Moderator: Bruce Gourley
Stephen Fox wrote:For a long time I was certain Moyers was on the plane with LBJ, and President Kennedy's body as it flew from Dallas. But after reading the Caro excerpt in New Yorker, I got new questions.
Could Curtis Freeman, AaronWeaver, or Bruce Gourley find out for us through James Dunn or someone. I would like to know.
Great show. I read the New Yorker excerpt and have been fascinated for several days. The program repeats tonight in Alabama and I will be listening a 2nd time.
Just today I confirmed that Bill Moyers was on the plane with President Kennedy's Body and LBJ on the flight from Dallas to D.C. I have a note that I treasure from Moyers, so fascinating stuff indeed.
As many across the nation have done and considerably more will do on the 50th anniversary next year; the Where were you on that day question will gain even added significance.
I as a 5th grader in Gaffney, S.C; my father a Baptist minister. Later I was to become enchanted by Marshall Frady's coverage of the Civil Rights era.
Just Saturday by happenstance within ten minutes, I had two conversations at a flea market in NE Alabama. One with a minister who had a part in a funeral for an Uncle of Lady Bird in Billingsley, Alabama. From that I couldn't help but imagine Lady Bird had some influence on LBJ as he navigated Selma; Selma just about 20 miles from Lady Bird Taylor's Alabama roots.
And another with a football player, McClendon, who was on the 63 championship team with Joe Namath and Bear Bryant. He remembered Bear went ahead with practice that afternoon, but the next day the away game with Miami was called off.
Our conversation was lightly framed by my reference to Howell Raines 1983 TNR piece Goodbye to the Bear, about Bryant's relationship with George Wallace.
Alabama's dilemma continues, and now it is up to Bama Coach Nick Saban to levy some influence on Bama Gov Bentley on the immigration law.
To that extent in my world, Lyndon and Martin and the repercussions of Nov 22, 1963 are still very much alive.
OTHERWISE, THOUGH, Caro presents Johnson’s isolation as a terrible waste of his talents, not least on the burning issue of civil rights. Despite his segregationist voting record, Johnson’s bright thread, according to Caro, had always included what he calls a “genuine empathy and compassion for Americans of color,” which dated back to his days in the 1920s as a schoolteacher among poverty-stricken Mexican children in desolate South Texas. Having first worked himself up over the Civil Rights Bill in 1957—when, Caro writes, “compassion had, for the first time, coincided with ambition”—Johnson worked himself up all over again as the civil rights movement surged in 1962 and 1963.
In February 1963, after he had delivered pro–civil rights speeches in Detroit and Cleveland, Johnson visited strife-torn St. Augustine, Florida, and addressed racially integrated audiences, achieving what his aide George Reedy called “a major breakthrough on the color line.” In a Memorial Day speech at Gettysburg, nearly a century after Lincoln’s address, Johnson echoed Martin Luther King, Jr.’s eloquent but controversial “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” written just six weeks earlier: “The Negro today asks justice. We do not answer him—we do not answer those who lie beneath this soil—when we reply to the Negro by asking ‘Patience.’ ... To ask for patience from the Negro is to ask him to give more of what he has already given enough.” Thereafter an invigorated Johnson ceased his sulking and, refusing to be put off, demanded a meeting with President Kennedy to discuss a major civil rights bill that the administration had drafted without consulting him and was about to introduce in Congress.
Johnson soon found himself at the center of the action at last. He offered sage tactical advice, urging the president not to send up a civil rights bill prematurely lest the Southern power-brokers in the Senate hold the rest of the administration’s legislative agenda hostage and force the rights bill to be ignominiously withdrawn. He pleaded for Kennedy to give blacks a firm and eloquent moral commitment. He declaimed about civil rights at top-level White House meetings with influential business and labor leaders, impressing even the skeptical Schlesinger, who thought he outperformed both of the Kennedy brothers. JFK began addressing Johnson, in RFK’s presence, with a respect that exceeded civil courtesy and even approached deference. “For a couple of weeks there, he started to look almost like the old Lyndon,” Reedy later recalled.
But then the “bad” Bobby intervened, showing up the vice president at a White House meeting with civil rights leaders, personally and ostentatiously undermining his authority over the committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, and generally humiliating him. Kennedy acknowledged that Johnson had some sound points to make on dealing with Congress, but he described his caution as obstructionist. Outmaneuvered, Johnson retreated once again into depression, probably worsened by heavy drinking, which scared his closest aides. Rumors were spreading around Washington that with the administration, including the vice president, now firmly on the record in favor of civil rights, Johnson’s electoral usefulness in the South had evaporated and he would be dumped in 1964— rumors that JFK stoutly denied, but that redoubled Johnson’s gloom. The Senate Rules Committee had undertaken an investigation of Bobby Baker that was moving uncomfortably close to Johnson. Despised by the “Harvards” and mistrusted by northern liberals generally, alienated from his long-time Southern conservative allies over civil rights, Johnson still had powerful friends in Washington, but he was beginning to resemble a political party of one. Finally, the vice president’s inability to heal a political division down in Texas between his former protégé Governor John Connally and Senator Ralph Yarborough signaled how badly his influence had waned even in his native state. It was left to the president to try and clean up the Texas mess on a four-day political and fund-raising trip that would take him to Dallas.
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