Preface, The Presidential Recordings of Lyndon B. Johnson

David Shreve, editor, The Presidential Recordings: Lyndon B. Johnson. The Kennedy Assassination and the Transfer of Power, November 1963–January 1964, vol. 2; Toward the Great Society, 9 March 1964 - 13 April 1964, vol. 5

[Reprinted from The Presidential Recordings: Lyndon B. Johnson. Toward the Great Society, vols. 4–6 (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007), xxvii–xli]

After the death of Lyndon Johnson, in January 1973, New York Times columnist James Reston reflected on the career and personality of the 36th president. “No president collected more photographs of himself and his visitors than Mr. Johnson,” Reston wrote, “but the tape recorder was really the instrument he should have used. For he gave himself to his visitors, and historians will never be able to sort out the glory and the tragedy unless they manage to collect the stories, listen to the tape recorders and forget the television, which was his downfall.” If only they could hear Johnson in private and on tape, Reston added wistfully, future generations could “hear him talking endlessly about his problems, his cunning contrivances, his feeling for the Congress, and particularly his affection for his lovely and remarkable wife, and his hard-scrabble land in Texas.”1 What Reston did not know was that, only days after he wrote this lament, Mildred Stegall, a member of President Johnson’s staff, presented to Harry Middleton, director of the LBJ Library, nearly 850 hours of audio recordings from the Johnson presidency, 643 hours of which comprised recordings of Johnson’s telephone conversations. It was President Johnson’s wish, Stegall noted at the time, that these recordings be made available to researchers 50 years after his death.

Released to the public beginning in 1993, after a small, unpublicized release of transcripts during the CBS v. Westmoreland trial in 1984, these recordings capture the Johnson presidency, much as Reston imagined they would.2 They reveal President Johnson “giving himself” to his associates and friends—in a phrase he liked—“with the bark off.”3 Recognizing their historical value, Harry Middleton began in the mid-1970s to preserve and organize the Johnson recordings at the LBJ Library, despite President Johnson’s stated desire for a 50-year seal. In 1990, after careful review and consultation with Lady Bird Johnson, U.S. archivist Don Wilson, and LBJ Foundation president Larry Temple, Middleton went a step further and decided to break the as yet unofficial seal. Two years later, the landmark 1992 President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Act prompted the first large-scale release, anticipated to a great extent by Middleton’s ongoing preparations.4

As historians would discover with the first large-scale releases of the Johnson recordings in the 1990s, here was President Johnson, voice loud and distinct, brandishing the telephone, his preferred instrument of both administration and persuasion. Unlike the other presidential recordings in existence, most notably those from the presidencies of John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, most of President Johnson’s capture phone calls rather than meetings. These recordings also stand alone as the only collection of such records that spans an entire presidency, from the first transmissions aboard Air Force One in November 1963 to the recordings created during the last days of the administration in January 1969.

After the installation of a separate Cabinet Room taping system, completed on January 19, 1968, President Johnson also recorded meetings. Among the eight boxes delivered by Mrs. Stegall in 1973, there were approximately 200 hours of these, all produced from meetings held in 1968 that focused principally on Vietnam, domestic politics related to Vietnam and the 1968 election, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and the effort to pass an income tax surcharge. According to Special Assistant to the President James Jones, Johnson felt compelled to install this additional system mostly because of the ongoing Vietnam peace negotiations. “Many peace feelers [were] being explored,” Jones recalled, “and the nuance of words meant very much.”5

At the same time, White House Communications Agency (WHCA) personnel installed a similar system in the small private space adjacent to the Oval Office, known during the Johnson administration as the “Little Lounge.” A small percentage of the meetings recorded in 1968 on the new Tandberg reel-to-reel system were recorded there.6

The bulk of the Johnson recordings, however, are records of phone calls. From November 22, 1963, to late January 1968, on IBM belt or Dictaphone dictabelt recording media, Johnson recorded only phone calls or office conversations captured by speakerphone.7

Dismantled before the Nixon administration took office, beginning on the weekend of December 28, 1968, the Johnson presidential taping system had grown to include both bugs and taps (CBs or “Charlie Browns”) and included recording capability in the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room, the President’s private lounge adjacent to the Oval Office, the President’s bedroom in the White House Mansion, the White House Situation Room and Communications Center, the LBJ Ranch office and master bedroom, Camp David, and late in the administration, in special assistant Marvin Watson’s office.8 After Johnson’s retirement in January 1969 only the recording equipment at the LBJ Ranch remained intact and in place. The rest of the equipment—“every recorder . . . every bit of wiring,” as Johnson put it to Colonel Albright of the White House Communications Agency—was removed by January 10, 1969, and the last Johnson presidential recording appears to be a recording of a conversation between President Johnson and U.S. Senator Russell Long of Louisiana conducted on the morning of January 2, 1969.9

