Here’s one for the history buffs: Forty years ago this month, Lyndon Johnson was agonized to know that Americans thought of him as the architect not of equal rights and Medicare but the hated Vietnam War. In what would become his final interview just 10 days before his death, Johnson spoke to CBS’s Walter Cronkite about his accomplishments. Listen here.
President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act on this day—August 6—in 1965. On the occasion he said:
…let me now say to every Negro in this country: You must register. You must vote. You must learn, so your choice advances your interest and the interest of our beloved Nation. Your future, and your children’s future, depend upon it, and I don’t believe that you are going to let them down. This act is not only a victory for Negro leadership. This act is a great challenge to that leadership. It is a challenge which cannot be met simply by protests and demonstrations. It means that dedicated leaders must work around the clock to teach people their rights and their responsibilities and to lead them to exercise those rights and to fulfill those responsibilities and those duties to their country. If you do this, then you will find, as others have found before you, that the vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.
July 4 marks the 46th birthday of the Freedom of Information Act. President Lyndon Johnson signed the historic law on July 4, 1966, at his ranch in Texas. FOIA has become a cornerstone of American democracy, making it possible for Americans to find out what their government is doing and to hold it accountable for its actions.
The origins of FOIA, however, are surrounded by myths and forgotten (and, in one case, surprising) heroes.
The real – and regrettably forgotten – hero of FOIA was Rep. John E. Moss, a liberal California Democrat who served in the House for 13 terms, from 1953 to 1979. He was never defeated in any election.
Moss’s campaign for open government began on November 7, 1955, when he conducted public hearings on government secrecy. If July 4 is the birthday of FOIA, November 7 is certainly its moment of conception. Interestingly, a Cold War issue stimulated his concern about secrecy. In 1953, he asked the Civil Service Commission for information about the reported 2,800 people that lost their jobs because of the Federal Loyalty Program. The commission denied him that information. Intrigued, Moss asked the House to create the Special Subcommittee on Government Information, which it did in 1955, selecting him as its chair.
Moss quickly found that the habit of secrecy had grown unchecked in federal agencies. The Civil Service Commission told him it had “inherent power” to withhold information. Even the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission kept some of its reports secret. And in 1957 the Pentagon’s general counsel interrupted a Moss hearing three times with tirades against challenges to secrecy.
Moss’s persistent badgering of presidents and federal agencies finally bore fruit in 1966 with FOIA. Forgotten by all but a few Americans, Moss is today honored by the John E. Moss Foundation and the John E. Moss Federal Building in Sacramento, California. He is a true American hero who deserves more public recognition for his great contribution to the democratic process.
|—||Historian and LBJ biographer ROBERT CARO, on The Daily Show (via inothernews)|
“It’s not a question of liking or disliking [Lyndon Johnson]. I’m trying to explain how political power worked in America in the second half of the 20th century, and here’s a guy who understood power and used it in a way that no one ever had. In the getting of that power he’s ruthless — ruthless to a degree that surprised even me, who thought he knew something about ruthlessness. But he also means it when he says that all his life he wanted to help poor people and people of color, and you see him using the ruthlessness, the savagery for wonderful ends. Does his character ever change? No. Are my feelings about Johnson mixed? They’ve always been mixed.” - Robert Caro, on LBJ. Caro’s fourth installment on Lyndon Johnson, The Passage of Power, comes out May 1st.The above photo illustrates Caro’s meticulous writing process (and you should read the accompanying NY Times Magazine piece on Caro):He writes his first few drafts the old-fashioned way: in longhand, on large legal pads. He doesn’t start typing — on an old Smith Corona Electra 210, not a computer — until he has finished four or five handwritten drafts. And then he rewrites the typescript. (Credit: Martine Fougeron/Getty/ New York Times)
President Lyndon Johnson hands former President Harry S. Truman a pen at the signing of the Medicare Bill, providing national health insurance for the elderly, as Lady Bird Johnson, Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Bess Truman look on.
During the ceremony, at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, July 30, 1965, Johnson presented Truman with the nation’s first Medicare card. President Johnson signed as a witness.
Johnson hailed Truman as the man who “planted the seeds of compassion and duty,” when he endorsed a national health care plan in 1945.
“It all started really with the man from Independence. And so, as it is fitting that we should, we have come back here to his home to complete what he began.”
Signing photo from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library; Truman’s card photo from the Social Security History Archives.
Today in history - the Senate confirms the nomination of Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Marshall becomes the first African American to sit on the Court.
President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall earlier that summer on June 13, 1967. Despite the dissent that was sparked by Marshall’s appointment, the Senate confirmed him on August 30, 1967.
Marshall was a noted civil rights lawyer and had argued for the plaintiffs before the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the landmark case ending racial segregation in public schools. Marshall remained on the Supreme Court until 1991.
Here are pictures from LBJ and Marshall’s Oval Office meeting regarding the announcement of the nomination.
Hero. Marshall, not LBJ.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965
“This act flows from a clear and simple wrong. It’s only purpose is to right that wrong. Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color. This law will ensure them the right to vote. The wrong is one which no American, in his heart, can justify. The right is one which no American, true to our principles, can deny.”
-President Lyndon B. Johnson
Tomorrow will mark 46 years since LBJ signed the Voting Right Act into law. The Act outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting.
Here’s President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders look on. August 6, 1965