Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman, Bess Truman
LBJ Ranch

This call took place the day after the 1964 presidential election. Johnson had defeated Republican Senator Barry Goldwater in a landslide.

President Johnson: Hello?

Harry Truman: Hello?

President Johnson: Hello?

Harry Truman: This is Harry Truman.

President Johnson: Mr. President, I love you as everybody in America does, and I’m just so honored that you would take the time to call me.

Harry Truman: Well, I called because I think you’ve set a record that’s never been equaled and never will be.

President Johnson: No. Aanybody got your record, never equal it. When you go to look in at the Truman Doctrine and NATO and Marshall Plan and everything else, it makes all of us look like pygmies, and I know it and—

Harry Truman: [Unclear.]

President Johnson: —that’s one good thing about me. I’ve got sense enough to know it, but I—

Harry Truman: Well, you’re all right in my book, and I just wanted to congratulate you. And I feel just as happy about it as you do.

President Johnson: I know. You feel happier because you always been more for your party and your other folks than you have been for yourself. And I just want you to know that as long as I’m in that office, you are in it, and there’s not a privilege of it, or a power of it, or a purpose of it that you can’t share. And your bedroom is up there waiting for you, and your plane is standing by your side. 

Harry Truman: Appreciate it.

President Johnson: And your doctors and anything else you want or need, why I got Uncle Sam—

Harry Truman: The first time I’m able to travel, get around, I'd like to come see you and just talk over old times.

President Johnson: You just tell—

Harry Truman: With nothing in view but to see Lyndon Johnson.

President Johnson: You just tell them that and you bring Margaret and your grandkids down, and we’ll have a plane pick both of you up, and we’ll just come there. And I want to get your advice and talk to you. And I think we’ve got a good chance, but we’re in trouble on foreign things.

Harry Truman: Well, you are all right now. And you won’t have any serious trouble at all. And if there is anything I can do to help you, you know I’m available.

President Johnson: Well you've done it. I came to you when I wanted to know how to run for Vice President, and I came to you when I wanted to know how to run for President. And I think that we gave them a good mauling just want you wanted to give them, didn’t we?

Harry Truman: Yes, just exactly what they ought to of had. And it’s the finest thing that’s happened in the history of the country.

President Johnson: They rubbed their nose in it.

Harry Truman: Well, that’s right.

President Johnson: They were dirty.

Harry Truman: That’s what they thought they had.

President Johnson: Oh, you don’t know how dirty they were. They put out mean—

Harry Truman: Oh, I do. I do too. I got so damn mad I could have killed somebody.

President Johnson: They put out these mean books and they questioned my integrity and my honesty and—

Harry Truman: [Unclear]. I know they did, but but you want to forget that because it’s gone and past. The vast majority of the American people never believed a word of it.

President Johnson: Well, I know you didn’t. And Clark Clifford told me, he said he read your radio speech and he said, “Well, only Harry Truman could do this. They come and go from [George] Washington to [Thomas] Jefferson to [Andrew] Jackson but there’s just one Harry Truman. I watched him all those years and when they—somebody else may bunt and get on base but when you want a clean-up hitter he comes along and parks it.”

Harry Truman: [laughs] Well you’re too kind to me, and so is he.

President Johnson: All your people been awful loyal. I think you ought to know that. I think that everybody, whether its Harry Vaughn or Charlie Murphy or Clark Clifford—

Harry Truman: There never was a finer bunch of fellows.

President Johnson: They work free and they—

Harry Truman: They’d do anything in the world that they thought would help me, and I want them to do the same thing for you.

President Johnson: Clark Clifford thinks that you are the greatest man that ever lived, and he worked free for me, against his own interest, against his own firm, just day after day when they were trying to smear me.

Harry Truman: I know that.

President Johnson: And Charlie Murphy and Donald [Alson?] and Harry Vaughn. And I think you ought to know that didn’t breed any of them that haven’t got the right blood lines.

Harry Truman: Well, I appreciate that. And the first chance and the first opportunity I have when I’m able to get around in good shape I’m going to come see you.

President Johnson: Will you promise me one thing?

Harry Truman: Yes.

President Johnson: Tell Mrs. Truman that we love her, but anything that you want or need—

Harry Truman: You tell her.

President Johnson: All right. You just—let me tell her.

Bess Truman: Hello?

President Johnson: Mrs.--

Bess Truman: Oh, Mr. President.

President Johnson: Mrs. Truman I was just—

Bess Truman: Oh, we’re so happy.

President Johnson: Oh, I know you are and you all is responsible as far as any two in the nation, that the wonderful work that you’ve done and the great help he’s been to me and—

Bess Truman: Well, now, that’s mighty wonderful of you would say that.

President Johnson: No, but that’s true. He never—he always had time for me, and he’s always—

Bess Truman: Well, of course he would have, naturally.

President Johnson: He’s always talked more of his party and his friends than he has for himself. And you make him watch himself, now because—

Bess Truman: Well, I'm trying to.

President Johnson: He’s no spring chicken.1

Bess Truman: [laughing] He certainly isn’t.

President Johnson: I want to tell you one thing, though—

Bess Truman: Yes?

President Johnson: And I want you to hear it. I’ve said this ever since I became President, but I want to reiterate it, and I don’t want to over do it. But anything that he wants or he needs or that somebody suspects would be good for him, from doctors to planes to coming to the White House for a few days, bringing his grandchildren, going anyplace, anybody that you want to consult with that we have, all you need to do is just [unclear comment by Bess Truman] drop me a postcard because the facilities that—every power and every purpose and every facility of this government is at his disposal as long as I’m around.

Bess Truman: Oh, well that’s just marvelous of you.

President Johnson: Now, he’s modest—

Bess Truman: [Unclear] you remember that.

President Johnson: He’s modest, and I’m going to depend on you now to say, “I want you to send out a couple of specialists out here quietly and put them in a plane. I want to have a plane out here; we want to go to New York. Or I want—”

Bess Truman: Oh, [unclear].

President Johnson: "—I want to do this or that.” And I’ve told him that four or five times, but he don’t pay any attention to me.

Bess Truman: [laughs] Well, it’s mighty good of you all to do that.

President Johnson: Well, I’ve already ordered it done.

Bess Truman: [Unclear.]

President Johnson: And if he need any more help of any kind that—out there, you just please know and it’ll be available.

Bess Truman: Well thank you a million.

President Johnson: And—

Bess Truman: And do give my love to Mrs. Johnson.

President Johnson: We love you both, and thank you for calling.

Bess Truman: Well, [unclear].

President Johnson: Bye.

Bess Truman: Bye.

  • 1. At the time of this call, Truman was 80 years old.

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