Oct. 9, 1964. Enthusiastic crowds await the Lady Bird Special across Alabama, but in the audio recordings you can hear heckling and chants or “Goldwater!” too. Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE4ezrXJCEOS6QeZeAzpT22z71gqdlrqb
October 9, 1964. Day 4 of the Whistle Stop! The Lady Bird Special has arrived in Florida, home of “Ambrosia.”
3:23 PM, October 8, 1964, 50 years ago today. In Waycross, GA, the Lady Bird Special pulls up to the strains of “Hello Lyndon,” Listen above (38 seconds in).
Oct. 7, 1964. 3:58 PM. In Columbia, South Carolina, Lady Bird and the Whistle Stop encounter some of the trouble they had anticipated as a result of the recently passed civil rights legislation. Liz Carpenter recounted the story in an oral history:
…When we got to Columbia, South Carolina, there were a group of people. I guess they were students. They had a drum that helped them keep their chant going, and they tried to interrupt her speech and stop her from speaking. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t Vietnam. It was civil rights that provoked this, and the Johnson policy on civil rights, which had been more liberal than anyone’s. And she handled it beautifully. She just put one hand up and said, ‘My friends, this is a country of free speech, and I respect your opinion. But this is my time to speak my mind.’
Watch above (starts at about 17:30).
More on the Whistle Stop: http://whistlestop.lbjlibrary.org.
10/7/64. Lady Bird and Lynda Bird Johnson get a warm welcome in North and South Carolina. The sign reads: “We sparkle for Lady Bird!”
October 6, 1964. The Whistle Stop campaign tour rolls along across Virginia, on into North Carolina. Lady Bird, her daughter Lynda, 100 or so members of the press, and more than a dozen white-gloved ‘hostesses” ride aboard the un-air-conditioned Lady Bird Special.
Hospitality committees along the route gave out pennants, buttons, and other small campaign material for visitors aboard the Lady Bird Special and the crowds gathered to see Lady Bird. In the dining car, in another nod to Southern hospitality, guests were treated to specialty dishes from each state along the route: Virginia ham, North Carolina BBQ, Georgia pecan pie, and Louisiana shrimp creole were among the choices.
In addition to the hospitality committees, travelers and dignitaries from the states could also visit with the Masters of Ceremonies, Congressman Hale Boggs and Luther Hodges, depending on which leg of the journey they were on board. The Masters of Ceremonies were also responsible for introducing Mrs. Johnson and her daughters to the crowds at each of the stops.
Listen to the recordings of the speeches at the stops on our YouTube playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE4ezrXJCEOS6QeZeAzpT22z71gqdlrqb
“Alexandria has been chosen as the first stop for one of the greatest campaigners in America, and I am very proud to announce that I am her husband.”
LBJ kicks off Lady Bird’s Whistle Stop in Alexandria. They will meet again in Raleigh that evening, after all of these stops:
- Fredericksburg, Virginia
- Ashland, Virginia
- Richmond, Virginia
- Petersburg, Virginia
- Suffolk, Virginia
- Norfolk, Virginia
- Ahoskie, North Carolina
- Hobgood, North Carolina (slowdown)
- Tarboro, North Carolina
- Rocky Mount, North Carolina
- Wilson, North Carolina
- Selma, North Carolina
More on Day 1: http://whistlestop.lbjlibrary.org/#day-one
Did Lady Bird visit your town during her Whistle Stop campaign tour 50 years ago? She went to Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
October 5, 1964. Lady Bird prepares to head out tomorrow on her four-day, eight-state Whistle Stop campaign. She knows that LBJ’s chances of taking the southern states are slim, in light of the recent passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and that she will face hostile crowds, heckling, and even violence. She is going anyway.
“And every time the rest of the nation makes one more snide joke about cornpone or rednecks, the defenses of the South go up more angrily. The dividing abyss widens and the curtain becomes thicker and murkier. It is partly the South wanting to pull away and partly the rest of the nation misunderstanding – yes even laughing – in a way. None of this is right or is good for the future of our country.”
—Lady Bird’s recorded thoughts before departing on her Whistle Stop campaign tour, LBJ Presidential Library transcript.
