Lyndon Johnson, as we all know, is as self-centered a man as ever was; but he has the capacity to empathize with very intimate human problems, of people who are of some concern to him, and many who are not. He can feel; when an old woman falls down in the street, his shins ache a little.
— Harry McPherson, Oral History Interview IV, 3/24/69, by T. H. Baker, pages 3-4. LBJ Library.
He’s a hard-nosed guy and he’s tough as nails, but he has that capacity for empathy that came out in very peculiar ways. As cruel as he can be, or as ruthless as he can be, he also has that ‘individuating’ capacity that not many public figures have. I hope that’s remembered some day and hope someone is able to write about it as a part of his life.
March 20, 1967. Col. James Cross pilots Air Force One as the sun rises. LBJ and staff are on their way to Guam for a conference on the Vietnam War.
LBJ Presidential Library photo C4770-08, public domain.
He [LBJ] also read an editorial in the Sunday Star-Bulletin & Advertiser (of Honolulu, Hawaii) by William F. Buckley, Jr—“Anti-American Theme”— He told mary s and mf to be sure and read the article to see what “your young friends on the left” are doing. He was upset by the references to his own inadequacies in contrast to the glories of the JFK myth and explained that in JFK’s three years little had been done, and went on to enumerate his own successes in the legislative field.
Then the President took two equanil and said that if he couldn’t sleep, he’d get up and work, but he hoped that sleep would come. — The President’s Daily Diary for March 19, 1967. LBJ and his staff are on their way to Guam on Air Force One for a conference with South Vietnamese leaders and members of the US mission to South Vietnam.
March 18, 1967. Evening. It’s been a long but typical day at the White House, including worries about the loss of support for the Vietnam War and lots of meetings with the state governors, including the new Governor of California.
Now: it’s time to have some fun with Guys and Dolls!
LBJ Library photo #C4755-14a, public domain.
March 18, 1967. Afternoon. Secretary of State Dean Rusk conducts a briefing on Vietnam for state governors in the Fish Room of the White House.
LBJ Library photo a3849-23.
March 18, 1967. Lady Bird records in her diary:
“This morning I went into the Yellow Oval Room to meet a student group from Texas, brought here by the Texas State Society for their annual brunch. Horace Busby was the entrepreneur and the purpose was to honor ‘the campus generation’ in Texas and especially the University of Texas. This provided an opportunity to show another face of our young people and another face of Texas.
The honor guests were the members of the University of Texas College Bowl Team, which has just won the championship on television in a contest of academic knowledge against teams from other major colleges. The competition was a cliff-hanging thriller. Dr. Harry Ransom, Chancellor of the University of Texas, ordered the lights on the Main Building tower turned orange when they won, just as for a triumphant football team.”
Texas-Ex Lady Bird Johnson, A White House Diary, New York: Dell Books, 1971, pg 503. Photo by Smarter Within via flickr.
March 18, 1967. 9.05 AM. LBJ welcomes state governors, including new California Governor Ronald Reagan, above, to the White House for the “White House Conference of Governors on Federal-State Relations.”
“We are here to advise and consult with each other, as public executives, on the central business of our governments—the welfare of the American people. We are here on common ground, nonpartisan ground—as elected officials charged with the obligation of using public resources for the public good.”
LBJ Presidential Library photo #A3858-22, public domain. Read the rest of his remarks here.
March 17, 1967. St. Patrick’s Day. Irish Ambassador William P. Fay makes LBJ laugh after the traditional presentation of the shamrocks.
LBJ Library photo C4748-17, public domain.
3:00p-3:03PM. Stopped in the middle of the street while Secret Service ran a couple of doors up the side street to the Dairy Queen to get three large vanilla ice cream cones—also asked for three chocolate cones, but they didn’t have chocolate dairy queen here. — March 15, 1967 in The President’s Daily Diary, Maybe LBJ did not get enough breakfast that morning at Andrew Jackson’s house. On the other hand, we know that he often sought out Dairy Queen when on the road.
March 15, 1967. The President and First Lady visit the Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson, in Nashville, TN. Mrs. Johnson speaks first, and then presents the Regent of the Ladies Hermitage Association with a seedling for the grounds.
After LBJ’s speech, according to the Daily Diary, the party heads into the house for a breakfast of frosted strawberries and pears, Tennessee Country Ham, Turkey Hash, grits souffle, fried apples, beaten biscuit, hot biscuit, coffee, and sweet rolls.
Photo #A3816-3, LBJ Presidential Library. Mrs. Johnson (center of the frame) presents a seedling to Mrs. Horatio B. Buntin, Regent of the Ladies Hermitage Association. Public domain.
March 14, 1967. Lady Bird (in the green dress) and her entourage of 50 or more reporters descend on the Mathis family during her visit to North Carolina.
The First Lady talks with family members about favorite television programs, the garden at the Ranch, and how the children like the Teacher Corps teachers in their school. Lady Bird presents Mrs. Mathis with preserves and honey from the ranch “wrapped incongruously in the elegant embossed paper from the White House.”
LBJ Library Photo #C4719-3, public domain. Lady Bird quote from A White House Dairy.