [Unclear] right. Well, Mr. President, I certainly appreciate your giving me this time, and I certainly appreciate getting your ideas on these things, but that I just wanted to share it with you, and I wanted you to know that we have the feeling, but we are not set on any particular person. We felt that Bob Weaver, Whitney Young, or Ralph Bunche—somebody like that could—13

Excerpt. They speak about the Cabinet issue again for several minutes.

President Johnson: But two things you do for us now. You find the most ridiculous illustration you can on voting, and point it up, and repeat it, and get everybody else to. Second thing is please look at that Labor Committee in the House and the Senate. Please look at that Health Committee. Please look at that Immigration Committee, and let’s us try to get health and education and poverty through the first 90 days.
King: Yes. Well, we’re going to be doing that. You can depend on our absolute support.
President Johnson: Whitney’s group can go talking to them, and Roy’s group can, and your group can, and they ought to tell the [William Fitts] Ryan of New York, and they ought to tell so-and-so from Philadelphia, and they ought to tell so-and-so from Atlanta, “Please get this bill reported.”14
King: Yes.
President Johnson: Because I don’t think you have any conception of the proportion of assistance that comes to your people in these bills. I haven’t pointed that out. I haven’t stressed it.
King: Yes. Well, I know they will be—they have been and will be a new support for tremendous efforts and—
President Johnson: You can figure out, though, what $8 billion in education and what $1 billion in health and what a billion and a half in poverty would do if it goes to people who earn less than $2,000 a year.
King: Mm-hmm.
President Johnson: Now, you know who earns less than 2,000 [dollars], don’t you?
King: That’s right. [President Johnson chuckles.] Yes, sir. Well, it will certainly be a great movement. We’ve just got to work harder, [unclear].
President Johnson: And I’m a part of this administration, but we talked about what we going to do [for] three years, and we had to do it the fourth. We passed 51 bills last year. Now, I’ve got those messages up there, the first time any president by January the 15th has ever had a half dozen messages for the Congress. Most of them don’t even have their State of the Union until after the inauguration.
King: Yeah! That’s right.
President Johnson: But they’re there, and they’re ready for them to go to work, and we’re not just going to talk. If they’ll vote, I’m ready. We’ve got our recommendations, and we talked the first three years of our administration. We promised, and we held it up, and people were getting to be pretty disillusioned, I think, when I finally beat the Rules Committee and got Civil Rights out.15
King: Yeah. Yeah, I know.
President Johnson: I think that you might have . . . you might have had a lot more revolution in this country than you could handle if we had had that Civil Rights stay in that Rules Committee under Judge [Howard] Smith.
King: That’s right. Oh, that’s such a disillusioning experience.
President Johnson: Well, we’ve talked about it three years, you know, but we just did something about it, so that’s what we’ve got to do now, and you get in here and help us.
King: Well, I certainly will. You know you can always count on that.
President Johnson: Thank you so much.
King: All right. God bless you. Thank you, Mr. President.
President Johnson: Thank you. Bye.

February 2–5, 1965

Twelve protestors stage a sit-in demonstration at the White House in relation to Civil Rights. March 11, 1965

On 2 February 1965, over a month before Bloody Sunday, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested in Selma during a protest. While King was in jail, President Johnson affirmed his administration’s commitment to equal voting rights during a press conference on 4 February. Johnson stated:

“I should like to say that all Americans should be indignant when one American is denied the right to vote. The loss of that right to a single citizen undermines the freedom of every citizen. This is why all of us should be concerned with the efforts of our fellow Americans to register to vote in Alabama.

“The basic problem in Selma is the slow pace of voting registration for Negroes who are qualified to vote. We are using the tools of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in an effort to secure their right to vote. One of those tools of course is legal action to guarantee a citizen his right. One case of voting discrimination has already led to a trial, which has just been concluded. We are now awaiting a decision in this case.

