President Lyndon B. Johnson working with secretary Phyllis Bonanno

Lyndon B. Johnson’s Daily Diary

Oct 27, 2010

LBJ Library posts on its website daily diaries spanning 3,400 days from LBJ’s Senate years through his presidency.

What: Press conference regarding website posting of more than 14,000 pages of LBJ daily diaries.
The Daily Diary posted on the LBJ Library website may be downloaded, e-mailed or printed, and is available to the public free of charge. Searching through the Daily Diary can be done by name, date, or topic. A calendar is available online.

When: Wednesday, October 27, 2010
10:30 a.m. (CST)
Mark Updegrove, Library Director, and Claudia Anderson,
Supervisory Archivist, are available for interviews.
The LBJ Library has a fiber uplink studio (VYVX network) available for TV interviews. For radio interviews, there is dialup ISDN service.

Where: LBJ Library, 10th Floor, Brown Room
2313 Red River

These materials correspond with the Daily Diary highlighted in this release and may be found on the LBJ Library website. All materials may be downloaded, are in the public domain, and may be used free of charge:

  • Video of President Johnson’s activities from November 7 – 9, 1966, days around the midterm elections of 1966. This video was produced by the U. S. Navy during the Johnson presidency. This segment runs 5:06; audio is on one channel.
  • Photos of people/events highlighted in the Daily Diary press release.
  • Audio of a telephone conversation on November 9, 1966, between President Johnson and Vice President Hubert Humphrey in which they discuss the midterm election results. Audio runs 13:05.

(Austin, Texas) – As the midterm elections are only days away, the newly posted LBJ daily diaries offer a remarkable look back at the midterm elections of 1966 and give a unique insider’s view into the daily events inside the Johnson White House during a turbulent time in the country, the 1960s.

Johnson’s secretaries began compiling the typed and handwritten daily diaries in 1959, when he was Senate Majority Leader and continued through his vice presidency and presidency. As meetings, travel, social events, and telephone calls occurred, the secretary “working” the Diary would note them.

But the diaries, which total more than 14,000 pages, reveal much more. The secretaries also summarized conversations, noted the President’s mood, included moments of humor, and, on occasion, noted events the President directed to be “off the record.”

“We are enormously pleased to bring this important archival material to the website, making it accessible to the public,” said Mark Updegrove, LBJ Library Director. “LBJ never envisioned the internet as a means to learn about his political and personal life. Posting the Daily Diary is part of the LBJ Library’s ongoing mission to provide an intimate, unvarnished look at the inner workings of the Johnson White House.”

Supervisory Archivist Claudia Anderson, who led the Library’s effort to post the Diaries, emphasized that “The President’s Daily Diary is a rich resource that provides context for many of the documents and recordings of telephone conversations included in the Library’s collections. It also gives scholars insights into President Johnson’s character, lifestyle, decision-making processes, sense of humor, and relationships with his friends and family.”

Through the years, several secretaries compiled the Daily Diary including Juanita Roberts, Marie Fehmer, Phyllis Bonanno, and others. Johnson’s secretaries frequently recorded details of events that happened outside the Oval Office or late at night when few staff were present.

Examples of Diary entries, beginning with days around the 1966 midterm elections:
November 7, 1966 – LBJ Ranch, the day before the midterm elections. The President and Mrs. Johnson fly to Cotulla, in south Texas, where LBJ taught school from 1928-1929. Then on to San Antonio for a medical check up.

1:00 p.m. – “Wheels down at Cotulla, Texas – approx 100 people waiting at the strip
No airport building in evidence, just a wind sock.
The President is met by the Mayor of Cotulla whose last name is Cotulla
Raymond Landrum, Superintendent of Schools
Dan Garcia, the President’s former student”

3:00 p.m. – “To school auditorium, and directly to stage
The auditorium was filled with rows of children, w/ teachers interspersed throughout the crowd. Little brown faces w/ dark eyes peered at the President.  Members of the WH Press Corps standing around the room along the walls. The auditorium was small and very crowded.”

Following the President’s speech in Cotulla, he flew to San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center to talk to doctors about his upcoming throat polyp surgery.

4:50 p.m. – “The PRESS POOL TO ROOM
The President told them that the doctors took the routine tests and pronounced his condition normal. Took his blood pressure and an EKG.  Lots of x-rays - - and the President announced that he would talk to his doctors tomorrow and announce whether the surgery would be done at Brooke or in Washington.”

5:05 p.m. – “Wheels up – via helo- for Krim Ranch
en route the President dictated a wire to be sent to Waggoner Carr [Texas Attorney General] tonight at his windup rally in San Antonio. He asked that the wire be read to Mrs. Johnson to see if it should be ‘stronger.’ Mrs. Johnson agreed that it was fine as it was.”

November 8, 1966 - date of the midterm elections. President and Mrs. Johnson, who were staying at the LBJ Ranch in Texas, went into Johnson City to vote.

