LBJ volumes 7 & 8 Now Published

LBJ volumes 7 & 8Our newest additions to our LBJ series (with W.W. Norton) are now available. Edited by Guian McKee, Kent Germany, and David Carter, these volumes were given a Starred Review in Publishers Weekly (April), which said the volumes constituted "a significant record of American history in the making, and for anyone fascinated by LBJ or the inner working of the White House, this is an invaluable record." You can buy them here.

Click on the link below to hear highlight clips from the volumes.

Among the conversations included in the volumes:

  • On June 11, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson tells Sen. Richard Russell, "We’re doing just fine except for this damn Vietnam thing."
  • On June 29, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover engages in a smear campaign against the mother of a missing civil-rights worker, telling Johnson, "She’s a Communist, you know."
  • On June 30, Johnson calls Sen. Ted Kennedy in the hospital where he is recovering from a plane crash. He tells Kennedy, "It’ll make you stronger when you get older."

Advance praise from Publisher's Weekly in a starred review deems these volumes "a significant record of American history in the making." Thirty-four of the most critical days of Johnson's presidency are captured in candid and uncensored telephone conversations. Discussions between Johnson and his advisors regarding America’s role in Vietnam, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the developing crisis of three missing civil-rights workers in Mississippi unfold across 1,000 pages of annotated transcripts. A companion DVD provides the reader with complete conversation audio files, a photo gallery, and video from the period.


"I Don’t Know How You Conduct Much Offensive Without Some Authority."

          President Johnson, Robert Kennedy - 6/9/1964

The President and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy discussed how best to inform the congressional leadership about the previous day’s bombing of a Pathet Lao antiaircraft battery in Laos. Foreshadowing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that Congress would pass in August, they also weighed the eventual necessity of a congressional resolution on the use of force – or even a declaration of war – in the region.

"A Bill That You and Your Folks Will Never Forget."

         President Johnson, Wilbur Mills - 6/9/1964

President Johnson discussed the administration's Medicare bill with powerful House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Wilbur Mills of Arkansas. During the conversation, Johnson emphasized the centrality of Medicare to his overall domestic policy agenda, and held the bill out to Mills as a possible historic achievement. Later in the month, Mills would implement a series of parliamentary maneuvers to block Medicare for the year, but in 1965, he would play a key role in brokering a compromise that led to the enactment of both Medicare and Medicaid. 

Medicare and LBJ's "Three-Prong Approach" 

         President Johnson, Wilbur Mills - 6/11/1964

In this call, President Johnson and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Wilbur Mills of Arkansas discuss the status of the administration's Medicare bill. In a key passage, Mills suggests that they might build support for the bill by combining its proposed coverage of hospital costs with the expansion of an existing program for state-based coverage of the poor and an expansion of Social Security benefits. Johnson then suggests, somewhat opaquely, that "I'd be for all three of those, if you could put that fourth one in on it, your 13. If you didn't, I'd wait until I could get them all together because...if you don't, why, you just murder the other one." Johnson's reference to "that fourth one" may have simply referred to building political support on Mills' committee--"your 13" supporters of the bill--but it may also have been a suggestion that Mills add coverage of physicians' fees to the Medicare program.

"We Never Did Clean Up Korea Yet..."

         President Johnson, Richard Russell - 6/11/1964

In this excerpt from a much longer call with Senate Armed Forces Committee Chairman Richard Russell of Georgia, President Johnson discusses his concerns about the dangers of the U.S.’s growing military commitments in Southeast Asia.

"That’s What We Ought To Be Doing Instead of Paying Out 4 Billion On Relief"

         President Johnson, Richard Russell - 6/11/1964

In this excerpt from a much longer call with Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, President Johnson discusses his expectation that the War on Poverty would focus on reducing welfare, providing job training, and building a work ethic in unemployed young people.

"He’s Down There Wanting to Get Shot."

          President Johnson, Richard Russell - 6/11/1964

President Johnson and Georgia Senator Richard Russell discussed the challenges ahead in the implementation of the Civil Rights Act in the South. The anti-integrationist Russell mocked Martin Luther King as a publicity seeker.

"They Say We Won’t Get One Republican Vote."

         President Johnson, Scotty Reston - 6/17/1964

President Johnson spoke with New York Times columnist Scotty Reston about partisanship and Republican resistance to raising the nation’s debt limit.

"None of Them Have Got a Blueprint."

         President Johnson, Scotty Reston - 6/17/1964

President Johnson tried to explain his administration’s increasingly troubled Southeast Asia policy to New York Times columnist Scotty Reston. In particular, LBJ argued that advocates of a neutralization strategy for Vietnam had no practical strategy for implementing such an approach.

Family Illness and Political Life

         President Johnson, Hubert Humphrey - 6/19/1964

Following a discussion of the serious illness of Senator Hubert Humphrey’s son Robert, President Johnson and the Minnesota senator discussed the Senate’s pending vote on the civil rights bil. Humphrey suggested, incorrectly, that Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s vote against the bill could cost him the Republican presidential nomination.

"Our Troubles Are Just Beginning"

          President Johnson, Roy Wilkins - 6/19/1964

President Johnson and NAACP President Roy Wilkins discussed the Senate’s passage of the Civil Rights bill, as well as the challenges that would emerge in implementing the historic legislation.

"We’ve Come A Long Ways This Six Months"

         President Johnson, Whitney Young - 6/19/1964

President Johnson discussed the Senate’s passage of the Civil Rights Act with National Urban League Executive Director Whitney Young, pausing briefly to consider the significance if what had been accomplished.

