Tag Archives: Lyndon B. Johnson

Quotations: President Watching. (10 Quotes).

The advent of the new president changed everything. The Roosevelts transformed the White House as completely as the swift march of public thoughts and events had changed the country. No longer did the Executive Mansion resemble a medieval castle besieged by the forces of progress. The drawbridges were figuratively let down, and the moats drained of their timeworn prejudices. The archers of reaction withdrew from their turrets, and the victorious New Deal army took over the battlements.” George Abell and Evelyn Gordon, Let Them Eat Caviar, Dodge Publishing Co., New York, 1937.

“Even that son of a bitch looks impressive in that getup!” Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884-1980), at the White House after visiting President Warren Harding in the Oval Office. Quoted in Katherine Graham’s Washington, Knopf, 2002.

Alice Roosevelt was President Teddy Roosevelt’s oldest child and the only child of Roosevelt and his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, who died in childbirth. Alice grew up to be an independent, unconventional and outspoken “first daughter” and was an important figure in the women’s movement in the first half of the 20th century.

Alice Longworth was perfectly realistic about Harding—and didn’t like the Republican president very much. Sen. Brandegee of Connecticut, a member of Harding’s own inner circle, called the former newspaper owner of The Marion Star, Senator from Ohio, and 29th U.S. President, “no world-beater, but he’s the best of the second-raters.”

[The Wilsons] finally settled on a house in the 2300 block of S Street, Northwest, and purchased it…[W]e rode by everyday, and the President was eager as a bridegroom about getting back to private life. He seemed to gain new strength as he shed the idea of responsibility and assumed the freedom of a civilian. But he did not forget his dreams.” Colonel Edmund W. Starling, Starling of the White House…as told to Thomas Sugrue…, Simon & Schuster.

Colonel Edmund William Starling (1875-1944) was chief of the Secret Service detail in the White House from 1914 to 1943. In his thirty years of service at the White House he was responsible for the personal safety of five President of the United States—Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Starling idolized Woodrow Wilson. His first exposure to Wilson left him “in a daze.” Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, the posthumous book is based on over 11,000 personal letters Starling wrote over the decades, mostly to his mother back home. Starling’s ashes are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

SOURCES: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/ewstarling.htm; https://hoptownchronicle.org/hopkinsville-native-edmund-w-starling-protected-five-presidents-as-a-secret-service-agent/

“As Senate majority leader, I participated in many private conferences with President Franklin D. Roosevelt….Usually we would talk in his bedroom at the White House, and the President, wrapped in his cherished gray bathrobe, which he clung to year after year….would interrupt work on a pile of papers and puff at a cigarette through his long ivory holder as we exchanged views.” Alben W. Barkley (1877-1956), That Reminds Me, 1954.

Senator Barkley (later Vice President Barkley under President Harry S. Truman) describes an almost iconic FDR- one can almost imagine a bespectacled 32nd president smoking a cigarette from a long cigarette (in this instance, ivory) holder and jauntily thrusting his chin forward.

Alben W. Barkley, Democrat of Kentucky, was one of the most prominent American politicians of the first half of the 20th Century. Barkley hoped expectantly to someday be the U.S. President–or at least his party’s sometime presidential nominee, particularly in 1952. The longtime majority leader of the U.S. Senate had to settle, however, for being a one-term vice-president in the executive branch. After Truman chose Barkley to be his running mate in 1948 and that ticket triumphed in one of American history’s most astounding upsets, Alben Barkley became a popular national figure known everywhere as “The Veep.” Like his Kentucky forebear Abraham Lincoln, Vice President Barkley was a noted story-teller and often started his sentence with, “And that reminds me…” 

