[Originally appeared in the Miller Center Report, Winter 2011]
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.”
These are among the conversations that are included in major releases of Johnson White House tapes by the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings Program.
In November, the University of Virginia released three new themed digital editions that will provide an unprecedented inside look at how Johnson dealt with three very different but crucial issues. The editions are:
- Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War: Escalation, July 1964-July 1965, edited by Marc J. Selverstone and David Coleman
- Lyndon Johnson and the War on Poverty: Passage of the Economic Opportunity Act, July-December 1964, edited by Guian A. McKee
- Lyndon Johnson and Civil Rights: The Ku Klux Klan, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and the Presidential Campaign, July-November 1964, edited by Kent B. Germany
These editions will join the Founding Fathers Papers, the Dolley Madison Papers, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers in U.Va. Press’ distinguished digital imprint “Rotunda” and initially will include 500 newly transcribed conversations from the period July 1964 through mid-1965. The conversations are expertly transcribed, annotated, and include scene-setting introductions. From this initial core of transcripts, the collection will grow considerably in coming years as new material is added from the Nixon tapes and as the thematic volumes are continued through the end of the Johnson administration.
In April, W.W. Norton will publish volumes seven and eight of the Presidential Recording Program’s print series, “The Presidential Recordings: Lyndon B. Johnson.” The volumes include more than 1,000 pages of annotated transcripts of conversations Johnson had between June 1 and July 4, 1964. Events during this period include some defining moments of the 1960s, such as the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the disappearance of three civil-rights workers in a case that become known as “Mississippi Burning.”
The Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings Program is a unique effort to make the secret White House Recordings created by six presidents from 1940 through 1973 accessible through historical research and expertly prepared and annotated transcripts.