“In the meantime I hope that all Americans will join with me in expressing their concern over the loss of any American's right to vote. Nothing is more fundamental to American citizenship and to our freedom as a nation and as a people. I intend to see that that right is secured for all of our citizens.” - The President's News Conference. February 4, 1965

Later that day, his administration won a temporary victory when a federal judge issued an injunction requiring the registrar in Selma to take steps to facilitate black voter registration.
In Selma, local activists were making their own case for the need for aggressive national legislation, and they were beginning to attract significant national attention. Fourteen liberal congressmen, led by Michigan representative Charles Diggs Jr., announced that they were traveling to the segregationist stronghold on a fact-finding mission. On Capitol Hill, top Republicans were beginning to make public demands for new voting rights measures.

In this call, Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach updated President Johnson on the situation in Alabama and reported that he expected King to be released from jail later that day. The call then veered into a discussion about the delicate job of making federal judicial appointments to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which was a jurisdiction vital for its rulings on civil rights cases. Excerpt from forthcoming addition to the Presidential Recordings Digital Edition.

Date: 1965-02-05
Participant: Lyndon Johnson
Participant: Nicholas Katzenbach
Time: 15:00
Location: Unspecified

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President Johnson: Yes, sir?
Nicholas Katzenbach: I called you because the demonstrations are still continuing down in Selma [Alabama], despite that court order that we got yesterday. And about 400 school kids were arrested just a little while ago for singing in front of the court house down there. And John Doar is down there trying to work things out.16 Maybe he'll be successful. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.]’s going to get out of jail, I think, later this afternoon. Doar will speak to him; he [King] may be more reasonable. They've gotten about everything they wanted, but they're still demonstrating.
President Johnson: Hmm.
Katzenbach: And they've got these kids so whooped up there, you know. They don't, I suppose, want to lose the momentum. They've lost their own judgment about it, but King may be better. Maybe they'll calm down.
President Johnson: Well, I think that we ought to give a chance for the order to operate.
Katzenbach: Yes.
President Johnson: And we ought to be fair and reserved about it. And he ought to be told that. And I think that he ought to be told that, "Here's what I said yesterday."
Katzenbach: Yes.
President Johnson: And that's about as strong as a man can say it. And he must not ignore this kind of talk and these kind of statements, and he must help achieve them, and the best way to help achieve them now, is give us a chance. We've been in one court, and we'll be in others. And this is what he asked for, and this is what he's got, and we expect some quid pro quos.
Katzenbach: Right. Well, I'll—that’s what—[unclear]—
President Johnson: [Unclear]—tell him.
Katzenbach: John will tell him, Mr. President. He's also—there's 15 congressmen down there now.
President Johnson: That's . . .
Katzenbach: This may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Doar is going to meet with them and try to get them to say a similar thing. That might help, [President Johnson acknowledges throughout] because these are all, you know, way on the liberal side. And at least it's worth it—worth the effort. And might even help.

February 6–8, 1965

On 6 February, press secretary George Reedy told reporters that a “strong” message was coming. Two days later, he added that Martin Luther King Jr. had been directed to meet with the Justice Department about the specifics of the draft legislation, and that Attorney General Katzenbach planned to meet with King during the week.

February 9, 1965

King met with Attorney General Katzenbach, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and White House aides before having a brief, seven-minute session with President Johnson. Following the Oval Office visit, King reported that Johnson planned to deliver his message “very soon.”

Over the next month, protests escalated in Alabama, marked by the 18 February shooting of black activist and military veteran Jimmie Lee Jackson by an Alabama state trooper during a nighttime march in Marion, Alabama. Jackson’s death on 26 February galvanized sentiment to hold a march to Montgomery, which gained attention after his funeral ceremonies on 3 March. Throughout February and early March, pressure from liberal Democrats and progressive Republicans continued in Washington, D.C. At the Justice Department, key officials extended their efforts to draft voting rights legislation to eliminate literacy tests, shift authority to federal registrars, and eliminate discriminatory poll taxes. Prevailing reports in the press were that the message and the legislation were imminent.

March 5, 1965

Two days after King eulogized Jimmie Lee Jackson, he sat down with LBJ at the White House for almost an hour-and-a-half session (from 6:17 P.M. to 7:35 P.M., according to the White House daily diary). Details are not extensive, but they reportedly discussed a wide range of legislation, including the voting rights measure that was expected later in March. King informed the press that Johnson encouraged him to consult directly with the Attorney General on the language of the voting rights legislation.