“It was all gone now-the life-affirming, life-enhancing zest, the brilliance, the wit, the cool commitment, the steady purpose….[President Kennedy] had so little time: it was as if Jackson had died before the nullification controversy and the Bank War, as if Lincoln had been killed six months after Gettysburg or Franklin Roosevelt at the end of 1935 or Truman before the Marshall Plan.” Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) on the death of JFK. From A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, Houghton Mifflin, 1965.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. was an American historian who resigned from Harvard and was appointed Special Assistant to the President in the Kennedy Administration in January 1961. Per Kennedy’s desire, Schlesinger served as a sort of ad hoc roving reporter and troubleshooter on behalf of the president. In February 1961, Schlesinger was told of the plans for what developed into the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 and wrote a memorandum to the president telling him that he opposed the action. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 Schlesinger aided United Nations ambassador Adlai Stevenson on his presentation to the world body on behalf of the Kennedy Administration’s ultimately successful efforts to peacefully remove Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. On November 22, 1963, Schlesinger had flown to New York for a luncheon with Washington Post owner Katharine Graham and the editors of her magazine, Newsweek. As they still sipped pre-luncheon libations and amiably talked about upcoming college football games that weekend, a young man in shirtsleeves suddenly entered the gathering. He tentatively announced to the group that, as Schlesinger relates in A Thousand Days, “the President has been shot in the head in Texas.”

“[George Washington’s] mind was great and powerful, without being of the very first order; his penetration strong, though not so acute as that of a Newton, Bacon, or Locke; and as far as he saw, no judgment was ever sounder. It was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion.” Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president, Letter, January 1814.

After returning from France where he served as Minister Plenipotentiary with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin in Paris in the mid-to-late 1780’s, Thomas Jefferson accepted President George Washington’s invitation to serve as the nation’s first Secretary of State in the early 1790’s. Jefferson eventually left Washington’s cabinet over his opposition to Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s promotion of a national debt and national bank in contrast to Jefferson’s vision of a minimalist federal government (see Joseph J. Ellis, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, Random House, 1998, pp. 221-222). Thomas Jefferson was elected the third president of the United States in 1800 and served two terms as president. In 1803 Jefferson transacted the Louisiana Purchase that doubled the size of the United States and in the process acquired the most fertile tract of land of its size on Earth.

“During the inaugural parade [President George H.W.] Bush kept darting in and out of his limousine…These pop-outs were much better received than the Jimmy Carter business of walking the whole parade route. We Americans like our populists in small doses and preferably from an elitist.” P.J. O’Rourke, PARLIAMENT OF WHORES, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991.

The Bushes were a big family and family oriented. O’Rourke reported in his best-selling book that on the first night of Bush’s presidency 28 members of the Bush family spent it at the White House.

“Mr Jefferson has reason to reflect upon himself. How he will get rid of his Remorse in his Retirement I know not. He must know that he leaves the government infinitely worse than he found it and that from his own Error or Ignorance. I wish his Telescopes and Mathematical Instruments, however, may secure his Felicity. But If I have not mismeasured his Ambition, he will be uneasy, and the Sword will cutt away the Scabbard. As he has, however a good Taste for Letters and an ardent curiosity for Science, he may and I hope will find Amusement and consolation from them: for I have no resentment against him, though he has honoured and Salaried almost every Villain he could find who had been an Enemy to me.” Former president John Adams (1735-1826), at Quincy, letter to Benjamin Rush, April 18, 1808.

The punctuation and capitalization are Adams’ original. see– https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-5238

John Adams (1735-1826), the second president of the United States, a Federalist, and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), a Democratic-Republican, were fierce political rivals. Both lawyers—Adams from Massachusetts and Jefferson from Virginia—each were enlightened political liberals who served in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia as well as headed the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence. Adams and jefferson also served together as ministers to France in the 1780’s. Into the 1790’s, as president (Adams) and vying to be (Jefferson), each served opposing visions for the direction of the new nation. At their extreme, the Federalists advocated to establish a strong Federal government that could alienate the individual rights of large groups. Jefferson’s vision of limited government included his advocacy in certain instances for state government to have the right to resist those federal laws that were injurious to local interest.

