January 8, 1964: Lyndon Johnson Declares War on Poverty

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Members of the House and Senate, my fellow Americans:

We have in 1964 a unique opportunity and obligation — to prove the success of our system; to disprove those cynics and critics at home and abroad who question our purpose and our competence.LBJ Poverty

If we fail, if we fritter and fumble away our opportunity in needless, senseless quarrels between Democrats and Republicans, or between the House and the Senate, or between the South and North, or between the Congress and the administration, then history will rightfully judge us harshly. But if we succeed, if we can achieve these goals by forging in this country a greater sense of union, then, and only then, can we take full satisfaction in the State of the Union.. .

This budget, and this year’s legislative program, are designed to help each and every American citizen fulfill his basic hopes — his hopes for a fair chance to make good; his hopes for fair play from the law; his hopes for a full-time job on full-time pay; his hopes for a decent home for his family in a decent community; his hopes for a good school for his children with good teachers; and his hopes for security when faced with sickness or unemployment or old age.

Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope — some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.

This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort. . .

– We will launch a special effort in the chronically distressed areas of Appalachia.
– We must expand our small but our successful area redevelopment program.
– We must enact youth employment legislation to put jobless, aimless, hopeless youngsters to work on useful projects.
– We must distribute more food to the needy through a broader food stamp program.
– We must create a National Service Corps to help the economically handicapped of our own country as the Peace Corps now helps those abroad.
– We must modernize our unemployment insurance and establish a high-level commission on automation. If we have the brain power to invent these machines, we have the brain power to make certain that they are a boon and not a bane to humanity.
– We must extend the coverage of our minimum wage laws to more than 2 million workers now lacking this basic protection of purchasing power.
– We must . .. improve the quality of teaching, training, and counseling in our hardest hit areas.
– We must build more libraries in every area and more hospitals and nursing homes . .  and train more nurses to staff them.
– We must provide hospital insurance for our older citizens financed by every worker and his employer under Social Security, . .to protect him in his old age in a dignified manner without cost to the Treasury, against the devastating hardship of prolonged or repeated illness.
– We must … provide more housing for our poor and our elderly, and seek as our ultimate goal in our free enterprise system a decent home for every American family.
– We must help obtain more modern mass transit within our communities as well as low-cost transportation between them.
– Above all, we must release $11 billion of tax reduction into the private spending stream to create new jobs and new markets in every area of this land.

These programs are obviously not for the poor or the underprivileged alone. Every American will benefit by the extension of social security to cover the hospital costs of their aged parents. Every American community will benefit from the construction or modernization of schools, libraries, hospitals, and nursing homes, from the training of more nurses and from the improvement of urban renewal in public transit. And every individual American taxpayer and every corporate taxpayer will benefit from the earliest possible passage of the pending tax bill from both the new investment it will bring and the new jobs that it will create.. .

Let me make one principle of this administration abundantly clear: All of these increased opportunities — in employment, in education, in housing, and in every field-must be open to Americans of every color.. . . Today, Americans of all races stand side by side in Berlin and in Viet Nam. They died side by side in Korea. Surely they can work and eat and travel side by side in their own country.

We must also lift by legislation the bars of discrimination against those who seek entry into our country, particularly those who have much needed skills and those joining their families.
In establishing preferences, a nation that was built by the immigrants of all lands can ask those who now seek admission: “What can you do for our country?” But we should not be asking: “In what country were you born?”

For our ultimate goal is a world without war, a world made safe for diversity, in which all men, goods, and ideas can freely move across every border and every boundary.

November 17, 1934: Lyndon Johnson marries “Lady Bird” Taylor

Darling –

Your letter yesterday sort of put me on the spot, didn’t it, dear? All I can say, in absolute honesty, is–I love you, I don’t know how everlastingly I love you,–so I can’t answer you yet. And I’m coming to see you in January. Try and stop me! It’s the chief thing in the world I’m looking forward to…what made you say you didn’t think Gene and I would not really get there?Lady Bird

Lyndon, tell me more about this going in Owen D. Young’s office. In what capacity, dear? As public relations man? It sounds swell to me. Was that what Mr. Adams wanted to talk about this time?

I should say you are taking a hard course, Lyndon. Contracts was always the “piece de resistance” down the hill in Austin, and I’ve heard an awful lot about how hard Torts was too. Bless your heart–is it hard to stick to it?

Lyndon, when you said “After the first semester I may be in New York” did you mean Mr. Adams and the General Electric deal? And what was that about possibly being in Austin? Law school? Oh, I do hope you don’t go with the University of Houston!–Though I ought not to say that, ‘cause I don’t know enough about your offer there–and what you think of it.