March 8, 1965

FBI photograph of Alabama police attacking civil rights demonstrators on Bloody Sunday. March 7, 1965

While having breakfast in bed with Lady Bird that Monday morning, President Johnson received a call from Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, updating him on the previous day’s events. On 7 March 1965, in what came to be called “Bloody Sunday,” Alabama state troopers and a horseback-mounted posse led by Dallas County sheriff Jim Clark attacked approximately 600 civil rights activists attempting to march peacefully from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. That evening, network television news broke into programming to show the shocking scenes of officers in gas masks shooting tear gas and beating the marchers with clubs. The violence near the Edmund Pettus Bridge led the Johnson administration to expedite voting rights legislation that it had been developing since the 1964 election. A week later, on 15 March, Johnson proposed the Voting Rights bill in a nationally televised speech and forced a showdown between Alabama governor George Wallace and the White House over protecting marchers. Johnson eventually federalized the Alabama National Guard and sent in federal troops to help provide protection for the final march.

In this exchange, Katzenbach reported that he did not believe the federal government could have done more to protect the marchers and that two arrests had been made of white men who had beaten FBI agents and destroyed their camera. Johnson recommended that Katzenbach reach out to Buford Ellington, the former Tennessee governor and current director of the White House Office of Emergency Planning, as a liaison with Governor Wallace. (In a later call with Bill Moyers, Johnson expresses more of his frustration with King. See Conversation WH6503-04-7044.) Excerpt from forthcoming addition to the Presidential Recordings Digital Edition.

Date: 1965-03-08
Participant: Lyndon Johnson
Participant: Nicholas Katzenbach
Time: 08:10
Place: Mansion

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Recording starts after conversation has begun. President Johnson was eating at the beginning of the call.