Though columnist Joseph Kraft once publicized the legend that President Johnson sometimes placed or received more than 100 calls per day, the White House Daily Diary records approximately 30 per day, with many instances of more than 50 calls in a single 24-hour period.10 Estimating different totals from the typically inexact or vague descriptions of Daily Diary entries—along with the well-substantiated record of Johnson placing calls from the presidential limousine or White House swimming pool—would likely force one to adjust these figures upward, perhaps by no small amount.11 In addition, every day a small number of calls placed from the Oval Office were recorded in the White House operator’s logs but not in the Daily Diary. Whatever the exact total or daily average of calls, Johnson’s use of the telephone was unique and prodigious. “His pet trick,” recalled George Reedy, “was to pick up the phone and give the operator about twenty numbers to call. My God, the phone would be ringing for an hour.”12 Viewing it as an indispensable tool, Johnson had learned early in his career how the telephone improved his mastery of issues, events, and his daily schedule. As he told Jack Valenti, “If you use the phone right, you can save a couple of hours every day.”13 And though scholars should be careful not to diminish the value Johnson placed on face-to-face meetings, especially those held among small numbers of associates, in his hands the telephone was a surpassing administrative device and an elemental part of every workday. Indeed, Johnson’s telephone calls were quite often a close substitute for face-to-face meetings, and in the first year of his presidency phone calls represented approximately 50 percent of all personal contacts recorded in the White House Daily Diary.14 “This guy was on the phone more than any president in history,” recalled Newsweek White House correspondent Charlie Roberts. “He made the phone an instrument of national policy.”15

At a White House meeting and dinner with business executives in January 1964, Lady Bird Johnson reminded AT&T chairman Fred Kappel that his company’s profits were quite secure as long as her husband was alive and well, especially since he now had presidential business to conduct.16 No one could imagine the actual expenses the First Lady had in mind, but Southwestern Bell and AT&T had, only days before, completed the installation of a new communications system for the LBJ Ranch. This system had required a 100-person crew and the erection of a new engineering building in nearby Johnson City and had also included three temporary microwave towers and three trailers in which to house teleprinters, cryptographic machines, a switchboard, and a new 50,000-kilowatt emergency generator. A new 200-pair cable had been laid east of the ranch, 72 new handsets had been installed at the residence, radio-telephones had been added to all Johnson-owned cars and boats, and underground telephone cable service had been established for all five of the outlying Johnson ranch properties.17 Ira W “Stormy” Davis, the Southwestern Bell manager who supervised the new layout, had worked closely with Johnson since being called upon in 1946 to install the first private branch exchange (PBX) in Texas at the “Johnson for Congress” Austin campaign headquarters. By 1960, Davis had overseen the installation of 11 separate local and long-distance phone lines at the LBJ Ranch and had placed in the ranch hangar 16 long-distance circuits and the first emergency generator. When Johnson became vice president, Davis added four additional lines—each equipped, as before, with six-button handsets. The presidential remodeling was, nonetheless, both unprecedented and, in Davis’s recollection, a “monumental challenge.”18 Never complete, this remodeling continued throughout the Johnson presidency. “At the ranch,” a White House Communications Agency officer noted later, “we built him one with twenty-four buttons. They don’t make them like that.”19

As “Stormy” Davis’s overtime work would indicate, Johnson’s penchant for extraordinary, even pioneering, telephone usage began early in his political career. A large oak at his Austin residence in the early 1950s was, fittingly, wired with a telephone jack and a 35-foot cord. “He must be the only man in the world,” Joseph Kraft declared in 1966, “who has had a phone installed beside a hammock.”20 The recording of telephone calls appears to have also been a long-standing and integral part of Johnson’s administrative regimen. While the presidency placed more numerous and more expensive gadgets (and personnel) at his disposal and also provided additional incentive to document his activities for historical purposes, Johnson almost always endeavored to record some of his telephonic business. Walter Jenkins, his most trusted assistant and de facto chief of staff until late 1964, was, during the Senate years, called upon to listen in on an extension to Johnson’s calls (with mouthpiece removed) and to record in shorthand the details of the conversations.21 In 1960, at the crucial point during the Los Angeles Democratic convention when John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Sam Rayburn, Phil Graham, and others phoned from one Biltmore suite to another regarding Johnson’s possible nomination as vice president, Johnson saw to it that a secretary listened to and transcribed all conversations. In at least one instance there, with a secretary presumably out of reach, Lady Bird Johnson listened in and did the requisite transcription.22 Later, after his election to the vice presidency in November 1960, Johnson recorded dozens of his telephone calls placed from or received in his suite in the Old Executive Office Building. There he used chiefly an Edison Voicewriter, which etched grooves on small red vinyl discs, each recording approximately 10–15 minutes of conversation. The LBJ Library has 150 of these discs.23

