1963 December 31

LBJ Integrates University of Texas Faculty Club

 

President Lyndon Johnson escorted Gerri Wittington, an African-American and one of his personal secretaries in the White House, to the New Year’s Eve Ball at the University of Texas Faculty Club (known as the Forty Acres Club) in Austin, Texas. The club had been racially segregated until that moment. Everyone in the crowded room was reportedly stunned. One person leaned over the Bill Moyers, one of Johnson’s top aides,” and whispered, “Does he know what he is doing?” Moyers replied, “he always knows what he is doing.”

Escorting Wittington to the previously segregated club was only one of several gestures Johnson made in the first weeks of his presidency to make the point that he was committed to racial equality. In his first days in office he personally called all the leading civil rights leaders to tell them he needed their help in getting the pending civil rights bill passed. (It passed, and Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964.) He then promoted Wittington from the White House secretarial pool, making her the first African-American to serve as a secretary to the president.

Read about the event: http://deadpresidents.tumblr.com/post/53207381610/lbjs-historic-night-out

Listen to LBJ’s phone call to Wittington on December 23, 1963:
http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/presidentialrecordings/johnson/1963/12_1963

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