Nicholas Katzenbach: —Alabama, in Selma and Montgomery, to sit down and talk with some of the Negro leaders about the problems, and he thought they might do that this morning.
President Johnson: Well, was it the sheriff or the state troopers that stopped the march?
Katzenbach: The state troopers stopped it, Mr. President, but most of the brutality was done by the sheriff's deputies. They were the fellows on horses.
President Johnson: Mm-hmm.
Katzenbach: I saw there that [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] said he was going into court this morning to do something. If he did, it might stop—there might be an alternative to his going tomorrow, but . . .
President Johnson: You mean to his marching tomorrow?
Katzenbach: Yes.
President Johnson: Mm-hmm.
Katzenbach: If he went into court, it might put that off, which would be a good idea.
President Johnson: What would the three judges enjoin the sheriff [Jim Clark] from doing?
Katzenbach: Well, they would enjoin the sheriff from interfering with the . . . voting, as he has been and would order him to permit Negroes to proceed to the courthouse to—in Selma there—to march in an orderly way. And they also would probably [be] required to give them protection, if they did so. Now, that won't touch Colonel [Al] Lingo and the highway patrol state troopers. They're not in that, but it would prevent Sheriff Clark from doing what happened yesterday because it was the Negroes—when they started going back into town, that was when he started beating up on them.17
President Johnson: They weren't injured, then, just when the state troopers stopped them.
Katzenbach: No. No. State troopers used the gas at the outset, and some of them apparently got a few tear gas burns. The . . . the injuries were by and large when they panicked and started running back into town.
President Johnson: Mm-hmm.
Katzenbach: And then these deputies chased them on horses.
President Johnson: Mmm. Mmm.
Katzenbach: That was when . . . although I don't know that anybody was seriously hurt. I was trying to get information from the hospitals last night—get the [Federal] Bureau [of Investigation] to get it. I had a Bureau agent hurt.
President Johnson: What happened to him?
Katzenbach: He got beat up by two of them. They took his camera away. They got a lot pictures, and we ought to be able—they made two arrests. We ought to be able to make some more. I didn't give the arrests any publicity last night because the two arrested were the ones who beat up the FBI agent. That didn't look right to me from a public viewpoint, you know? A lot of Negroes were beat up, and the only people we arrested were the people who beat up the FBI agent. The reason was he could make the identifications. But there ought to be some more arrests for that. And that ought to help the situation.
President Johnson: These policemen that were arrested?
Katzenbach: No.
President Johnson: Who were they?
Katzenbach: Two bystanders. White bystanders.
President Johnson: And they beat up the white . . . the—?
Katzenbach: Yeah. One of them may have been a deputy. I don't—I'm not sure. They saw the FBI agent taking pictures, you see. Moved over to beat him up.
President Johnson: How many FBI men did you have?
Katzenbach: About 20, Mr. President.
President Johnson: Did we take every precaution we could have or should have?
Katzenbach: I think so, Mr. President. We had a large number there yesterday morning. I heard they were going to use tear gas. We told the Negro leaders that. I spoke to Senator [Lister] Hill whether there's anything that could be done, if he could think that anything could be done with Senator—with [Alabama] Governor [George] Wallace and the state troopers. He said he couldn't think of much. He did help me . . . yesterday morning, Wilson Baker, who has been the commissioner of public safety there in Selma, was going to resign in disgust because the mayor [Joseph Smitherman] had interfered with his making some arrests of some white rowdies the day before. The senator was helpful . . . the senator, among others, was helpful in making him change his mind, which—that would have been serious had that been done. We had a large number of agents there. We had—I had lawyers there on the scene. And I don't know there's much else the federal government can do in those circumstances. You know . . . you know, short of taking the situation over, sending the Army in.
President Johnson: Well, I see they're calling for that.
Katzenbach: Well, they—sure, they always have. I just—if there's a way of communicating with George Wallace . . . if he'd be sensible, that would be what would make a difference. There's no reason why—that I can see—why circumstances and terms and conditions of these people marching couldn't be worked out. [If] they were permitted to march part of the way, you know, to something. Troopers could protect them on that. But I guess Wallace is determined not to, and I don't know what he's heading for.
President Johnson: Do you know Wallace very well?
Katzenbach: Hardly at all, Mr. President. The trouble is that I don't know of anybody—
President Johnson: Who really does.
Katzenbach: —who really does.
President Johnson: What do the senators say?
Katzenbach: The senators say they can't get to Wallace at all.
President Johnson: The congressmen?