On Monday, Oct. 6, 2014: the LBJ Time Machine departs from chronology to revisit Lady Bird Johnson’s Whistle Stop campaign of 1964, on its 50th anniversary…
Just three months after the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed, amidst rising racial tensions in the South and against the advice of trusted advisors, Lady Bird Johnson boarded a train named the “Lady Bird Special” to campaign for her husband’s presidential bid in states from Virginia to Louisiana. President Johnson was ahead in national polls, but he faced an uphill battle in the South.
Liz Carpenter said later, “Our star attraction was a Southern-bred First Lady. We were supposed to blow kisses and spread love through eight states and make them like it….”
Stay tuned for what happens next! The train leaves the station Monday, Oct. 6.
October 22, 1967, Sunday morning. It is the day that the March on the Pentagon protesters’ permit will expire, LBJ and Lady Bird are coming back from church services:
"Lem Johnson reports that when they were almost back to the White House from Church, the President asked Mrs. Johnson if she would like to take a ride over there to the Pentagon and see what they were doing.
At the Lincoln Memorial, it looked like there were about 150 people sitting on the steps — just scattered around the area. We drove around the Memorial one and one-half times —looked at the Mall area and the reflecting pool area.
"Mrs. Johnson particularly noticed the litter and refuse left by those gathered the Memorial yesterday. The President was highly interested in what a hippie looked like, their dress, age groups, and items they carried. ..some were carrying flags, bed rolls, blankets, flight bags, flowers…
"We then drove across Memorial Bridge and turned down Shirley highway—the road was blocked, but we told the Park Policemen we were secret service, and they let us through. We went around the blockade and up the highway, looking to the right up to the line of soldiers guarding the highway. We drove slowly, and looked carefully at the Mall Entrance of the Pentagon — we circled around, crossed the median strip, and then drove back to the White House.”
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Oct. 20, 1967. Lady Bird records in her Diary:
"Lyndon said, as he often has, that he would give a piece of his life if Speaker Sam Rayburn would be back with the gavel and he (Lyndon himself) were over in the Senate for just one week. In discussing President Eisenhower, he said: ‘He has paid me back one hundred percent for what I did for him when I was Majority Leader by just trying to be decent.’”
October 20, 1967. Lady Bird has a candid conversation with LBJ’s physician, Dr. James Cain, about his health and their future:
"I told him my feelings—that I did not want to go through the grueling six months of a campaign, and that even more, if we should win I did not want to face another four years as devouring as these last four have been….There are so many things I want to do! My list is a mile long. And for the first time in my life I believe that Lyndon, too, could be happy….
"I asked Jim frankly, as a medical man, what advice he could give me. He said, ‘Obviously he has aged. The last four years have taken a lot out of him, But I cannot say, as I think the doctors should have said to FDR when he ran for his fourth term, that he won’t live out this next term….’
"And so the dilemma continues.”
—Lady Bird Johnson, A White House Diary, New York: Dell Books, 1971, pg 643. Photo:A1798-34, 1/24/1966.
September 30, 1967.
"We were due to have a family picture made at 11 A.M. today—an event I always approach as an ordeal because it falls to my lot to try to get everybody in the humor…
"We took our seats on the orange sofa in the den….Patrick Lyndon screwed up his face and let out a yell. Everybody went into gyrations trying to amuse him. Luci went for a bottle of milk, and then there followed one of the most hilarious scenes of my lifetime. Lyndon gave Okie instructions on how to shoot the picture, then he stuck the bottle of milk in Lyn’s mouth for a long suck, snatched it out and put it quickly behind my back while we all composed our faces into hopefully appropriate expressions and Okie snapped. This went on time after time, with little Lyn getting madder and madder, hollering louder and louder, and I melting into laughter between snaps until the tears rolled down my cheeks…. And Lyndon looked like the frustrated captain who can’t make his team play right.”
Lady Bird Johnson A White House Diary, New York: Dell Books, 1971, pg 571-572. LBJ Presidential Library contact sheet 1967-09-30-C6787, public domain.