Jefferson’s narrow victory in the presidential election of 1800 made John Adams the nation’s first one-term president, and sent the New England patriarch into early retirement to Quincy, Massachusetts. For the next decade, John Adams harbored a barely hidden resentment of his political rival, if not enemy when measured by some of their florid rhetoric. Though these two sparring giants of the early republic eventually resumed civil correspondence—Adams and Jefferson stayed in contact until the day they died, both remarkably on the same day, July 4, 1826— Adams had been especially upset by the relentless propaganda campaign of Jefferson’s Republican party against him during the second president’s first term. The years-long libelous accusations described President Adams, in part, as narcissistic, incompetent, dangerous to democracy, unbalanced, and corrupt—all of which Jefferson had personally paid for and approved and which led to a premature and hasty departure of Adams as chief executive on March 4, 1801. (See Joseph J. Ellis, American Sphnix: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, Random House, 1998, pp. 281-82).

Also see- https://openendedsocialstudies.org/2018/09/25/adams-jefferson-and-two-visions-for-the-united-states/

“Isn’t it nice that Calvin is President? You know we never really had room before for a dog.” Grace Coolidge (1879-1957), First Lady of the U.S. (1923-1929), in 1927.

Grace Coolidge was the wife of the 30th President of the U.S., Calvin Coolidge. Throughout her husband’s career, whether as Governor of Massachusetts, Vice-President, or President, Grace Coolidge avoided politics. Though the young Grace broke off a marriage engagement to marry Coolidge, her mother advised against marrying this young man. Calvin Coolidge and Grace Coolidge married on October 4, 1905—and Calvin Coolidge never settled his differences with his mother-in-law who felt her daughter was completely responsible for his rising political fortunes. The Coolidges had two sons, John (1906–2000) and Calvin (1908–1924). After Calvin Coolidge, Jr. died of blood poisoning in July 1924, the Coolidges were inconsolable. The story is well-known: while playing lawn tennis with his brother, John, at the White House, the teenager developed a blister on one of his toes. Within the week, the 16-year-old was dead of a blood infection despite being admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. (see- https://www.coolidgefoundation.org/blog/the-medical-context-of-calvin-jr-s-untimely-death/)

By 1921, the wife of Vice-President Coolidge entered Washington society and quickly became the most popular woman in the capital. In 1927 when Mrs. Coolidge made these remarks, the world that her husband was facing was in flux. In 1927, as France called to outlaw war, which was endorsed by the U.S, a Great Depression already began in Germany with its economic collapse on “Black Friday.” After President Coolidge called for a Naval Disarmament Conference, only a couple of global powers showed up.

The world seemed to be getting smaller in 1927. In May 1927 American Charles Lindbergh flew solo, nonstop, from New York to Paris and started the era of transatlantic air travel. Regular transatlantic telephone service also began in 1927. In the U.S., as the stock market boomed, much of it on shaky credit, lawyers and doctors earned around 3½ times more than a teacher or factory worker. Baltimore-born “Babe” Ruth hit a record 60 home runs in New York.

The first full-length sound motion picture, The Jazz Singer, opened in 1927. In Chicago there was an important art exhibition of Chinese Buddhist art of the Wei Dynasty. In 1927, Hemingway published Men without Women; Willa Cather published Death Comes for the Archbishop; and Thomas Mann published The Magic Mountain. That year’s Pulitzer Prize went to Thornton Wilder’s second novel, The Bridge of the San Luis Rey. It told the story of people who unexpectedly die together in a rope bridge collapse in Peru and the friar who witnessed the accident looking to figure out the possibly cosmic answers as to why.

“The days of transition from Kennedy to Johnson were as hard on me as they were on anyone else–harder. I was losing a dog and gaining a President I didn’t know. Not only didn’t I know him, I didn’t think I wanted to know him. He wasn’t boyish or good-natured or quick-witted like Kennedy and I heard him cussing out the help when things weren’t done fast enough.” Traphes Bryant, Dog Days at the White House, 1975.