Katzenbach: I haven't gone through the congressmen, Mr. President. That delegation became so changed back. I don't really know them, you know, they're mostly—
President Johnson: Republicans.18
Katzenbach: —Republicans, now. I will, this morning, call our U.S. attorney in Birmingham, Macon Weaver.
President Johnson: Mm-hmm.
Katzenbach: He may have some ideas on who can talk with Wallace about this. I'll give him a ring. He's quite—he used to be quite active politically down there.
President Johnson: This would have to be mighty quiet.
Katzenbach: Yes.
President Johnson: But Buford Ellington is a man of extremely good judgment. And he was born in Mississippi, raised there, and then identified with the rural elements of Tennessee. And became agriculture commissioner and then—legislator then agriculture commissioner and then governor. And when we came in . . . '61, they had a pretty bad situation in Nashville and so when [Amon] Evans called me—a friend of mine at the paper there—they have pretty good people and good influence—and they asked me to meet with them, and I called the governor, and he said he thought I ought to, and be glad to use his office. And I did. And they quoted to me a good many things he had done to clean up the state operations, and they wanted us to clean up the post office. I've forgotten the other thing.
He has come to Washington now and I am going to use him with the 50 governors, quiet a way politically and on their problems in their state, Republicans, too. He handles disaster problems and stuff like that on emergency planning.19 It could be that he knows Wallace, and it could be he could sit down with you and that you could give him some leadership and direction. It might be he would want to talk to him. I will ask him if he knows him and how well he knows him, and if it looks like he has any—has any confidence—Wallace has any confidence in him—
Katzenbach: OK.
President Johnson: —he might . . . he might be a go-between. I don't know. I just put that out for your thinking. He has—he knows both sides of the coin, and I guess he's been on both sides.
Katzenbach: Sure.
President Johnson: He's pretty well regarded though, now, as a modern leader.
Katzenbach: Well, that would be helpful, if he . . . well, that might be helpful that they weren't talking with him to see whether—what he's sounding like—
President Johnson: I'll explore that—
Portion of conversation excised by the National Archives and Records Administration.
President Johnson: Are they directed by other people?
Katzenbach: They've got more . . . no, they're not directed by them, Mr. President. They've got more communists and near communists in them than they do any others, but they've got a good many that are not. [Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Chairman John] Lewis is not a communist. He's a young fellow, and he’s quite far out in that respect.
President Johnson: Do we have any influence with him?
Katzenbach: Yes, some, not much. He's in the hospital right now, cracked on the head yesterday.
President Johnson: Umm.
Katzenbach: We have a little. I think I—I think King—the way I—I wouldn't try it directly with Lewis. I'd try to work with King, through—through King to Lewis.
President Johnson: Is Lewis kind of work—under the guidance of King?
Katzenbach: Lewis would take King's recommendation on something like this.
Portion of conversation excised by the National Archives and Records Administration.
President Johnson: What should we say over here in response to queries? Refer them to [the] Justice [Department]?
Katzenbach: I think you should refer them to Justice and let us handle it, Mr. President. I think that would be best—we may have things coming. We may have further arrests and so forth.
President Johnson: Who is your top press man?
Katzenbach: Rosenthal.
President Johnson: What's his given name?
Katzenbach: Jack.
President Johnson: Jack. What's his background?
Katzenbach: He's a . . . came from the Portland Oregonian. He was a reporter out there. He's a young fellow, is about 30. Was editor of The Harvard Crimson. Went back home to Portland. He just—
President Johnson: Did you bring him in or was he in the office when you came in?
Katzenbach: He came—he was in when I came, Mr. President.
President Johnson: So he's had a good deal of experience then?
Katzenbach: He's had a good deal of experience. Yes.
President Johnson: Good. [coughs]
Katzenbach: Very bright fellow. I have a good deal of confidence in him.
President Johnson: Yeah, it looks like it. Looks like he handled his stuff well. OK, Nick, you don't think of anything else I need to know?
Katzenbach: No, I was going to give you a call about this, Mr. President. But I can't think of anything good to tell you.
President Johnson: Well, don't need to think of good, just—
Katzenbach: One of those frustrating—
President Johnson: —but just call me and tell me—
Katzenbach: —frustrating thing—
President Johnson: —when you need to. But, be sure that you and [Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights John] Doar and—
Katzenbach: I'll be—
President Johnson: —[Deputy Attorney General] Ramsey [Clark], and all your people make it top billing and—
Katzenbach: Yeah.
President Johnson: —keep right on top of it, and we do anything that we need to do.
Katzenbach: Right.
President Johnson: OK.
Katzenbach: I'll be with it all day, Mr. President.
President Johnson: All right.