The Johnson presidential recordings—organized and released by the LBJ Library and transcribed here with daily scenesetters and full annotation—demonstrate, more than any other source, the relentless energy and passion that LBJ brought to public service and political leadership. “I got Ex-lax in one pocket and aspirin in the other and I work seventeen hours a day,” Johnson once remarked to several assistants. “All I ask you to work is sixteen and we’ll get that boy on the street corner a job.”24 The Johnson recordings show the variety, complexity, and insistency of the work that the President had established for himself, even though on some days, he is occupied chiefly with a single issue. In December 1963, for example, as he began to settle into being President, he reverted to managing legislation, much as in his heyday as majority leader. He concentrates call after call on effecting passage of a foreign aid appropriations bill. In late January and February 1964, the proposed tax cut legislation demanded similar attention. One sees here what George Reedy meant when he said of Johnson: “It wasn’t that he was overly concerned with details, it was just that when his mind focused in on something, it focused so thoroughly and so completely that he would exhaust every branch of it.”25

Even in the early days, when he seems so much to be again the majority leader, one sees signs of his aspiration to become a great and memorable President. He lavished so much attention on the foreign aid bill because he thought it would be seen as a test of his leadership. Driven by a conviction that the United States could not overcome its disabling prejudices and myths without such command, Johnson emerges early on in these recordings as a champion of New Deal liberalism and the architect of the Great Society that he would outline in May 1964 at the University of Michigan.

Most of the time, however, Johnson had to pursue his priority objectives while almost simultaneously wrestling with many other significant issues or problems. Briefed on 20 separate domestic problems on November 23, 1963, his first full day as president, Johnson’s agenda remained crowded throughout his presidency.26 During his whole first year in office, when recorded telephone calls represented approximately 41 percent of all those registered in the President’s Daily Diary and about one-fourth of all contacts, the Johnson recordings provide an unparalleled survey of daily presidential activity.

Only in June 1965 did a more truncated picture emerge from the Johnson recordings, for it is then that President Johnson began recording much less often than before. The White House Communications Agency director who reported for duty that spring recalled that it was the President’s increasing concern for leaks that prompted him to begin scaling back the extent of phone call recording operations.27 Whatever the rationale, the percentage of phone calls recorded declines dramatically at that point.

Though many of the oral history interviews conducted by the LBJ Library and the University of Texas underscore Johnson’s gift for mimicry, his store of tall tales and Hill Country allegories, and his pungent sense of humor, only these recordings provide firsthand evidence of these traits. As Doris Kearns recalled, “The power of his tales lay always in the telling, in the gestures, tone, and timing.” Unfortunately, President Johnson never accepted the validity of this mode of talk, she added, except in private, and always deemed it too indecorous for the public communications of the president.28 Falling outside of what he considered “public communications,” the telephone conversations capture the President’s natural and more powerful mode of talk, a mode that goes a long way toward explaining his effectiveness as a political leader.

John Connally once likened Lyndon Johnson’s character to “an untied bale of hay,” and these recordings capture all its contradictions.29 At the same time, the recordings show the consistency and dominance of Johnson’s commitment to politics and public service. In the end, the reader of these transcripts will be impressed less by his outsized ego, his desire for control, and his occasional emotional turbulence than by his passion to use governmental power to make life better for disadvantaged Americans and the startling rapidity with which he could achieve political insights—and act on them.