7:15 a.m. – “The President had gone in in order to be at the polling place when the polls opened, but although the law states that the polls will be open from 7:00a until 7:00p, the Johnson City polls did not open until almost 8:00a.”

6:50 p.m. – “The President was reading tickers about the election returns as the television was carrying election coverage. He remarked, ‘It looks like things are not going too good.’  He said it really upset him about Tennessee. ‘I thought we had that.’”

November 9, 1966 – LBJ Ranch

12:51 p.m. – “The President had discussed business with Secy Henry Fowler, Charles Schultze, and Joe Califano while they were riding around looking at the wildlife.  The President later said that the city men did not appreciate the deer - - that they had their heads too deep in their briefcases.”

1:01 p.m. – “The Vice President, Minneapolis, Minn. (b-1)” [belt-1]
[This Diary entry records a telephone call the President made to Vice President Hubert Humphrey regarding the elections. B-1 means the conversation was on Dictaphone “belt” one.]

2:51 p.m. – “The President asked to find how many Democrats were in this Congress and how many when he first became President.”

3:08 p.m. – “The President made it known how unhappy he was with the poor service he was getting on election results. He remarked that it was bad that the President could not even find out what had happened.”

Other Diary examples, in chronological order:

June 28, 1966 – President Johnson and his family made a late night visit to St. Dominic’s Catholic Church to seek spiritual solace on the evening of bombing missions on targets in  in Vietnam.
10:24 p.m. - “The President and party [Mrs. Johnson, their daughter Luci, and Luci’s husband, Pat Nugent] walked to the front of the church and sat in the third pew, prayed silently for several minutes, and then departed.”

April 25, 1967 – Bad Godesberg, Germany – President Johnson had attended the funeral of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer
11:04 a.m. – “The President talked to [French President Charles] DeGaulle at the luncheon on Tuesday. A memcom is available. The two were extremely courtly and courteous to each other. There was virtually nothing of substance except for some elegant fencing on who should invite whom to what country. The duel ended in a draw:  no visit decided upon as of this moment. DeGaulle offered the President the biggest chateau outside of Paris, and the President countered by saying he would always be glad to see him sometime, perhaps when DeGaulle comes through en route to Expo ’67 - - in other words, no hits, no runs, and no errors - - no ball game.”

6:15 p.m. – As reported by National Security Advisor Walt Rostow to secretary Marie Fehmer.
“He and [Prime Minister Harold] Wilson met alone - - so there are no papers on this mtg. The only thing I know is that the President, trying to throw Wilson off guard, and fully expecting Wilson to complain again about our bombing of Vietnam - - asked Wilson when he was going to send his two brigades of troops to Vietnam. Wilson’s hollow laughter managed to keep him from mentioning the bombing.”

June 5, 1967 – The White House – the first day of the 6-Day War, a day of intense crisis and the first time the “hotline” between the U. S. and Soviet Union was used.

4:30 a.m. – “Walt Rostow [National Security Advisor]– in the Situation Room.”

5:09 a.m. – “Secretary [Dean] Rusk – in his office”

8:17 a.m. – [the President] “To Situation Room”

8:47 a.m. – “Via ‘hot line’ – Johnson to Kosygin – reactions to end hostilities”

2:40 p.m. – Lunch – “He asked Paul [Glynn] to loosen his suit, for the suit ‘is too tight, now’ he said. Then the President started joking, and causing George [Christian] and Tom [Johnson] to laugh. Said whenever he got a little bit upset his appetite increased --- (he ate 4 cheese sandwiches and 2 servings of dessert) and that right now he was starving - - - he just couldn’t get enough to eat.  Quizzed Geo on mood of newsmen. Discussed what he considered to be an error on part of the State Dept. spokesman - - [Robert] McClosky.”

October 22, 1967 – The White House – during anti-war protests at the Pentagon and Lincoln Memorial
10:55 a. m. – “[Secret Service agent] Lem Johns reports that when they were almost back to the White House from Church, the President asked Mrs. Johnson if she would like to take a ride over there to the Pentagon to see what they were doing. At the Lincoln Memorial, it looked like there were about 150 people sitting on the steps – just scattered about the area.  We drove around the Memorial one and one-half times - - looked at the Mall area and the reflecting pool area. Mrs. Johnson particularly noticed the litter and refuse left by those gathered at the Memorial yesterday. The President was highly interested in what a hippie looked like, their dress, age, groups, and items they carried…some were carrying flags, bed rolls, blankets, flight bags, flowers.”

March 3, 1968 – Ramey Air Force Base Golf Course
2:14 p.m. – “Played 18 holes of golf.  But Cong [Jake] Pickle said later that in essence, the President played 3 – 4 times that much, because he would hit several balls each hole until he was satisfied with a particular shot.”

During the Johnson presidency, Navy photographers filmed, produced, and edited film of the President's daily activities. This film segment, from November 7 to November 9, 1966, may be downloaded and is in the public domain. TRT: 5:06; audio is on one channel.