Monday, October 3, 1966 - 5:51pm
Nicholas Katzenbach, Lyndon Johnson
White House Telephone

Until the previous day, October 2, 1966, Nicholas Katzenbach had been Attorney General. He had been replaced by Ramsey Clark. Katzenbach had resigned from the post to become Undersecretary of State.

Nicholas Katzenbach is on hold for 1 minute 33 seconds. A woman's muffled voice can be heard briefly.

President Johnson: Yes?

White House Operator: Secretary [Nicholas] Katzenbach on four.

Nicholas Katzenbach: [Mr. President?].

President Johnson: Should I call Ramsey [Clark] and tell him to carry on? Or you tell him, or what?

Katzenbach: I think he would automatically carry on, but I think a phone call from you would be nice.

President Johnson: What would you say?

Katzenbach: What?

President Johnson: What would you say?

Katzenbach: Just tell him that he's Acting Attorney General now and that you're counting on him to run the [Justice] Department.

President Johnson: All right. Did you see the column today on--by David Lawrence?1

Katzenbach: No, I didn't.

President Johnson: He got a mean--saying that Thurgood's [Marshall] not the best-qualified man. That's the net of it.

Katzenbach: Yeah.

President Johnson: He says that Ramsey [Clark] might be qualified. But if he qualified, his daddy couldn't serve.2 And his daddy couldn't serve. And then I'd probably appoint Thurgood. And then the question would be, do you appoint him because he's negro? Because a lot of them say he's not the best lawyer available.

Katzenbach: Well, you know my views on that.

President Johnson: But he, no doubt, wouldn't be appointed until after the election. [laughs]

Katzenbach: [Laughs.]

President Johnson: So, it's hell. OK, I'll just--I'll do that. Much obliged.

Katzenbach: Fine, Mr. President.

  • 1. David Lawrence was a founder and columnist for U.S. News and World Report.
  • 2. Ramsey Clark's father, Tom C. Clark, was an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court and was expected to retire.

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