LBJ’s Reaction to the Passage of the Civil Rights Act

         President Johnson, Larry O'Brien - 6/19/1964

Congressional Liaison Larry O’Brien called the president with the news that the Senate had just passed the civil rights bill. Johnson reacted briefly, and them immediately turned the conversation towards the foreign aid bill.

"Looks Like You Just Have More Than You Can Bear"

President Johnson, Robert Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy - 6/20/1964 

Following the Senate’s historic June 19 vote on the civil rights bill, Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and an aide joined Indiana Senator Birch Bayh and his wife Marvella on a two-engine plane that would fly them to Springfield, Massachusetts. Approximately 15 miles from their destination, the plane crashed in foggy conditions. The pilot and Kennedy aide Edward Moss were killed, while Kennedy suffered a broken back, internal injuries, and cuts, Senator Bayh sustained a hip injury, and Marvella Bayh suffered minor injuries. The next day, President Johnson called Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, the widow of the assassinated President, at the family’s retreat in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

"You're a Halleck Man and I'm a Johnson Man."

         President Johnson, Charles Halleck - 6/22/1964

In this excerpt from a length conversation between President Johnson and House Minority Leader Charles Halleck of Indiana, the two leaders spar on the progress of LBJ's legislative agenda and on Halleck's desire to recess in advance of the upcoming Republican National Convention. The two also debate which side would receive political credit for the Civil Rights Act. In a conversation with the President four days later, congressional liaison Larry O'Brien would report that Halleck "thought maybe you were a little peeved at him because he had a conversation with you the other night and maybe he was a little rough, but he had a couple of pops and all that." Johnson responded, "No, every time I talk to him, he's drinking."

"I Think It's a Publicity Stunt." 

          President Johnson, James Eastland - 6/23/1964

On June 23, 1964, President Johnson was receiving news that three civil rights workers--Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner--were missing in Mississippi. Throughout this day and the next week, Johnson continued to follow the case closely, holding over 40 recorded conversations. In this call, Johnson reached out to Senator James O. Eastland, a staunch segregationist from the Mississippi Delta. Eastland declared the episode a publicity stunt, denied the existence of organized white supremacy groups in that part of Mississippi, and ridiculed Fanny Lou Hamer. Unknown to Johnson, the three workers had been murdered by a group of white supremacists that included local law enforcement officials. A massive manhunt turned up bodies, but not of the three workers. Only after a tip from a paid informant were they discovered--over six weeks later--in an earthen dam southwest of Philadelphia.

"They've Got to do Something to Attract Attention."

          President Johnson, James Eastland - 6/23/1964

Heeding Johnson's request, Senator Eastland had called Mississippi Governor Paul Johnson and in this call reported his findings in the case of the missing civil rights workers to President Johnson.

"These Men Have Been Killed."

          President Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover - 6/23/1964

The President received news from the longtime FBI director that seemed to confirm the worst possible outcome of the three missing civil rights workers in Mississippi. The Bureau had found the burned car of the activists, and Hoover declared his assumption that "these men have been killed."

"We Have Helicopters."

          President Johnson, Robert McNamara - 6/23/1964

While the parents of two of the missing civil rights workers were in the President's office, Defense Secretary McNamara phoned twice. The second time, Johnson spoke specifically about Mississippi. The recording here begins with Johnson speaking to the families.

"They've Just Disappeared From the Face of the Earth."

          President Johnson, Lee White - 6/23/1964

President Johnson called Lee White, his chief aide on civil rights matters, to discuss how to respond to James Farmer, the director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), about the missing civil rights workers.

"That Was a Little Hope That We Didn't Have Earlier."

          President Johnson, Mrs. Nathan Schwerner - 6/23/1964

Earlier in the day, J. Edgar Hoover had called President Johnson to report that the car of the three missing civil rights workers had been found burned. Shortly before this phone call to Mrs. Schwerner--the mother of one of the workers, Michael Schwerner--Johnson received word that previous reports about the workers being inside of the car were wrong.

Finding Fanny Lee Chaney

          Lee White, White House Operators - 6/23/1964

Whereas a congressman had given the White House the contact information for the parents of the two missing white activists, Lee White had to depend essentially on the phone book to find the family of James Chaney, a black man.

Congressional Coordination

          President Johnson, George Smathers - 7/1/1964

George Smathers, a Florida Democrat and Secretary for the Senate Democratic Conference, was a close friend of the President and his family who often had frank exchanges with Johnson. In this call, President Johnson gave Smathers a colorful analysis of the workings of Capitol Hill, voicing his concern about the parliamentary skills of fellow Democrats. 


From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Drawing on President Johnson's Oval Office recordings, these volumes of carefully annotated transcripts from the University of Virginia's Miller Center for Public Affairs cover one critical month during which Johnson's landmark civil rights bill passed the Senate, and three student civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi. The transcripts, mostly of phone conversations, reveal LBJ in a virtuoso performance, challenging and cajoling his cabinet members and advisers on Southeast Asia ("We've already violated in sending an armed plane , haven't we?"), rattling off poll results for the upcoming presidential election, maneuvering around Sen. John Stennis of Mississippi regarding the murdered civil rights workers. (Stennis says, "There's... a local colored man had been making himself obnoxious, smart-aleck troublemaker, I'm afraid somebody's after him and just got the others along with him.") Although a priceless historical record—sometimes disturbing, sometimes surprising—the voluminous transcripts are frustratingly choppy, riddled with the ramblings, interjections, and false starts of unscripted conversation. But this is a significant record of American history in the making, and for anyone fascinated by LBJ or the inner working of the White House, this is an invaluable record.