Wednesday, November 4, 1964
Lyndon Johnson, Edward Kennedy

After polls closed on the evening of 3 November, it was clear that Senator Edward Kennedy had won his bid for reelection handily, beating the Republican challenger, Howard Whitmore, Jr., on the order of 74 percent to 25 percent of the vote.

Johnson had himself enjoyed an overwhelming victory of his own over Republican presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater. Johnson was at the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin preparing to make his victory statement about an hour and a half later. Kennedy was in a Boston hospital still recovering from his mid-June plane crash.1 Shortly after midnight in Austin (just after 3am in Boston), President Johnson called Kennedy to congratulate him; evidently Kennedy had tried to reach LBJ earlier in the evening.

President Johnson: . . . sorry I missed you Teddy. Your line was busy.

Edward Kennedy: Oh no, well, I got you while you were up in that helicopter. Well, I want to congratulate you. It’s many hours overdue, but it—

President Johnson: If you don’t mind, I’d like you to take all these other 49 states and bring them in like you do Massachusetts. If you can stay in the hospital—

Kennedy: Oh, that—

President Johnson: —and do them that way, why we’re all right.

Kennedy: Oh, that’s a great, great tribute to you and what you’ve done. It really is, and you certainly—certainly have won the support and the hearts, the loyalty, and the affection of all the people. And you must be very proud. It’s certainly well deserved. And I just join all those other millions of people that today are saluting your victory, and I want you to know that.

President Johnson: Mighty proud of you and Joan [Bennett Kennedy] and very happy for [Robert F.] Bobby [Kennedy].2 I talked—just talked to him—

Kennedy: Oh, fine.

President Johnson: —about ten minutes ago in New York. And I’m sorry for Pierre [Salinger] but—3

Kennedy: Yeah.

President Johnson: —maybe he can pull through.

Kennedy: Well, I guess that looks like he's out of luck out there now, I guess, but—

President Johnson: I don’t understand that, do you?

Kennedy: Yeah, I don’t. I just don’t. Of course, it's awfully difficult from this distance, but it really is a surprise.

President Johnson: What I am afraid of is—I’m afraid he got in that housing thing.

Kennedy: Yeah. Yeah. I guess that must have been it.

President Johnson: What's your Governor going to do?4

Kennedy: Well, it’s nip-and-tuck up here. The [Boston] Globe, which had sort of supported [John A.] Volpe, feels that [Francis X.] Bellotti is going to win it narrowly and the [Boston] Herald that has supported Bellotti says Volpe by about 125,000 votes. So, I think that right now it's—he carried the city. When Volpe won in 1960, by 125,000, he carried—he lost Boston by 60–40. That’s exactly the same percentage now when he—this is when Volpe carried the state by 125,000. He is running about that same percentage up in Holyoke [Massachusetts], but the smaller cities and towns, which are going to decide it, just haven’t indicated a trend yet. So it—

President Johnson: Doesn’t look too—

Kennedy: —could be up in the air.

President Johnson: Doesn’t look too good for him?

Kennedy: It—I don’t—I think it could go. It could swing in, but it’s going to be close no matter which way it goes. I think it's awfully—it’s still just too tough to tell right now, but—

President Johnson: Tell Joan we sure do appreciate—

Kennedy: I--yeah.

President Johnson: —all she did and we’re mighty proud of her.

Kennedy: Well, I certainly will, Mr. President.

President Johnson: And I want to work with you and help you any way in the world that I possibly can.

Kennedy: Well, that was very kind. Your words up here were very well received, and I appreciated them. And Joan enjoyed being with you and we’re all—we salute your victory tonight. It’s a great tribute, Mr. President.

President Johnson: Well, we didn’t think we needed it. We thought you had Boston in good shape. [with Kennedy laughing] We didn’t think we needed to come up there to find out how you stood, but I wanted them to know how I stood.

Kennedy: Oh, well, that was great. Well, you won a lot of friends.

President Johnson: Thank you, Ted.

Kennedy: Thanks, Mr. President.

President Johnson: Bye.

Kennedy: Bye.

  • 1. On the night of 19 June 1964, a plane carrying Senator Edward Kennedy crashed in Western Massachusetts in poor weather conditions. Pulled from the crash by fellow Senator, Birch Bayh [D-Indiana], Kennedy suffered severe injuries, including fractured vertebrae, a collapsed lung, and fractured ribs. The pilot and one of Kennedy’s aides, Ed Moss, died in the crash. Months later, Kennedy remained bed-ridden. He had, nevertheless, continued his campaign for reelection with aides setting up offices near Kennedy's hospital room and his wife Joan taking on many of the public speaking events.
  • 2. Robert F. Kennedy had just won the election for one of New York's Senate seats.
  • 3. Former White House Press Secretary Pierre Salinger, a Kennedy loyalist, appeared to be losing in his race for one of California's Senate seats to Republican George Murphy. Salinger would ultimately lose the race.
  • 4. President Johnson is referring to the closely contested Massachusetts’ gubernatorial race between former Republican Governor John A. Volpe and former Democratic Lieutenant Governor Francis X. Bellotti.

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