Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman, James Webb

Harry Truman: Well, yes, how are you Mr. President?

President Johnson: I just wanted to tell you I loved you and I hadn’t heard from you and see how you’re doing.

Truman: Well, I’ve been all right. I had to go up and take some shots from the doctor a while ago and kind of a bursitis arm that I’ve got, but then outside of that I’m 100 percent.1

President Johnson: Well, I didn’t think that you had been out playing golf a lot. Keith told me he had a bursitis arm a few years ago, but I didn’t know you were a golfer.

Truman: [chuckling] No, I’m not. I don’t know where I got it. I picked it up somewhere.

President Johnson: How’s Mrs. [Bess] Truman?

Truman: Oh, she’s fine.

President Johnson: Looks like to me your son-in-law is doing pretty good.2

Truman: Yes, he’s doing all right. I’m very proud of him.

President Johnson: I’ll bet that grandchild is having some effect on him. Maybe that’s helping him, you reckon?

Truman: [laughs] I'd hope so.

President Johnson: I was sitting here talking to a couple of your old friends, about the best men I got around me these days, the ones that you left here.

Truman: Well, I’m glad [unclear].

President Johnson: Old Clark Clifford comes in every once in a while. Dean Acheson had lunch with me. And Jim Webb is here with me, and he wants to say a word to you. Just a minute.

Truman: Well, all right. I’ll be glad to talk with him.

James Webb: Mr. President, I’ve been with you so many times in this office that I always think of you every time I walk in the door.3

Truman: Well thank you. Thank you. I’m mighty glad you feel that way and I hope you always will.

Webb: Well, I've told so many people that you always stood up and shook hands in the most polite way if I saw you ten times a day, and I [was] always embarrassed you to have to do that.

Truman: [laughs] Oh, well, why not? You know, when a fellow gets high hat after he gets a job that he didn’t deserve, why what do you think of him? I don’t think much of him, do you?

Webb: No, sir. But I'd say this: that President Johnson has certainly done a tremendous thing in this office since he’s been here.

Truman: Oh, he’s in a class by himself. He’s going to be one of the greatest of the great presidents.

Webb: Well, he’s going to be right in there with you in that regard.

Truman: Well, I think there are at least seven or eight ahead of me, and Johnson is one of them. [laughs]

Webb: Well, I don’t—I’m going to wait for history on that. Do you want to say another world to the President?

Truman: Yes, if you would. 

Webb: Yes. Here he is.

President Johnson: Mr. President?

Truman: He’s setting me up on a pedestal where I don’t belong.

President Johnson: Oh, you do. You belong on the highest one around, and Lady Bird and I keep you on it all the time. Listen, sometime in the next week or so I want to, if you feel like it and you’re up to it, I want to fly up there and just sit around and gab with you a little bit.

Truman: Well, I'd like very much to have you do that.

President Johnson: All right.

Truman: And you set the date, and I’ll be there.

President Johnson: Well, I’ll just call you and the first afternoon I can get off. It won’t take long and—

Truman: Well, it’s all right; you can take as long as you want because I’ve got a lot of things I'd like to talk with you about, but I don’t want to introduce subject.

President Johnson: Well—

Truman: I want to be of help to you, that’s who I'm working for. 

President Johnson: Well, you always help. What in the devil did you do to Roy Roberts to make a Democrat of out him?4

Truman: [laughing] He’s gone haywire, hasn't he? I don’t trust him though. If you've been at the [Kansas City] Star as long as I have you know better than to trust him.

President Johnson [laughs] Well, anyway it sounds good now doesn’t it?

Truman: How’s that?

President Johnson I say the editorial sounded good now, didn’t it?

Truman: Oh, yes. It sure did.

President Johnson: That’s the first one he’s said since Grover Cleveland they ever endorsed.5

Truman: Oh, that’s absolutely correct. He never said a kind word about a Democrat if he could help it. [with Johnson laughing] That’s the reason I look at it with suspicion.

President Johnson: Well, I want to come see you, and I’ll give you a ring in the next few days and run out some afternoon.

Truman: All right. I’ll be awful glad to see you.

President Johnson: All right. Will you buy me a drink?

Truman: I’ll do that, two if you like.

President Johnson: OK. OK. Goodbye.

Truman: Bye.

President Johnson: Bye.

  • 1. Bursitis is a painful inflammation often caused by excessive, repetitive use of ones arms or legs, as might be the case for a golfer or tennis player.
  • 2. Johnson is referring to Clifton Daniel, managing editor of the New York Times.
  • 3. James Webb had been Director of the Bureau of the Budget in the Truman administration.
  • 4. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Roy Rogers was chairmn of the board of the Kansas City Star, having previously been the paper's managing editor, general manager, and editor. Rogers had also been the Star's Washington correspondent. Rogers and Truman had had a number of disagreements.
  • 5. Johnson is referring to the Kansas City Star's endorsement of Democratic presidential nominee, and two-time U.S. president, Grover Cleveland, in the late 19th century.

Original tape courtesy of LBJ Library. This transcript is a working draft. Please let us know if you find important errors.