March 9, 1965

Civil rights demonstrators march for the second time across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Turnaround Tuesday. March 9, 1965

Martin Luther King Jr. led a second march, known to many as Turnaround Tuesday. After the procession made it across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, King and others stopped at a line of troopers, knelt, and prayed. They then turned to walk back over the bridge to Selma, in part to minimize their defiance of a federal injunction against the march. Earlier in the day, in a recorded call, White House aide Bill Moyers had phoned Johnson to inform him of King’s plan (Conversation WH6503-04-7045). That night, Boston minister James Reeb was attacked in Selma and died of head injuries on 11 March. Johnson recorded a call about his condition (Conversation WH6503-05-7054).

March 15, 1965

Speaking to a national television audience during a night session of Congress, President Johnson delivered his voting rights message “The American Promise.” One of the most frequently cited passages follows:

“But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.

“Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.” - LBJ, March 15, 1965

March 17, 1965

President Johnson submitted his voting rights package to Congress. Federal judge Frank Johnson issued a decree allowing and setting the terms for the march to Montgomery.

March 18, 1965

President Johnson’s tapes also contain rich behind-the-scenes conversations on the concurrent struggle with Alabama governor George Wallace. The President had dominated Wallace during the latter’s 13 March visit to the White House, but Wallace proved to be as tough to work with after that visit as he had ever been. In this conversation, Johnson discussed with Buford Ellington the extent of Wallace’s attempts to delay the Montgomery march. Wallace had claimed that the state could not afford to pay the costs associated with providing mandated protection. Excerpt from forthcoming addition to the Presidential Recordings Digital Edition.

Date: 1965-03-18
Participant: Lyndon Johnson
Participant: Buford Ellington
Time: 21:13
Location: Unspecified

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President Johnson: [to Ellington, regarding Wallace] You're dealing with a very treacherous guy, and you all just must not even come in quoting him anymore. . . . Because he's a no-good son of a bitch. And I think you know it.


President Johnson: [responding to Ellington’s statement that he will not accept any more phone calls from Wallace] I'd answer one and just tell him, “Now, listen, George, I offered you . . . I went over to the President today and told the President that I had talked to you and you wanted help. . . . He called you and offered to give it to you. . . . You ran like a goddamn rabbit! Then you ran down to the television and told them that we had created it, therefore, you were going to ask it. Now, why in the hell didn't you stand up like a man and say what you were going to do to begin with?”

March 21–25, 1965

The final march from Selma to Montgomery began on 21 March. It ended on the steps of Alabama’s state capitol on 25 March with an address by Martin Luther King Jr.

That night, Johnson went to bed at 11:00 P.M. Twenty-five minutes later, Attorney General Katzenbach called him with news that a female volunteer from Michigan had been murdered as she drove between Selma and Montgomery (Conversation WH6503-13-7160). Viola Liuzzo, a married mother of five from Michigan who was inspired to come to Selma, was shot to death by a group of Klansman. President Johnson recorded numerous conversations with FBI director Hoover and others about the investigation. In one conversation recorded in the early morning hours of 26 March, Hoover offered specific details of the shooting and investigation, revealing that an FBI informant was in the car that attacked Liuzzo and her passenger (Conversation WH6503-13-7162). In another update, the recorders captured Hoover’s vicious attempt to discredit Liuzzo and her family by spreading salacious speculation that Viola Liuzzo was a heroin addict and that the KKK members had killed her because “this colored man was snuggling up pretty close” (Conversation WH6503-13-7167).

Transcripts of these conversations will be available in a forthcoming addition to the Presidential Recordings Digital Edition.

July 7, 1965

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act as Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders look on. August 6, 1965

Events in Selma helped create overwhelming momentum for voting rights legislation. The Senate began debate on the bill on 22 April, invoked cloture to end debate on 25 May, and passed the legislation on 26 May by an almost four-to-one margin. The House approved its own version on 9 July by a greater than three- to-one vote. Two days before the House vote, Johnson and King spoke in a long, recorded call about King’s criticism of Johnson’s Vietnam War policy and about the pending House legislation. Johnson was concerned about defections of Republican supporters and urged Dr. King to keep up the pressure on them. These snippets are taken from the voting rights portion of that call. Excerpt from forthcoming addition to the Presidential Recordings Digital Edition.

Date: 1965-07-07
Participant: Lyndon Johnson
Participant: Martin Luther King Jr.
Time: 20:05
Location: Unspecified

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President Johnson: But the Republicans are going to hold pretty well. They’re not going to—they’re going to quit the nigras. They will not let a nigra vote for them. They just—every time they get a chance to help out a little they’ll blow it. And they could help out here, and they could elect some good men in suburban districts and in cities, but they haven’t got that much sense. That’s why they are disintegrating as a party.


President Johnson: And you’ve got to say to them [northern Republicans], “Now, we’re not Democrats. We’re going to vote for the man that give[s] us freedom. We don’t give a damn whether it’s Abraham Lincoln or Lyndon Johnson.


Martin Luther King Jr.: [Unclear.] Yeah. Well, I certainly appreciate this, Mr. President, because as I said, I [unclear] this whole Voting Bill. But, naturally, I would be [unclear] Alabama.
President Johnson: You sure have, and—
King: [Unclear.]
President Johnson: Well, you helped, I think, dramatize and bring it to a point where I could go before the Congress in that night session, and I think that was one of the most effective things that has ever happened. But you had worked for months to help create the sentiment that supported it.
King: Yeah.
President Johnson: Now, the trouble is, that fire's gone out.
King: That's right.
President Johnson: We got a few coals on it, and we've got to put some cedar back on it and put a little coal oil on it.
King: Yeah. Well, I'll get right to work, and I'll be talking with Roy [Wilkins] and some of the others [unclear].