I enjoyed hearing about you walking through the parks and up past the White House…I’ve walked in just those places…Dear, do you ever ride out along the Potomac toward Mount Vernon? I love it out there.
–I think the Potomac is the most aristocratic river I’ve ever seen.
Now I appreciate how you felt when you used to drive that truck, Lyndon! Because yesterday I had to take some big chairs to Marshall to be upholstered so I borrowed Dorris and Hugh’s truck and out I put! It made a noise like tin cans, full of rocks, falling downstairs, and dust came up through the floor, and it hadn’t any brakes or horn! It was quite an adventure–I felt as brave as Columbus! But I got everything done.

That was certainly good-looking paper you wrote me on. I surely am glad someone was ingenious enough to put our Texas cotton to some new use.

Dear, I am going to write you every day it looks like–or nearly! Unfortunately, I can talk much better than I can write…So many times I wish you were close enough for me to talk to you. I think of so much to say that eludes the written words. Tomorrow, Lyndon, I shall put those pictures in my letter. For today, goodbye,–and a hundred kisses.



~           ~            ~


Dear Bird:

Your Air Mail Special Delivery awaited me tonight when I came home with Maury after dinner down town. Enjoying your letters as I do, I would be an ingrate if I didn’t at least reaffirm my appreciation, tho’ I’ve just about lost my ambition. . .

34-9/10-4They have told me stories, and showed me shows, portraying the young fellow who seldom gave time and attention to women. His chief concern was success, selfish–yes–but it occupied all of his thoughts. Then she came along–and–well he went to the other extreme. You know the story. For a long time I’ve played with fire and haven’t even been scorched, but every man sooner or later meets his Waterloo. When I think what I’ve said–all I’ve done–how helpless I’ve been when thinking of you–there is but one appreciable and appropriate expression: “God pity him for he knows not what he does.” I justify my rashness, eagerness and anticipation by telling myself that there is only one Bird–that in reality she loves me just as I do her–and then I’m not so ashamed. Your letters help–but when you say “Fifty years and who knows what it will bring. Too important a decision to give attention to now. Everlasting? etc.” Well that’s what makes me feel like the chumps I used to see talk entertain the belles on the campus in the day time while some of us dined and danced with them after the sun had set. Why I’ve written all of this I don’t know–but sometimes I just start writing and say what I think before I proof read it. Proud as I am, sure as I’ve been (of myself) since I met you, I guess I can attribute it all to a lack of understanding of what prompts indecision and suspense. . .

Maury, amused at my thoughts approaching seriousness, says, “My camp on a hill in San Antonio, equipped with everything including a Mexican man and woman, is to house you and _____ during your honeymoon. I’m going to lend a lot of dignity to your wedding by my presence.” He is a great guy and thinks thought we would enjoy days in the Alamo, the Missions, and roaming the trails at his country home before we come to work in mad January.

Tomorrow I’m going to sit–for a picture. Told Bachrachs several days ago that I would see them at 9:30 Tuesday. Maury is also having some made. If mine are good I’m going to send them to all of my Grandmas and Aunts and will pass one on to you if you want one by that time.

Tell me when you get my letters, and if you read them–

I’m going to study personal property until two tonight in the morning. Can’t learn very fast but it’s good discipline. I’ve had a lot of discipline here of late. More to come?

Goodnite Bird. God bless you.

You’ve given me some sweet thoughts and lots of wholesome plans and ideas. It’s sweet of you to write.

Lyndon Baines

Source: LBJ Library
A collection of courtship letters are viewable online at:  http://archives.lbjlibrary.org/exhibits/show/34letters

August 4, 1964: A Long Day in the Life of Lyndon Johnson

Tuesday, August 4th, 1964, should have been another sleepy summer day in the humid District of Columbia.

President Lyndon B. Johnson was awakened as usual by 7:00 AM and eating breakfast by 7:05.

His daily schedule got underway at 8:01 with a quick call to his Secretary of Agriculture, Orville Freeman. Then it was off for a “working breakfast” at 8:05 with his Legislative Leaders (Speaker McCormack, Senators Smathers and Mansfield, and Congressmen Boggs and Albert) and his aides (Larry O’Brien, Walter Jenkins, Bill Moyers, George Reedy, and Jack Valenti).lbj

In the middle of the breakfast, at 9:12, the President was summoned to take a call from Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara – Two US Navy Warships, the “Maddox” and the “C Turner Joy” were under attack in the Gulf of Tonkin from North Vietnamese aircraft and PT boats, and retaliatory actions were being planned.