John Kenneth Galbraith once noted that the most common distinction in politics “is between the man or woman who holds public office in order to enjoy the personal pleasure it provides and the one who sees such a position as an opportunity to effect public action or change.”30 Galbraith left no doubt that President Johnson typified the latter type, adding that “Kennedy always used less power in pursuit of his goals than his position and personality provided. Lyndon Johnson always used more.”31 “Johnson’s recreation,” said Ray Lee, his publicist at the National Youth Administration in the 1930s, was “enjoying the work.”32 President Johnson himself often joked, “I seldom think of politics more than eighteen hours a day.”33

The recordings, of course, tell only part of the story of Johnson’s work. Though he used the telephone to the full, he adhered to the rules once articulated by Earl Long, Louisiana’s three-time populist governor: “Don’t write anything you can phone. Don’t phone anything you can talk face to face. Don’t talk anything you can smile. Don’t smile anything you can wink. Don’t wink anything you can nod.”34 But because of his reliance on the telephone, the recordings are often better sources than documents for tracing what Johnson did, and they also offer numerous clues to what he achieved by smiles and winks and nods.

The recordings show Johnson’s thirst for information of every kind that could help him estimate political obstacles, increase his own political leverage, and bring others to his own persuasion. Invoking his favorite biblical quotation (“Come, let us reason together,” from Isaiah 1:18), he relentlessly sought working consensus among his own advisers, among members of the Senate and House, and ultimately among other world leaders. He did so with painstaking attention to individual personalities and predilections, to the minutiae of individual interests, and to subtle variations in philosophy or ideology. “He sold civil rights to southerners,” recalled Johnson speechwriter Robert L. Hardesty, “wage restraint to union leaders, price responsibility to corporation presidents, Medicare to doctors, safety requirements to auto moguls, and the blessing of job training for the unemployed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”35

These recordings stand out from the other presidential recordings in one other, significant respect: Lyndon Johnson appears to have been the only president to use his recordings while in office. Virtually from the moment he became president, Johnson requested transcripts of telephone recordings, and each day White House secretaries would transcribe calls from that day, depositing the finished verbatim transcripts in Mildred Stegall’s safe. Johnson secretary Yolanda Boozer claimed, in a 1993 interview, that she did little else but transcribe telephone recordings over the first two months of the Johnson presidency.36 According to James R. Jones, special assistant to the President from 1965 to 1969, President Johnson would often read recordings transcripts before speaking with the same individual again. Often, these transcripts would comprise part of Johnson’s night reading; Boozer recalled how she found that the President had often corrected and edited many of them during these regular late-night ses-sions.37 Johnson’s rationale also became that of his staff and chief assistants. “Look, we get a lot of calls in here from politicians and they want this done, they want this judge appointed,” Marvin Watson once reminded the director of the White House Communications Agency, Jack Albright. “I can’t remember all those names. So the only way I can do it is to get them down on some kind of tape where I can record it and later say, ‘Okay, Mr. So and So, I’ll get back to you as soon as we have a chance to look at this.’ ”38 In a telephone conversation recorded in March 1965 with former governor of Tennessee Buford Ellington, President Johnson invites Ellington, who was about to place a politically sensitive call to Alabama governor George Wallace, to utilize the White House recording system.39 Judicial and political appointments notwithstanding, the transcripts enabled Johnson to handle all manner of presidential business with greater dispatch and comprehension. “It was no great secret,” recalled Johnson’s secretary, Juanita Roberts. “It wasn’t used to catch people. We didn’t think we were doing something sinister. It was a working tool, a piece of equipment.”40

While White House transcripts were generally produced by secretaries “on the fly” and at night, and are replete with errors and omissions, there are instances in which they help our project’s scholars interpret small sections of a conversation otherwise incomprehensible and full of “unclear” designations.41 Filed initially in Mildred Stegall’s safe in both a names file (white copy) and a chronological file (yellow copy), these transcripts may also represent, in a few rare instances, the only evidence of a recorded call if that call was erased by a subsequent rerecording. Braces denote a passage for which we derived at least part of the text from an original White House transcript. They have some glaring errors—the Pakistani ambassador rendered as “pack them bastards,” or the Tennessee-Tombigbee (River) as a person named “Tennessee Tom Bigby”—but the original White House transcripts can in a few instances serve as a means to a more accurate final transcript.42 This is especially so for the November 1963 recordings, several of which were erased after a presidential review of the related transcript.