August 3–6, 1965

The House and the Senate reconciled their two versions of the bill on 3 August and 4 August. President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in the Capitol on 6 August. It eliminated literacy tests, provided a mechanism to send in federal registrars to oversee local registration, and required local jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to get “preclearance” from the Justice Department on voting matters.


↑ 1. Theodore Francis Green was a Democratic senator from Rhode Island from 1937 to 1960. Return to text ↑

↑ 2. Perle Mesta was a prominent Washington, D.C. socialite (and neighbor of the Johnsons) and the ambassador to Luxembourg from 1949 to 1953. Once, when President Johnson's elderly cousin Oriole asked Mesta what she did, Mesta replied, "Well, I give parties." See Hal K. Rothman, LBJ's Texas White House: "Our Heart's Home" (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2001), 107; and Perle Mesta with Robert Cahn, Perle: My Story (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1960). Return to text ↑

↑ 3. Sargent Shriver was director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Return to text ↑

↑ 4. U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, “Dr. Martin Luther King Case Study,” 79–184, in Final Report: Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans, Book III, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1976) [hereafter referred to as Church Committee Report, Book III]. The quoted material in this paragraph is from p. 156. This part of the Church Committee’s report is available online at and Return to text ↑

↑ 5. Church Committee Report, Book III, 157–61. Return to text ↑

↑ 6. Ibid., 152–3. Return to text ↑

↑ 7. President Johnson had delivered his State of the Union message on 4 January. King was referencing a specific line from the speech. Return to text ↑

↑ 8. As with Johnson’s desire to get the tax cut passed before the civil rights bill came up in 1964, he wanted to push forward with much of his major Great Society legislation in 1965 before an anticipated filibuster in the Senate bottled up the agenda. Return to text ↑

↑ 9. President Johnson was referring to the labor movement’s desire to eliminate section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act that gave states the authority to enforce anti-union “right to work” provisions. Return to text ↑

↑ 10. President Johnson had appointed Carl Rowan to head the United States Information Agency, which was part of the National Security Council. Later in this conversation, Johnson emphasized, as he had done in numerous calls the previous year, that Rowan’s position was the equivalent of a Cabinet post and that Rowan attended Cabinet meetings. Return to text ↑

↑ 11. King may say “nothing” here instead of “I think.” Return to text ↑

↑ 12. King may say “Yes, sir,” “exactly,” or “that’s it.” Return to text ↑

↑ 13. Robert Weaver became the first secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Whitney Young was national director of the Urban League. Ralph Bunche was a longtime official in the State Department and the United Nations who won the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his work concerning Palestine and Israel. He was serving as U.N. under secretary general for political affairs. He died in 1971. Return to text ↑

↑ 14. On 23 June 1964, William Fitts Ryan [D-New York] had irritated Johnson by accompanying to the White House the parents of two missing civil rights workers in the Mississippi Burning case. Return to text ↑

↑ 15. The threat of a likely successful discharge petition forced Rules Committee chair Howard “Judge” Smith to allow his committee to take up the civil rights bill on 9 January 1964. President Johnson had been working closely with his chief legislative liaison Lawrence O’Brien to tabulate support for that petition. The civil rights bill made it to the floor and, on 10 February, passed the House. Return to text ↑

↑ 16. John Doar was the Assistant Attorney General for civil rights. Return to text ↑

↑ 17. Al Lingo was director of the Alabama State Highway Patrol. James Clark was sheriff of Dallas County. Return to text ↑

↑ 18. In November 1964, five new Republicans won congressional seats in Alabama. Only three Democrats claimed victory. Return to text ↑

↑ 19. Buford Ellington, the former governor of Tennessee, was the director of the White House Office of Emergency Planning. Return to text ↑