THE TRANSITION

LYNDON JOHNSON AND THE EVENTS IN DALLAS BY ROBERT CARO THE NEW YORKER

Friday, November 22 1963, began for Lyndon Johnson in Fort Worth, with the headline he saw on the front page of the Dallas Morning News: "YARBOROUGH SNUBS LBJ."

Johnson, accompanying President Kennedy on a tour of Texas, had been given an assignment that the President considered vital: since a unified Democratic front in the state would be needed to carry it in 1964, the Vice­President had been made responsible for healing the bitter Democratic Party rift between Governor John B. Connally, a former Johnson assistant, and Senator Ralph Yarborough, the leader of the Party's liberal wing. The previous day, however, Yarborough had refused even to ride in the same car as Johnson. Assigned to accompany the Vice-President during a Presidential motorcade through San Antonio, the Senator had gotten into another car instead, and, in a procession in which the other vehicles behind the Presidential limousine were packed with people, Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, had had to sit conspicuously alone in the back seat of their convertible.

Newspapers that day chronicled every detail of Johnson's humiliation. "Twice at San Antonio ...Johnson sent a Secret Service man to invite Yarborough to ride with him in his car. Both times the senator ignored the invitation and rode with somebody else," the Los Angeles Times reported. The Chicago Tribune noted the "curt wave of his hand" with which Yarborough had sent the Vice-President's emissary packing. The feud was the main story of Kennedy's trip not just in Texas but also across the country.

On the morning of the twenty-second, Lyndon Johnson sat in his suite at Fort Worth's Hotel Texas with newspapers in front of him-there were four separate stories in the Dallas paper alone; one was headlined "NIXON PREDICTS JFK MAY DROP JOHNSON" and then he had to go downstairs for a rally of five thousand labor-union members, and join Kennedy, Yarborough, Connally, and some local congressmen, all of whom had, of course seen those stories. As they walked across the street to the rally, a light drizzle was falling. Johnson was wearing a raincoat and a hat; Kennedy was bareheaded and lithe, in an elegant blue-gray suit. Johnson hastily snatched off his hat. His assignment was to introduce Kennedy, and, as he finished, the crowd roared for the young man beside him. Explaining why Jackie wasn’t there (‘Mrs. Kennedy is organizing herself, it takes longer, but of course, she looks better than we do’), Kennedy was easy and charming, Johnson had to ask the President for a favor; to be allowed to bring his youngest sister, Lucia, who lived in Fort Worth, to meet him. Shaking hands with Kennedy that morning, Lucia was thrilled; she had always wanted to shake hands with a President she said...

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