Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Laws That Changed America (.)

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9780618088256: Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Laws That Changed America (.)

Opposites in almost every way, mortally suspicious of each other at first, Lyndon Baines Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr., were thrust together in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Both men sensed a historic opportunity and began a delicate dance of accommodation that moved them, and the entire nation, toward the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Drawing on a wealth of newly available sources -- Johnson's taped telephone conversations, voluminous FBI wiretap logs, previously secret communications between the FBI and the president -- Nick Kotz gives us a dramatic narrative, rich in dialogue, that presents this momentous period with thrilling immediacy. Judgment Days offers needed perspective on a presidency too often linked solely to the tragedy of Vietnam.
We watch Johnson applying the arm-twisting tactics that made him a legend in the Senate, and we follow King as he keeps the pressure on in the South through protest and passive resistance. King's pragmatism and strategic leadership and Johnson's deeply held commitment to a just society shaped the character of their alliance. Kotz traces the inexorable convergence of their paths to an intense joint effort that made civil rights a legislative reality at last, despite FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's vicious whispering campaign to destroy King.
Judgment Days also reveals how this spirit of teamwork disintegrated. The two leaders parted bitterly over King's opposition to the Vietnam War. In this first full account of the working relationship between Johnson and King, Kotz offers a detailed, surprising account that significantly enriches our understanding of both men and their time.

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About the Author:

NICK KOTZ is the author of five previous books on politics, social justice, and the civil rights movement. A renowned journalist, he has received a Pulitzer Prize and a National Magazine Award. He lives in Broad Run, Virginia.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1
The Cataclysm

The day began in triumph for John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Riding through the sunny streets of downtown Dallas in
an open convertible, his young wife, Jacqueline, beside him, the president
of the United States beamed at the cheering crowds. Two cars back in the
motorcade, Lyndon Baines Johnson, who knew he had been Kennedy's
choice for vice president principally to keep the South in the Democratic
fold, felt vindicated by the warm reception in his home state. Both men
had been apprehensive about open hostility from angry southerners in
the wake of Kennedy's call for a new civil rights law.

Instead, thousands of ebullient Texans applauded and waved at their
handsome young president and at their own Lyndon Johnson. In the
front car, Nellie Connally, wife of Texas governor John Connally, turned
back toward John Kennedy. "You can't say Dallas doesn't love you," she
beamed.1

An instant later,Nellie Connally heard a loud noise, followed rapidly by
several more explosions. She saw President Kennedy grip his throat with
both hands and heard her husband moan, "Oh, no, no, no," and then, "My
God, they are going to kill us all!"Kennedy was slumped over, bleeding, as
was Governor Connally, whom she cradled in her arms as the convertible
sped away.2

Two cars behind them, Secret Service agent Rufus Youngblood yelled,
"Get down!" and shoved Lyndon Johnson to the floorboard. The agent
threw his own two hundred–pound body across Johnson to protect the
vice president. Pinned down and unable to see, Johnson heard tires
screeching as he felt the car accelerate.He heard the radioed voice of agent
Roy Kellerman from Kennedy's car shouting, "Let's get the heck out of
here!" Then he heard still another agent's voice: "The President has been
shot.We don't know who else they are after."

Moments later, Secret Service men rushed Johnson and his wife, Lady
Bird, into Parkland Memorial Hospital, where they huddled silently together
in an examining room with the shades drawn. In an adjoining
room, Secret Service agent Henry Roberts spoke into his radio to
headquarters in Washington. "We don't know what the full scope of this thing
is," he said. "It could be a conspiracy to try to kill the president, vice president
— try to kill everybody."3

Less than an hour after the shots were fired, at 1:22 p.m. Central Standard
Time, November 22, 1963, White House aide Kenneth O'Donnell
came into the Johnsons' room. "He's gone," he told them. At that moment,
fifty-five-year-old Lyndon Baines Johnson became the thirty-sixth
president of the United States.4

In his two-story frame home on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, the Reverend
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. struggled awake late that November morning,
physically and mentally exhausted from too much travel and too little
sleep. During the previous seven days, King had been constantly on the
road, first for a rally at Danville, Virginia, where the sparse turnout of
supporters suggested that the civil rights leader would have trouble
launching a planned major campaign there. The young minister was
deeply worried that the civil rights movement was losing momentum and
perplexed about where he should now direct the energies of his Southern
Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to pressure Congress into approving
civil rights legislation. If not Danville, where should King go next? With
conflicting advice coming from his aides, King did not know
what to do.

