LBJ Library releases telephone conversation recordings

Nov 17, 2006

President Lyndon Johnson discusses political losses in the 1966 midterm Congressional elections as voters react to the Vietnam War and civil rights

(Austin) at 9:00 a.m., on Friday, November 17, 2006, the LBJ Library will release recordings and transcripts of President Johnson's telephone conversations from August through December 1966.

Highlights are posted on the Library website and include:

  • Vietnam War: conversations with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara about U.S. troop levels, enemy buildup, bombing campaigns; conversations about the War with Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Arthur Goldberg, Wilbur Mills, John Steinbeck.
  • Reaction to 1966 mid-term Congressional elections: conversations with Hubert Humphrey, Robert McNamara, Governor Philip Hoff.
  • Wiretaps: conversation with Clark Clifford about FBI wiretaps.
  • Thurgood Marshall: conversation with Abe Fortas about appointment of Marshall to the Supreme Court and its impact on the balance of the Court.
  • Human Interest: Lady Bird Johnson talks to her husband about how to present a wedding gift to their daughter Luci; President Johnson talks to Liz
  • Carpenter about her plan to use airline equipment to air-condition the church where Luci will marry and expresses concern about a possible conflict with an airline strike.

Politics and the economy dominate the President's conversations in these months leading up to and following the midterm Congressional elections in November 1966.

Mounting criticism of the President and of the Democratic Party from Americans discouraged by the war in Vietnam and by an increasingly militant civil rights movement at home leads to the loss of Democratic seats in Congress and of governorships around the country. Among the Republicans who are elected are Ronald Reagan as governor of California and George H. W. Bush as a Texas congressman. After the disappointing results in the election, the President faces stinging criticism from within his own party, particularly from a group of Democratic governors.

In the months leading up to the election, the President struggles with Congress to hold down federal expenditures and to bring in more revenue without increasing taxes in an election year. In August, a contentious airline strike threatens to disrupt the nation and even plans for the President's daughter Luci's wedding. In October, the President travels to Southeast Asia to take part in the seven-nation Manila Conference on Vietnam and Asian policy, visiting with U.S. troops in Vietnam and Korea during the trip. Upon his return, he undergoes surgery to remove a polyp in his throat and to repair damage from his gallbladder surgery the previous year.

The President continues to pursue international efforts for peace in Vietnam and to provide relief to the hungry in India as that nation struggles to overcome its food problems. The appointments of Nicholas Katzenbach as under secretary of state and of Ramsey Clark as his successor as attorney general paves the way for other actions that will eventually lead to the selection of Thurgood Marshall as the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court. President Johnson's already tense relationship with Robert Kennedy becomes even more strained during these months with the publication of excerpts from William Manchester's book, The Death of the President, in Look magazine. The book presents President Johnson in an unflattering light at the time of President Kennedy's death. The President also becomes involved in a dispute between Robert Kennedy and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover over revelations that Robert Kennedy authorized wiretaps while he was attorney general.

There are approximately 58 hours of recorded conversations from this time period: 16 hours for August 1966, 14 hours for September 1966, 6 hours for October 1966, 7 hours for November 1966, and 15 hours for December 1966. Detailed information about individual conversations will be available in the Library's Reading Room and on the Library's website on November 17.

Researchers may either listen to the recordings in the Reading Room beginning on November 17 or purchase copies of individual compact discs at a cost of $8.00 per disc, plus shipping and handling. The cost of the set of 58 discs is $464.00, plus shipping, handling and Texas sales tax where applicable. Orders for complete sets must be placed with the Reading Room Archivist, 512-721-0212, by Friday, November 10. Once the limited number of available sets has been sold, orders will be filled once a week as staff time permits. Orders for individual discs will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis after November 17.

Copies of transcripts of those conversations that were transcribed by the President's staff may also be purchased at a cost of $ 0.25 per page by mail or $ 0.15 per page if ordered in the Reading Room. The exact page count of a complete set of transcripts will be available on November 17. Researchers should be cautioned that the transcripts are not always reliable and should not be used without checking them against the actual recordings to assure accuracy.