Outside the small circle of associates who helped install, operate, or utilize the product of the recording system, Lyndon Johnson never acknowledged the existence of these recordings. The “mysterious” appearance of many of the original White House transcripts, in front of assistants charged with preparing material for The Vantage Point, President Johnson’s White House memoirs, offered the first hints of the existence of the Johnson White House recording system to anyone outside of this very small group. Indeed, a secondary transcription project appears to have been undertaken after Johnson left the White House in 1969 in order to facilitate the writing of his presidential memoirs.43 Published in 1971, The Vantage Point includes verbatim selections from many phone conversations in the Johnson recordings. Not long after this, during conversations with Doris Kearns in the early 1970s, Johnson also provided “a dozen or so typed transcripts” of these recordings and suggested that with them she “could learn more about the way the government really works than from a hundred political science textbooks.”44

Prior to this, it appears that the President, the WHCA officers who installed the taping system, Walter Jenkins, James Jones, Marvin Watson, Jake Jacobsen, Buford Ellington, a small number of secretaries who operated the telephone taping system, and Robert Kennedy and some of RFK’s associates were the only individuals aware of the secret taping system in the Johnson White House.45 Apparently, President Johnson detected Robert Kennedy’s knowledge of his system when he discovered that the recording of an early 1968 Cabinet Room meeting between the two men had been deliberately compromised by a high-frequency buzzer hidden in Kennedy’s briefcase.46

For scholars eager to exploit the material in the Johnson presidential recordings, there are at least a few caveats. The aforementioned decline in recording frequency, beginning in the summer of 1965, is one. Less obvious, however, is the status of those few objects of the President’s attention that rarely involved telephone exchanges. When seeking or considering professional economic policy advice, for example, President Johnson tended to rely on memos instead of telephone calls, crafted mostly by his Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). The chairman of the CEA at the beginning of the Johnson presidency, Walter W. Heller, was consulted frequently, given great responsibility, and trusted implicitly. More significantly, he had also mastered the art of the concise, readable memo, an achievement very much appreciated by a president who adhered to such a frenetic and lengthy daily schedule. Heller’s successors at the Johnson CEA, Gardner Ackley and Arthur Okun, proudly upheld this increasingly well-publicized tradition, and President Johnson continued to rely upon their written word. “We often sent him three or four a day,” recalled Gardner Ackley, “certainly fifteen a week, on the average, maybe twelve at the minimum.”47 Thus, relatively few calls were placed to these advisers, and even fewer were recorded.48

The transcripts contained in The Presidential Recordings: Lyndon B. Johnson series represent the effort of a team of historians at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs. The guiding principles of this effort are enumerated and explained in the general preface. With a few exceptions, transcripts in this volume include every conversation for this period captured by the presidential recording system in which President Johnson is a participant. Also included are a small number of recorded conversations in which the President was not a participant.

To produce uniform, easy to understand transcripts, the Miller Center historians adhered to several stylistic conventions. For example, we usually do not spell words differently in an effort to mimic a southern drawl, New York accent, or Texas twang. The character of such speech generally emerges out of the context of the conversation without such a special rendering. Also, ellipses do not indicate omitted passages or words but represent, instead, a pause or a shift in syntax. In the cases where words or short passages are simply too difficult to discern, we have inserted “unclear” in brackets. Other editorial clarifications within a transcript are also placed in brackets. Those comparing transcripts to the recordings should know that because the Dictaphone recorder contained two belts, the second of which would begin recording just before the first wound to an end, parts of some recordings are repeated. Though they occur regularly throughout the Johnson presidential recordings, these instances are not documented in our transcripts.

We have not transcribed short, nearly inaudible office conversations captured by a speakerphone extension, short conversations with White House or Signal Corps operators, and brief conversations between White House staff members and/or someone calling from outside the White House on trivial matters that do not involve the President or one of his chief assistants.49

Noted in the heading for each conversation are the conversation participants, whether the President placed or received the call, and the time at which the call commenced. If we could not discern who had originally placed the call, we have described it as “with” the person to whom President Johnson spoke. For information on who placed the call and at what time, we have often relied upon the judgment of the Johnson Library archivists who on occasion had to determine the correct time among several listed on different sources.50

Though lightning struck the LBJ Library on the day of the first tapes release, Harry Middleton, Lady Bird Johnson, and the LBJ Library archivists pressed on and moved quickly to process and release these recordings well ahead of the tentatively planned schedule. The resulting collection of presidential recordings represent an invaluable, unmatched historical resource. Hubert Humphrey once noted that Johnson’s “coarse mannerisms were the black keys of the piano he played. . . . The only time he ever became a phony was when he tried to become too pure.”51 Emerging from these recordings, none too pure yet thoroughly genuine, is the 36th president of the United States.