At 9:34 LBJ returned to his office with Hale Boggs and Carl Albert. He picked up the phone and started making and taking calls. At 9:41 he called Jack Valenti. At 9:43 he took another call from McNamara. Another call to Jack Valenti. Larry O’Brien and Bill Moyers joined the group. At 10:20 AM he called Congressman Phil Landrum.

The calls stopped briefly at 10:25 when Major General R.G. MacDonnell of the Army Corps of Engineers stopped in for seven minutes. Then at 10:34, S K Patil, the Railway Minister of India, entered with MacGeorge Bundy and a translator. Patil presented a letter from his Prime Minister, had his picture taken with LBJ, and was out by 10:39.

At 10:40 the President’s Secretary called to remind him to call Mr. Sweeterman. “OK, Never mind” was the President’s response, so Congressman George Mahon came in to meet with the President until 11:30, during which time LBJ talked to McNamara (twice), Budget Director Gordon, Senator Anderson, Speaker McCormick, Walter Jenkins, Jack Valenti, and the Governor of West Virginia.

He made 11 more phone calls before 12:35 when he headed for the Cabinet Room. A National Security Council meeting had been scheduled to discuss the situation in Cyprus. Bobby Kennedy, CIA Director McCone, Robert McNamara, Cyrus Vance, General Curtis LeMay, Dean Rusk, George Ball, McGeorge Bundy, and Phil Talbott were among the men that sat around the big table. The agenda had now changed; the topic was now Viet Nam.

At 1:06 PM President Johnson excused himself so that he could meet with 26 visiting doctors representing the National Medical Association.

Thirty minutes later, he headed back to the Executive Mansion for lunch with Secretary Rusk, McNamara, CIA Director McCone, McGeorge Bundy, and Cyrus Vance.

At 2:35 he joined Mrs. Johnson’s tea group (three couples visiting from Texas with their Washington in-laws and various small children), and then took a few minutes to send letters and flowers to an ailing Senator and a Senator’s daughter.

After tea with Lady Bird, he made six more phone calls, and then sent three nominations to the Senate for approval (two Federal Judges and an Attorney General for the Oregon District). By 3:35, he was able to head upstairs with Senator Russell to make more phone calls.

At 5:45 Rear Admiral Arthur Graila, who was about to take the South Atlantic fleet on a Latin American cruise, stopped by with two photographers for a quick handshake and a picture – He was out by 5:47. At 5:54 Thomas Vail, the young publisher of the Cleveland Plain Dealer got the same treatment.

At 6:15 the President instructed the telephone operator to call Barry Goldwater at Balboa Bay Club in California “at 6:40, no 6:37”. He had an important message to convey to his Republican opponent and it was urgent that they talk.

At 6:16, the National Security Council reconvened. At 6:38, a message was sent in – Barry Goldwater was on a boat and it might take 20 minutes to reach him – Should they reach him by air? The President replied in the affirmative.

By 6:45 LBJ was back in the Cabinet Room with the Legislative Leaders. At 8:01 Cartha Daloach, Assistant Director of the FBI, interrupted the meeting with another call. He informed the President that the bodies of three young Civil Rights workers (Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney) had just been found in a shallow grave in Mississippi.

The President huddled in his office with McNamara, Rusk and Bundy, and made a few more calls, including one to Mrs. Johnson at 8:35. At 8:47, a message arrived that Goldwater knew he was trying to reach him, but the marine radio keeps cutting in and out.

Now LBJ needed to reach the Governor of Mississippi. At 9:23 PM he got the message that Governor Johnson was also out on a boat. A patrol boat was dispatched to retrieve him. The President then made a call to the Governor of New Jersey, and one to his daughter, Linda Bird Johnson. He finally got through to Mississippi Governor at 9:35, and at 10:06 also connected with Goldwater.

By 10:28 he was able to retire to the Mansion for dinner with Mrs. Johnson, bringing along McGeorge Bundy and Jack Valenti, and then back to the office at 11:20.

Finally, at 11:34 PM, LBJ headed to the Fish Room. 16-1/2 hours after he had started his day, the bright lights came on, and Lyndon Johnson looked straight into the national network television cameras. It had been a long, long day, but he still needed to talk to directly to the American people:

“My fellow Americans:
As President and Commander in Chief, it is my duty to the American people to report that renewed hostile actions against United States ships on the high seas in the Gulf of Tonkin have today required me to order the military forces of the United States to take action . . .”


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