Traphes Bryant started out working at the White House as an electrician on the afternoon shift. That was in 1951. Bryant soon moved on to respond to other maintenance calls such as a broken White House elevator. In the 1950’s Bryant was already looking after the incumbents’ family pets, such as it was for the Trumans and Eisenhowers. That line of work became official for Traphes Bryant when John Kennedy became president in 1961. Kennedy asked Bryant to become the new presidential kennel keeper. The president liked how Bryant trained the dogs to meet the presidential helicopter that would often be seen in photographs and on film.

Though Kennedy himself was sometimes allergic to animals, First Lady Jackie Kennedy adored all sorts of animals. During the next 1000 days in office, the Kennedys kept several pets. At one point the first family, which included two small children, Caroline and John, Jr., had 9 dogs. The Kennedys also kept hamsters, horses, birds, a rabbit, and a cat. Some of the animals were gifts from foreign heads of state.

In 1961 Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev sent the Kennedys a mixed breed dog named Pushinka. The dog’s mother had been sent into orbit on Korabl-Sputnik 2 in 1960. Though a surprise, the Kennedy’s welcomed the canine gift. In fact, the Kennedys’ Welsh terrier, Charlie, not only had another companion but a new mate: Pushinka gave birth to four puppies fathered by Charlie. Kennedy called the litter, “the pupniks.”

Bryant was officially in charge of Pushinka’s and Charlie’s grooming, exercise, and diet—along with all the rest. Those special responsibilities for John Kennedy ended abruptly with his assassination on November 22, 1963.

see BRYANT, TRAPHES L.: ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW – JFK #1, 5/13/1964; Traphes Bryant, Dog Days at the White House, 1975; Katherine Graham’s Washington, Knopf, 2002, pp. 542-43; https://www.facebook.com/WhiteHouseHistory/posts/traphes-bryant-pictured-here-had-been-a-white-house-electrician-since-1948-worki/3374666809225225/

PART 1 – Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Coming to Chicago: The Chicago Freedom Movement in 1965.

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The SCLC’s (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) first nonviolent civil rights campaign in the North started in Chicago on January 5, 1966—50 years ago this month.

The multi-pronged campaign was Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s first major effort outside the South and the first following the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. King’s coming to Chicago was greatly influenced by the Watts riots in August 1965 where those deadly six days demonstrated to King and the nation the high cost in human lives and property associated with deep discontentment in the black community over isolating and chronic high unemployment, substandard housing, and inadequate schools.

King’s consideration to come to Chicago in 1966 was further energized by national issues activated by a local focus: in this case, King’s broad support for recent Federal complaints brought by the Chicago Coordinating Council of Community Organizations ( CCCO) alleging segregation in the Chicago public schools. As there was a huge new Federal aid package for those public schools in the nation which desegregated by the start of the 1965-1966 school year, a charge of segregation in a state in the north and in the nation’s second largest city was unexpected, provocative, and dangerous to the natural progression of the status quo.

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Led by former school teacher Albert Raby (on KIng’s left), the CCCO was a coalition of a number of disparate and sometimes contentious groups including the local branches of CORE, the Catholic Interracial Council, and the Urban League, among others. Here, King and Raby meet the Chicago press along with SCLC leader Bayard Rustin (on King’s right).

The status quo in Chicago, at least in terms of its politics, was embodied in one man: Mayor Richard J. Daley (1902-1976). King’s intention to come to Chicago instead of to another big northern city was that he figured to find in Mayor Daley a powerful ally to his civil rights movement. Already Daley vocalized agreement in principle with King’s message of open housing and racial justice, but King’s potential challenge to any aspect of the mayor’s absolute political power never gained Daley’s sympathy or recognition.

Many in Chicago’s local civil rights community, however, welcomed Dr. King’s presence in Chicago in 1966. Activists like Dick Gregory had marched on City Hall — and into Bridgeport to Daley’s home — dozens of times but to no avail in terms of tangible policy changes for blacks in a city where blacks constituted 25% of its population. Perhaps the efforts of Dr.King in Chicago could break the deadlock. 

