The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

18 Southwestern Historical Quarterly July
Johnson told the story of his black staff and Little Beagle any time a
threat was made to the public accommodations section of the civil rights
bill of 1964 is not only an illustration of Johnson's masterful manage-
ment of legislation he wanted passed, but also of his very real concern
for all his constituency. His wife recalled that in the early days of his
presidency Johnson's aides warned him against risking his prestige by
fighting for the civil rights bill. The odds were three to two against its
passage, the president was told. She said, "He asked quietly, 'What's the
presidency for?'"43
Wright's personal situation was mirrored all over the South. In the
week following the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Newsweek Associate
Editor Frank Trippett, who was born and raised in Mississippi, went
home to Columbus for the first time in five years. His report, published
in the July 13, 1964, issue, provides not only a picture of the times, but a
reminder that the 196os were humiliating for Wright and other south-
ern blacks, dangerous times for Farmer and other civil rights leaders,
and times that called for courage from liberal and moderate southern-
ers such as the Johnsons and Moyers. Trippett wrote:
With as little effort-just listening--I heard threats of outright insurrection.
('I mean there's gonna be some killing if these niggers start trying to get into
cafes and things.') rumors that 'every store in Starkville'-home of Mississippi
State University, down the road to the south-'has sold out every bullet they can
lay their hands on.'
Mississippians have always been as neurotically sensitive to criticism as they are
nimbly resourceful at rejecting it all. 'I guess you'll go on back North and write
another bunch of lies about us?' a gaunt and sunburnt old acquaintance joshed.
'I'm going to do worse than that,' I said. 'I'm going to tell the truth.' I wouldn't,
of course. But only because the truth about Mississippi lacks credibility.4"
On April 28, 1964, Johnson was to speak to a large gathering of reli-
gious leaders he had invited to the White House. The night before, the
president got nervous about the speech, and telephoned his young, reli-
giously-inclined aide, who had just concluded a speech in New York.
Johnson chided Moyers about being out of town, as were a number of
the members of his cabinet. "I turn around and the whole damn ship's
gone. I would cut that kind of stuff out--just tell'm 'No' from now on,"
Johnson said. The president then told Moyers the reason for his call.
"We need a speech for religious leaders at noon tomorrow. One-hun-
dred-fifty of the top . . . civil rights and religious leaders." "I have it,"
4"Man of the Year," Time, 91 (Jan. 5, 1968), 13-15. This account also appeared in David
Grubm's "LBJ." Whether the "two to three" was a guess or the result of an actual poll is unclear.
41 Frank Trippett, "Troubled State, Troubled Time," Newsweek, 64 (July 13, 1964), 18.

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 July 10, 2014.