Meeting Lyndon Johnson

ed rosenthal
February 12, 2015

In the summer of 1960, I was a high school Junior in Sacramento with an almost brand new driver's license and two burning ambitions:  to get the use of one of the family cars, and to get myself a date.   I was ecstatic when my father finally gave in on the use of the car.   Now all I needed was an attractive girl to drive around.

I wanted to date Jill, who was the daughter of a postman and a Mother who had flattered me deeply the previous summer by telling me I had nice legs, but I had no idea of how to go about it.   I knew that Jill was interested in politics, or at least she was interested in JFK, who had just received the Democratic nomination, so I arranged for the two of us to be volunteers at a Kennedy rally at the State Capitol.

On the appointed day, I put two Kennedy-Johnson signs in the backseat of my car, and drove over to pick up Jill, who looked very nice in her fitted blouse and shorts.    Then we headed out for the Capitol, which lacked the abundance of public parking garages it has now, so we parked a few blocks away, and carried our signs to the east side of the building, where we were met by an officious advance man, who lined us up with the other 20 or so teenage volunteers, all with identical signs, along a sidewalk that led to a side entrance.  And there we waited.   And waited.

After about twenty minutes, Governor patbrown-bw-sizedBrown (the first Governor Brown), short and intense with a streak of white in his hair, hurried out of the Capitol and down the cordon we had formed - he didn't seem to notice us as he passed us.    When the Governor was about twenty yards from the end, a long black limousine pulled up to the corner of 10th and L Streets, and a tall, awkward figure emerged.   It was not Kennedy, as we had hoped, but Lyndon Johnson.   Johnson was scooped up by Brown as soon as he set foot on the curb, and Brown appeared to be urging him to hurry into the building.  But Johnson was having none of it.   He gamely shook the hand of every volunteer along his path. He looked miserable the whole time, but he did it.   Six years later, when I became so upset with him over Vietnam, I remembered that.



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