The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 19

The Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Moyers told his boss. But Johnson ignored Moyers' reply. "Now you get
your Bible coming back tonight-get one out of one of those hotels up
there. While you're on the plane, underline all the quotes about broth-
erhood and equality." Again Moyers assured Johnson that the speech
would be on the president's desk by morning, but Johnson was not satis-
fied. "Bill, just go buy you a Bible-I'll pay you back- and while you're
on the plane find me all the passages about brotherhood."45 Asked about
the conversation some thirty years later, Moyers said he didn't remem-
ber the telephone call, but that he wrote the speech. And there was one
Bible passage, from one of Abraham's excoriations against tribal bicker-
ing, "Let there be no strife, I pray, between you and me ... because we
are brothers." The speech mirrored Moyers' conscience as well as the
president's. "Men of God have taught us that social problems are moral
problems on a large scale. They have demonstrated that a religion which
did not struggle to remove oppression from the world of men would not
be able to create the world of the spirit," he wrote for Johnson.46 The
speech and an earlier one delivered at a meeting with Southern Baptist
ministers, which Moyers also prepared, was surely part of what con-
vinced the churchmen of Johnson's commitment to racial justice, and
inspired a concerted effort by the nation's clergy to lobby Congress for
the civil rights bill a month later.47 Their effort generated a great deal of
media interest and was covered in an Associated Press story that
appeared on page one of Moyers' and Mrs. Johnson's hometown paper,
the Marshall News Messenger.
Johnson was trying to shepherd two important pieces of legislation
through Congress at the same time; the civil rights bill and the anti-
poverty bill. He told Moyers on many occasions that he knew he would
have to pick up some Southern votes for the anti-poverty legislation
because some of the northern members of Congress would support civil
rights but not the anti-poverty measures. But they were votes he would
not get if he angered Southerners too severely, so he found himself
walking a tightrope, not wanting to publically embarrass old colleagues
but also unwilling to compromise the major provisions of the civil rights
" Lyndon Johnson to Bill Moyers, telephone conversation recorded Apr. 28, 1964, telephone
tapes 3171, 4/28/64 7'10 P.M., WH6404.14 PNO 18 (LBJ Library), Moyers to Beil, Nov. 28,
1997, interview, notes in author's possession.
" Moyers to Bell, Nov. 4, 1997, interview, notes m author's possession. Public Papers of the
President: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-64 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1965),
7 Branch, Pillar of Fre, 266. Moyers wrote a speech in which Johnson said, "Your people are
part of the power structure in many of the communities of our land. The leaders of states and
cities and towns are in your congregations, and they sit on your boards. Their attitudes are con-
firmed or changed by the sermons you preach and by the lessons you write and by the examples
that you set." See Publzc Papers of the President, Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-64, 418-42 2.


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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. ( accessed December 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.