[1] James Reston, “The Glory and Tragedy of LBJ,” New York Times, 24 January 1973.
[2] During the CBS v. Westmoreland trial in 1984, the Lyndon B. Johnson Library released transcripts of three telephone conversations (one from 1966 and two from 1968) and transcripts of six Cabinet Room meetings (all from 1968) to the National Security Council. The NSC then passed on to the litigants relevant selections from these materials, along with a large collection of other related documents.
[3] Johnson’s speech at the dedication of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library, in May 1971, was one of the more notable occasions on which he employed this metaphor.
[4] This first release commenced on 30 September 1993 and continued through 15 April 1994.
[5] Quoted in John Powers, The History of Presidential Audio Recordings and the Archival Issues Surrounding Their Use, CIDS Paper, National Archives and Records Administration, 12 July 1996, p. 57.
[6] Of the 143 tapes documenting 77 separate meetings in the Cabinet Room or the “Little Lounge,” only five of these are recordings of meetings held in the private lounge. None of the five capture discrete meetings but are instead recordings of only general conversation and background noise. Of the 202 hours of Cabinet Room recordings, some 75 hours are duplicates created because two machines were recording at the same time.
[7] The IBM system was used only briefly at the very beginning of the administration. For the first two days of his administration, working out of his vice presidential office in the Old Executive Office Building, Johnson recorded 24 conversations on seven IBM magnetic belts. Afterward it was replaced by the Dictaphone system, part of which—the recorder at Evelyn Lincoln’s desk inherited by Marie Fehmer—had been installed in the Kennedy administration.
[8] WHCA director Jack Albright suggests that phone recording systems were also ordered for Joseph Califano’s and Jake Jacobsen’s desks. See Transcript, Jack Albright Oral History Interview I, p. 51, Internet Copy, Lyndon B. Johnson Library.
[9] Quoted in Transcript, Jack Albright Oral History Interview I, Internet Copy, Lyndon B. Johnson Library, p. 63. According to Albright, the removal was prompted by his discovery, reported to President Johnson in December 1968, that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had warned President-elect Nixon not to make any politically sensitive calls through the White House due to the presence of recorders “on every phone” in the Johnson White House. See ibid., pp. 62–63. On the day of the Nixon inauguration, 20 January 1969, H. R. Haldeman asked Albright about the recording system and then introduced him to an “expert” from Pacific Bell Telephone Company who proceeded to sweep the White House for bugs and recording equipment. After the four-hour sweep, Albright told Haldeman, “The next time you call in an expert to go and look for something, for God’s sakes, get a man who knows what he’s doing. That fellow couldn’t find a menstruating elephant walking through seven feet of snow.” Ibid., pp. 64–65.
[10] The Daily Diary for 24 November (Thanksgiving Day) 1966 provides evidence that at least one dictabelt was “destroyed on president’s instruction,” a belt on which was recorded a conversation between President Johnson and Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas.
[11] President Johnson did arrange to have a portable recording device at his disposal during travels or commutes. It appears that he used it very infrequently.
[12] Transcript, George Reedy Oral History Interview XII, 21 December 1983, by Michael L. Gillette, p. 12, Lyndon B. Johnson Library. See, for example, President Johnson’s conversation with a White House operator on 7 April 1964, Tape WH6404.04, PNO 5, a call that followed a legislative strategy planning session with Special Assistant Larry O’Brien.
[13] Quoted in Jack Valenti, A Very Human President (New York: Norton, 1975), p. 64.
[14] As John L. Bullion noted, however, the Daily Diary entries, especially those for days spent at the LBJ Ranch, are often notoriously incomplete. Since both phone calls and meetings or events are often left off of the Daily Diary, the approximation above likely reflects a fairly accurate breakdown of the average Johnson day. See John L. Bullion, In the Boat with LBJ (Plano: Republic of Texas Press, 2001), pp. 234, 358–59.
[15] Quoted in Merle Miller, Lyndon: An Oral Biography (New York: Putnam, 1980), p. 340.
[16] Lady Bird Johnson, A White House Diary (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1970), p. 33.
[17] The five outlying properties were the Scharnhorst, Lewis, Haywood, and Nicholson ranches and the Jordan House, names all drawn, in the Hill Country fashion, from the names of the original or historically recognized owners.
[18] Hal K. Rothman, LBJ’s Texas White House: “Our Heart’s Home” (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2001), pp. 128–29, 132–33; Ira W Davis quoted in ibid., p. 132.
[19] Transcript, Jack Albright Oral History Interview I, 11 December 1980, by Michael L. Gillette, p. 40, Lyndon B. Johnson Library.
[20] Joseph Kraft, Profiles in Power: A Washington Insight (New York: New American Library, 1966), p. 9.