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights had recently labeled Chicago “the most residentially segregated city in the nation” but Daley chose to see it differently. There was no legal segregation in Chicago and Daley believed it was simply a “city of neighborhoods.” The 64-year-old Daley also felt that if government handouts were not downright un-American then, by 1965, big Federal programs should be administered at the local or city level and not from Washington.

3000 block of S. Bonfield Avenue, Bridgeport

1920’s flats, Bridgeport, Chicago, 2015.

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Chicago slums, 1950.

While Daley’s home rule views appealed to some Chicagoans, other Chicago neighborhoods stayed in flux. There had been a longstanding mistrust, for example, between poor West Side residents—most of whom were black and concentrated by the mid 1960’s into a vast ghetto—and a largely white Chicago police and fire departments. In the summer of 1965 street riots in West Garfield Park effectively produced the integration of 40 of 132 firehouses where calls for integration had been resisted since the early 1950’s.

The City of Chicago’s contrariness to aspects of President Johnson’s Great Society carried into the office of Chicago’s Education chief Benjamin C. Willis who in October 1965 defied federal mandates for the release of requested materials and blocked the use of new national achievement tests in city public schools. This led to Chicago being denied their part of the massive $1.3 billion federal aid to schools program.

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President Lyndon B. Johnson (r.) meets with Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley in the White House, April 21, 1966, in a photograph by Yoichi Okamoto (1915-1985).

The overall Mayor Daley-President Johnson alliance was strong in late 1965 and the federal aid money called into question was restored within the week. Further, the federal official who had cited Daley’s public schools for contempt of Federal segregation mandates was demoted.

It was into this political hothouse that Dr. King decided to build a civil rights campaign for open housing, jobs, and educational opportunity for African-Americans which in October 1965 Daley announced he welcomed with open arms.

Meanwhile Daley was also mobilizing local black and other elected officials in Chicago to establish their own community action programs to co-opt or sideline any of King’s anticipated civil rights initiatives and efforts. This important time when Dr. King came to live and work in Chicago from January to August 1966 and its immediate legacy came to be called the “Chicago Freedom Movement.”

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Tina Allen, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 2004, 1219 West 76th Street, Chicago.

Sculptor and painter Tina Allen (1950-2008) created a number of monumental sculptures of prominent blacks, including labor leader A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979), abolitionist Sojourner Truth (d. 1883), author Alex Haley (1921-1992), South African President Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) and life-size sculptures of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the University of Texas at Austin and in the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza in North Las Vegas.

Allen spent her early years in the West Indies and was a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York and the University of South Alabama, and did advanced studies at Pratt Institute and in Venice, Italy. She worked in Los Angeles until her death. Of her sculptures she stated during a 2003 interview, “I’m looking at myself as speaking about the heart and soul of a people, and making sure they’re not forgotten, making sure they don’t feel ignored.”

In January of 1966, Martin Luther King, Jr., arrives into the tenement apartment on the West Side to begin the Chicago Campaign. The nine-month campaign gave birth to beginning to bring before the nation its widespread issues of poverty and racial injustice. As King mounted these steps into his cold, rundown set of rooms, he was equally walking into the complex politics, problems and hurdles associated with a big northern city whose Democratic mayor, Richard J. Daley, was also known as The Boss.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Baltimore, Maryland, October 31, 1964.

SOURCES: Martin Luther King, Jr. with profiles of Mohandas K. Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, Lori Meek Schuldt, World Book, Inc., 2007; American Pharaoh, Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation, Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor, Little, Brown and Company, 2000; At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68, Taylor Branch, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2006; Civil Rights Digital Library – http://crdl.usg.edu/events/watts_riots/?Welcome. On Tina Allen – http://chicagopublicart.blogspot.com/2013/09/dr-martin-luther-king-jr-bust.html. On the CCCO- – http://www.oxfordaasc.com/public/features/archive/0110/photo_essay.jsp?page=3.

If you liked this blog article, PART 1 – Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Coming to Chicago: The Chicago Freedom Movement in 1965 links to Part 2 and Part 3 in the series are provided here: