Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard J. Daley on 6 April 1968


Transcript

Edited by Kent B. Germany, with Kieran K. Matthews and Marc J. Selverstone

One of President Johnson’s most important supporters was Chicago mayor Richard J. “Dick” Daley, whose political machine held sway over 20 votes on Capitol Hill. The day before, Daley had the state of Illinois call out 6,000 National Guardsmen in Chicago “as a precautionary meaure” because of some “window breaking and some fires” in the aftermath of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. assassination.[note 1] Presidential Daily Diary, 5 April 1968. The situation had worsened, and in this call, Daley asked for federal troops to restore order in his city. One problem in the deployment process was that Governor Otto Kerner Jr. was then out of state, so the request for troops would have to come from Lt. Governor Samuel H. Shapiro. The White House eventually sent in 5,000 U.S. Army troops.[note 2] “Executive Order 11404—Providing for the Restoration of Law and Order in the State of Illinois,” 7 April 1968, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1968 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office [hereafter GPO], 1969), Executive Order 11404; “Telegram to the Acting Governor of Illinois in Response to His Request for Federal Troops in Chicago,” 6 April 1968, Public Papers, Johnson, 1968 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1969), doc. 183.

In another conversation between Johnson and Daley later this month, Johnson would criticize the mayor for waiting too long to ask for troops.[note 3] See President Johnson and Richard Daley on 19 April 1968, Conversation WH6804-01-12919.

White House Operator

There you are.

President Johnson

Hello?

Richard J. “Dick” Daley

Mr. President?

President Johnson

Yes, Dick.

Daley

We’re in trouble. We need some help.

President Johnson

Yes? I was afraid of that.

Daley

Yes. It’s starting to break down in different places.

President Johnson

Yeah.

Daley

And we just met with our people, and they felt that we should try to get some federal assistance. I’ve talked to Governor [Samuel H.] Shapiro, and he’s ready to do anything and everything.[note 4] Samuel H. Shapiro was the Democratic lieutenant governor of Illinois from January 1961 to May 1968, and governor of Illinois from May 1968 to January 1969. So we’re needing help as soon as we can get it.

President Johnson

All right. First thing you ought to do is talk to the Attorney General [W. Ramsey Clark] and see what kind of a finding his legislature’s got to make.[note 5] W. Ramsey Clark was U.S. assistant attorney general from 1961 to 1965; U.S. deputy attorney general from January 1965 to March 1967; acting U.S. attorney general from November 1966 to March 1967; and U.S. attorney general from March 1967 to January 1969. In the meantime, we’ll—I’ve talked to the Attorney General. I told him I’d called early this morning and told you, because they have to move from California, [Daley acknowledges] you see? They won’t do any good tonight.

Daley

Mm-hmm. Well, we—

President Johnson

That’s why—

Daley

—hope to get them in tonight, if we can.

President Johnson

Well, we—

Daley

Where is Ramsey tonight?

President Johnson

[Daley acknowledges throughout.] He’s right here at the Department of Justice, and I’ll switch you over there now, and you can talk to him, but the Governor has to for[mally]—you know the finding they have to make? They have to make a finding in the state that you’ve used all your Guard, that you’ve used all your facilities, that you’re unable to take care of the situation, and therefore, you ask for federal troops. Then he has to make a finding for the president, and the president has to issue an order. That is to keep a president from doing it except for the . . . at the instance of local officials.

Daley

I see.

President Johnson

Now, that’s what I anticipated this morning, [Daley acknowledges througout] and I knew dark was coming, and I knew if we thought we’d better have them, they ought to be moving.

Daley

Well, these fellows kept saying to you, you know, which they will. But now this—we had a meeting—

President Johnson

[Daley acknowledges throughout.] That’s what they did to me all day yesterday, and I just cried. I [unclear]—I ate my fingernails off, and I finally ordered them in on my own while the mayor [Walter E. Washington] couldn’t make up his mind.[note 6] Walter E. Washington was mayor-commissioner of Washington, D.C., from November 1967 to January 1975, and mayor of Washington, D.C., from January 1975 to January 1979. And we got them in, but they got big headlines here today.[note 7] The Presidential Daily Diary noted that Mayor Washington told the White House around 2:00 p.m. on 5 April that the situation was “out of control” and required troops. Here’s the—“Too Little, Too Late? Long Stretches of the Capital Laid to Waste; What It Cost: 690 Injured, 299 Fires.” So, what we’ll do is we’ll—we will . . . have Governor Shapiro call Ramsey, and I’ll have Ramsey alert to the call. He’ll be waiting for it.

Daley

All right.

President Johnson

Just tell him to call the White House, and they’ll connect him.

Daley

I see.

President Johnson

[Unclear]—Just tell him to ask for the White House in Washington. They’ll connect him. He’ll tell him exactly what kind of a wire to send. He’ll ask him to dictate it. [Daley acknowledges throughout] And in the meantime, I’ll see where he can find the troops and how many.[note 8] The troops were coming from Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Carson in Colorado. See President Johnson and Ramsey Clark, 6 April 1968, Conversation WH6804-01-12912. Do you know how many they want?

Daley

At least 3,000.

President Johnson

Yeah, well, you better say 5[000].

Daley

Yeah. I think we need 5[000].

President Johnson

I would tell him—

Daley

Fine.

President Johnson

—what you do, and we’ll be right back to you, Dick.

Daley

I’ll have Shapiro call Ramsey—

President Johnson

That’s right.

Daley

—through the White House.

President Johnson

That’s right.

Daley

Thanks.

President Johnson

Bye.

Daley

Thanks, Mr. President

President Johnson

All right.

Cite as

“Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard J. Daley on 6 April 1968,” Conversation WH6804-01-12910, Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [Lyndon B. Johnson and Civil Rights, Volume 2, ed. Kent B. Germany] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4005994