[21] Some of the transcripts created from Jenkins’s shorthand notes are located in the “Notes and Transcripts of Johnson Conversations, 1951–1963” collection, within the Papers of Lyndon B. Johnson, Pre-Presidential Papers files located at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library. Though most of these files (one year to a file) are sparse, some containing only one transcribed conversation or summaries rather than verbatim transcripts, a few contain several verbatim transcripts that offer insights similar to the later and much richer presidential collection.
[22] In the one call during the 1960 convention known to have been transcribed by Lady Bird, New York attorney Ed Weisl Sr. called to dissuade Johnson, in the strongest possible language, from accepting the spot as running mate to Joseph Kennedy’s son.
[23] At this time, these recordings remain mostly unprocessed and only partly transferred to audiotape by National Archives technicians. Like the Johnson presidential recordings, they are housed at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Texas. The logs of these recordings suggest a distinct pattern: Many, if not most, of the calls logged from Johnson’s vice presidential office are calls placed or received by Walter Jenkins. On 2 October 1962, for example, according to the log, Jenkins placed or received 72 calls. The logs also suggest that for the week of 1 October to 8 October 1962—when Jenkins moved into an Executive Office Building office—calls were recorded, briefly, on a different device.
[24] Quoted in Ronnie Dugger, The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson: The Drive for Power—From the Frontier to Master of the Senate (New York: Norton, 1982), p. 188.
[25] Transcript, George Reedy Oral History Interview, Interview III, 7 June 1975, by Michael L. Gillette, p. 6, Lyndon B. Johnson Library.
[26] This is Johnson’s own count of the 23 November 1963 briefings, cited in Harry Provence, Lyndon B. Johnson: A Biography (New York: Fleet Publishing, 1964), p. 16.
[27] Jack Albright, interviewed by John Powers and cited in Powers, The History of Presidential Audio Recordings, p. 40.
[28] Doris Kearns, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), p. 354.
[29] John Connally with Mickey Herskowitz, In History’s Shadow: An American Odyssey (New York: Hyperion, 1993), p. 63.
[30] John Kenneth Galbraith, Name-Dropping: From FDR On (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999), p. 143.
[31] Galbraith, Name-Dropping, p. 144.
[32] Quoted in Dugger, The Politician, p. 188.
[33] Quoted in Bill Adler, ed., The Johnson Humor (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1965), p. 50.
[34] Quoted in Michael L. Kurtz and Morgan D. People, Earl K. Long: The Saga of Uncle Earl and Louisiana Politics (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990), p. 135.
[35] Robert L. Hardesty, “An LBJ The Nation Seldom Saw,” in J. Willis Hurst and James C. Cain, LBJ: To Know Him Better (Austin, TX: The LBJ Foundation, 1995), p. 48.
[36] Yolanda Boozer, interviewed by John Powers and cited in Powers, The History of Presidential Audio Recordings, p. 42.
[37] Ibid., pp. 43–44.
[38] Transcript, Jack Albright Oral History Interview I, 11 December 1980, by Michael L. Gillette, p. 50, Internet Copy, Lyndon B. Johnson Library.
[39] See Tape WH6503.10, Citation #7124, 18 March 1965, 9:13 p.m., Recordings of Telephone Conversations—White House Series, Recordings and Transcripts of Conversations and Meetings, Lyndon B. Johnson Library.
[40] Quoted in William Doyle, Inside the Oval Office: The White House Tapes from FDR to Clinton (New York: Kodansha America, 1999).
[41] Bill Gulley, director of the White House Military Office from 1966 to 1977, maintains that Marvin Watson’s secretaries were responsible for the production of these transcripts. Though Watson apparently initiated a revitalized and well-organized transcription effort in 1967, after a period in which it had lagged somewhat, many of the existing White House transcripts were produced before this time. On 4 April 1967, to begin this renewed transcription, Mary Jo Cook of Marvin Watson’s office requested portable transcription equipment from the WHCA. See Bill Gulley, with Mary Ellen Reese, Breaking Cover (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1980), pp. 77–85. Included in these pages are schematics of the White House taping system installed at Johnson’s request by the White House Communications Agency.38. Quoted in Miller, Lyndon, p. 344.
[42] See the White House transcripts for conversations with John McCormack and Otto Passman at 4:55 p.m. on 29 November 1963, and with Kermit Gordon at 5:26 p.m. on 4 May 1964, respectively.
[43] “I have reviewed all of these carefully,” noted Johnson assistant Tom Johnson in September 1969, “and would recommend that we show to the writers, especially Hardesty, the ones which I have marked with green tabs.” Memo, Tom Johnson to Lyndon Johnson, 3 September 1969, Recordings and Transcripts of Telephone Conversations and Meetings, JFK Series, Folder 1, Box 1, November 1963 Chrono File, Lyndon B. Johnson Library.
[44] Kearns, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, p. 413 n.