After Danville, he had flown to New York to meet privately at Idlewild
Airport with two key advisers, attorneys Clarence Jones and Stanley David
Levison, who both urged him to launch a new campaign, lest the
mantle of civil rights leadership pass to younger, more radical men. He
then stopped off at a resort in New York's Catskill Mountains at the national
convention of United Synagogues of America to receive its annual
leadership award.Next, he flew to Chicago to speak to the annual convention
of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, representing Reform
Jews. Such speeches, more than 150 a year, left him constantly tired.
They were necessary to build support and raise the funds needed to keep
the SCLC afloat, yet aides constantly reminded King that those activities
were no substitute for the kinds of direct-action demonstrations that
had catapulted him to prominence. It had been just such an action in
Birmingham, Alabama, six months earlier that had prompted President
Kennedy to introduce a civil rights bill, after two years of urging from
movement leaders. His proposed bill would outlaw segregation in public
accommodations, forbid discrimination in employment, and withdraw
federal aid from state and local governments that discriminated against
anyone because of race, national origin, or religion. But now the legislation
faced poor prospects in Congress, and King feared that Kennedy's
enthusiasm for the bill had waned as his 1964 reelection campaign drew
nearer.

A television set flickered in the background as King tried to rest in his
upstairs bedroom. At the first news bulletin, he shouted downstairs to his
wife, "Corrie, I just heard that Kennedy has been shot, maybe killed!"
Coretta Scott King, who had been writing notes at her desk, rushed upstairs
to her husband's side. Horrified, the couple stared at scenes of the
Dallas motorcade and the vigil at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

"This is just terrible," cried King. Death threats had become a constant
in the King home. "I hope he will live. . . . I think if he lives — if he pulls
through this, it will help him to understand better what we go through."
Moments later, the television news anchor announced that the president
was dead.

"This is what's going to happen to me," an agonized King told his wife.
"This is such a sick society."5

Lyndon Johnson's first fear was that the Soviet Union might have unleashed
an attack against the United States. If the Soviets had shot the
president, he thought, who would they shoot next? And what was going
on in Washington? And when were the missiles coming? With these
thoughts racing through his mind, Johnson ordered the Secret Service to
delay public announcement of Kennedy's death until he and Lady Bird
had left Parkland Hospital.6

As they prepared to leave, Johnson urged his wife to go see "Jackie and
Nellie." In a narrow hallway outside the main operating room, Mrs. Johnson
found Jacqueline Kennedy standing alone, her face frozen in horror,
her pink suit spattered with her husband's blood. "God help us all!" Lady
Bird said, embracing John F. Kennedy's young widow. Lady Bird next
went to her old friend Nellie Connally, who was being reassured by doctors
that her husband would live.7

The Johnsons then were rushed out a side door of the hospital and into
separate unmarked police cars. Eight minutes later they arrived at Love
Field. Scrambling up the ramp into Air Force One, Lyndon Johnson faced
his first decisions as president. General GodfreyMcHugh and otherWhite
House aides had been urging that the president's official plane take off for
Washington the moment the Johnsons came on board, but Lyndon Johnson
countermanded the general's order.8

He would not leave Dallas without Jacqueline Kennedy and the body of
her husband — then en route to Love Field — nor without first taking the
oath of office as president. With that ceremony, he meant to show the
world that the government of the United States was still functioning in an
orderly manner. U.S. district judge Sarah Hughes, an old Johnson friend
and supporter, was summoned from her office in Dallas. Hughes boarded
the Boeing 707, and as Lyndon Baines Johnson placed his hand on a Bible,
she administered the oath of office. Lady Bird Johnson and Jacqueline
Kennedy stood at his side. After kissing each woman on the cheek, President
Johnson commanded Colonel James Swindall, the pilot of Air Force
One, "Let's be airborne!"9

As the plane sped toward Washington, Johnson telephoned Rose Kennedy,
mother of the murdered president. "I wish to God there was something
I could do," he said. "I wanted to tell you that we were grieving with
you." Choked with emotion, Johnson handed the telephone to Lady Bird
to try to console Mrs. Kennedy.10

Over the jet's sophisticated communications system, Johnson then arranged
for congressional leaders and national security advisers to meet at
the White House upon his arrival in Washington.11 And he instructed six
members of the Cabinet aboard an airplane bound for Japan to change
course and return to the capital. A few minutes earlier, Secretary of State
Dean Rusk had informed that planeload of Cabinet members, reporters,
and their party that President Kennedy had been shot, but they had not
been told his condition. The delegation sat in stunned silence. When the
airplane began to make a slow U-turn over the Pacific and head back toward
the United States, they knew that their president was dead.12

Two hours and ten minutes after leaving Dallas, Johnson stood in darkness
on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington. His
craggy face illuminated by klieg lights, the new president spoke to the nation:
"This is a sad time for all people.We have suffered a loss that cannot
be weighed. For me it is a deep pe...

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