Southwestern Historical Quarterly
stop and go in and eat.... You see, what I'm saying is that a colored
man's got enough trouble getting across the South on his own without
having a dog along.'""
Speaking to some business executives in February 1964, the president
singled out Mrs. Wright, calling her:
One of the great ladies I have known .... She has been with us for twenty years,
she is a college graduate, but when she comes from Texas to Washington she
never knows when she can get a cup of coffee. She never knows when she can
go to a bathroom, She has to take three or four hours out to go across to the
other side of the tracks to locate the place where she can sit down and buy a
meal. You wouldn't want that to happen to your wife or your mother or to your
sister, but somehow or other you take it for granted when it happens to some-
one way off there."9
Johnson began making it clear to his fellow southern senators that his
commitment to correcting the abuses suffered by black Americans was
sincere, and he used Zephyr Wright to make the point. Johnson was pre-
siding over the Senate in 1963 when Kennedy's civil rights package
came up for consideration. He cornered Mississippi Sen. John Stennis
on the floor and asked Stennis whether he intended to support the bill.
When Stennis demurred, Johnson said,
Well, you know, John, the other day a sad thing happened. My cook, Zephyr
Wright-she's a college graduate, you know-and her husband drove my official
car from Washington to Texas-the Cadillac limousine of the Vice President of
the United States. They drove it through your state, and when they got hungry
they stopped at grocery stores on the edge of town in the colored areas and
bought Vienna sausage and beans and ate them with a plastic spoon. And when
they had to go to the bathroom they would stop, pull off the side of the road and
Zephyr Wright, the cook of the Vice President of the United States, would squat
in the road to pee. And, you know John, that's just bad. That's wrong. And it
seems to me that if people in Mississippi won't change that voluntarily, then it's
just going to be necessary to change it by law.40
For Wright the difficulty of locating a restaurant, hotel, or restroom
that would accommodate her when crossing the South began with her
first trip to Washington with Mrs. Johnson in 1941. "Finding a place to
stay that was nice was upmost in her mind," Wright said. "One thing I
must say about Mrs. Johnson, she was very nice about finding nice places
to stay. And if we (Wright and Mrs. Johnson's chauffeur, John Hickey)
"SJohnson, The Vantage Posnt, 154.
' Goldman, The Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson, 70o. Also see Califano, The Tnumph and Tragedy of
Lyndon Johnson, 43.
40 Robert Mann, The Walls of Jencho. Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Rchard Russell and the
Struggle for CvzlReghts (New York, Harcourt Brace and Co., 1996), 337.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed May 27, 2015.