[45] The phone taps were activated only when one of Johnson’s four White House secretaries, often Juanita Roberts, pressed a button located at her desk or when a White House Communication Agency officer activated one of the two recorders attached to their switchboard. WHCA director Jack Albright and Johnson secretary Juanita Roberts believed that Robert Kennedy was fully aware of the Johnson recordings and the devices by which they were produced. See Powers, The History of Presidential Audio Recordings, p. 55.
[46] See Transcript, Jack Albright Oral History Interview I, pp. 55–57, Internet Copy, Lyndon B. Johnson Library for the details of this event. When Albright played the compromised recording for President Johnson, the President laughed and referred to Kennedy as “that crooked little so-and-so.”
[47] Quoted in Edwin C. Hargrove and Samuel A. Morley, eds., The President and the Council of Economic Advisers: Interviews with CEA Chairmen (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1984), p. 227.
[48] The Johnson presidential recordings include 33 conversations with Walter Heller, CEA chairman until November 1964, and four conversations with Gardner Ackley, CEA chairman from November 1964 to February 1968. Arthur Okun, CEA member from November 1964 to January 1969 and CEA chairman from February 1968 to January 1969, is not included in any recorded Johnson telephone call.
[49] For the JFK Series, which includes all Johnson recordings from 22 November 1963 through 31 December 1963, and a very small number scattered throughout January and February 1964, September 1964, December 1966, and January 1967 to the end of the Johnson administration, the “Program Numbers” (or PNOs), which denote individual conversations, begin anew, from number one, on each tape. These recordings were released in response to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Act of 1992 and included material related to the presidential transition and formation of the Warren Commission, the release of the Warren Commission report (September 1964), the controversy surrounding the Look magazine serialization and publication of William Manchester’s book The Death of a President, November 20-November 25, 1963 (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), and the period of New Orleans district attorney James Garrison’s investigation and Clay Shaw trial (January 1967—January 1969). This series was opened in increments from 30 September 1993 through 15 April 1994. This method of enumeration prevails also for the small number of conversations released under “Special Circumstances” and for the 52 conversations recorded by the Department of Defense National Military Command Center, on 4 August and 5 August 1964, relating to the second Gulf of Tonkin incident. This “Special Circumstances” series includes conversations opened for Robert McNamara during his research for In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, his memoir published in 1995; the recordings of three Cabinet Room meetings on the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia (released to the Department of State for its Foreign Relations of the United States publication on Eastern Europe); and a very small number requested by the Truman and Eisenhower presidential libraries. For the transcripts and summaries produced from these Cabinet Room recordings and related White House transcripts, see Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968, vol. 17, Eastern Europe (Washington, DC: GPO, 1996), pp. 218–28, 236–41. This volume also includes, on pages 250–52, a summary of a 23 August 1968 Cabinet Room meeting, drawn from a White House transcript but not subsequently released with the other three. The White House Series—comprising the balance of the Johnson presidential recordings—along with a small number of tapes recorded in the White House Situation Room related to the 1965 crisis in the Dominican Republic (known as the Situation Room Series) are enumerated in series from one tape to another, beginning with “Citation Number” 1101 on the first January 1964 tape and continuing through to the end of the Johnson administration. For these two series, together the largest by far in the Johnson recordings, the “PNO” designation is no longer used.
[50] Paper slips attached to the original recordings contained the times, were generally inscribed not long after the calls were placed or received, and are, accordingly, the most reliable source of this information. If a mistake appears on one of these slips, the President’s Daily Diary or White House Operator’s Telephone Log can also be consulted for times. These are, however, less reliable sources than the slips produced by the President’s secretarial staff. Since it is understood that President Johnson is a participant in all conversations, he is listed in these headings only when joined by someone else on his end of the conversation. On the rare occasion when the President is not a participant in a conversation that has been transcribed, the heading is rendered as “Between X and Y.” Though descriptions of all but the most recognizable, major figures are included in footnotes as they appear or are mentioned, the fullest descriptions of conversation participants can be found in the list entitled Conversation Participants and Major Figures.
[51] Quoted in Miller, Lyndon, p. 541.