Looking back - January 20, 1965
Jan 11, 2013
Until President Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009, the swearing in of Lyndon B. Johnson drew the largest crowd in history—roughly 1.2 million. The best-remembered lines from President Johnson's 22-minute inaugural address reflect his ambitious, forward-thinking spirit: "It is the excitement of becoming – always becoming, trying, probing, failing, resting and trying again – but always trying and always gaining." He later confided that he was inspired to add that line when facing the crowd of silently attentive people. It was this line that Mrs. Johnson said "had gone straight to my heart."
Here are more facts and firsts from that historic day.
LBJ Inauguration Facts
- LBJ was sworn in at 12:03 p.m. on Jan. 20, 1965. Thus, the United States was technically without a president for three minutes. The constitution provides that the presidential term shall end at noon on January 20. LBJ was more punctual than most presidents. John F. Kennedy took the oath of office in 1961 at 12:51 p.m., Harry Truman at 12:29 in 1949, and Dwight D. Eisenhower at 12:32 in 1953.
- LBJ’s speech was 1,500 words and drew applause 11 times. This was one of the shortest speeches in inaugural history. Washington’s second inaugural address was the shortest on record (135 words), Lincoln’s second (698 words), Theodore Roosevelt’s (985 words), Franklin Roosevelt’s (559 words), and Zachary Taylor’s (996 words). The longest inaugural address was William Henry Harrison’s (8,445 words)
- Earl Warren, the Chief Justice of the United States, administered the oath of office.
- Hubert Humphrey was sworn in at 11:58 a.m. Until that time, Speaker of the House John McCormack, had been next in line for the presidency after President Johnson. The nation had been without a Vice President for nearly 14 months, since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
- While LBJ was being sworn in as the 36th President of the United States, 150-200 African Americans were arrested in Selma, Alabama, after they tried to enter the Dallas County Courthouse through the front door to register to vote.
- There were 5,400 men protecting the president during the inauguration, including the D.C. Metropolitan police, Park Police, Secret Service, Treasury agents, State Department Security Officers, Capitol Hill Police, out-of-town detectives, and servicemen from all five branches of the military.
- Security was so tight for the inaugural parade that the Cochiti Indian tribal dancers from New Mexico were asked to remove the points from their arrows, and they complied.
- A three-sided screen of bullet-proof glass enclosed the platform in front of the Capitol where the oath of office was administered. A similar sheet of 1.5” glass protected the president during the inaugural parade.
- Performers at the Inaugural Gala at the National Guard Armory included Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, who danced a pas de deux from “La Corsaire”; the Ballet Folklorico; Alfred Hitchcock; Bobby Darin; Carol Channing; Woody Allen; Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews performing a duet; Harry Belafonte; Ann Margret; Mike Nichols and Elaine May; Johnny Carson; and Barbra Streisand.
Mrs. Johnson was the first president’s wife to hold the Bible at the swearing-in ceremony. She did this at her husband’s behest. The Bible had always been held by the executive secretary of the Joint Congressional Inaugural Committee. The Bible was the one given to LBJ and Lady Bird by LBJ’s mother, Rebekah Baines Johnson, in 1952. It was the same Bible LBJ used to be sworn in as Vice President under John F. Kennedy. This tradition of the First Lady holding a family Bible has continued to the present.
- LBJ wore an Oxford gray business suit and gray felt fedora for Inauguration Day, which was a departure from the cutaway coat, striped trousers, and top hat worn by his predecessors. Vice President Humphrey also wore a business suit and fedora.
- LBJ was the first president since George Washington to dance at his own Inaugural Ball. He danced the first dance of the evening at the Mayflower Hotel with Lady Bird and in a matter of 15 minutes had changed partners nine times.
- For the first time, helicopters were used for the ceremony and the parade. The two helicopters had a Secret Service agent riding with each pilot. The agents maintained constant air to ground communications with the ground forces below, alerting them to any questionable activity on the ground.
- The presidential limousine was the one used by President Kennedy, but for the first time it had been fitted with a non-removable bullet-resistant bubbletop, as well as armor-plated sides.
- A heavy armor plate was built into the floor of the presidential limousine in order to withstand a bomb attack.