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Student Question: Was JFK about to ‘drop’ LBJ?


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My Year 10 (aged 14-15) are now starting on a piece of coursework: 'Why is JFK remembered so positively?'. I have attached the questions they came up with in groups. Answers and different views from experts would be great for when we start back in September or for pupils to look at over the Summer.

Question: Was JFK about to ‘drop’ Lyndon Johnson? If so, why?

Background details of the people answering this questions can be found at:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=1169

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Question: Was JFK about to ‘drop’ Lyndon Johnson? If so, why?

There is no way that JFK would have dropped Lyndon Johnson. Kennedy not only needed Texas, he needed to take the Southern states where Goldwater, his likely '64 opponent, was very popular. Dropping LBJ would have cost him dearly.

As it turned out, Goldwater took only six states in 1964; 5 Southern segregationist states, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina, and his home state of Arizona.

Kennedy would have lost Texas and all the Southern states and the conservative states if he had dropped Johnson.

Edited by Anthony Frank
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My Year 10 (aged 14-15) are now starting on a piece of coursework: 'Why is JFK remembered so positively?'. I have attached the questions they came up with in groups. Answers and different views from experts would be great for when we start back in September or for pupils to look at over the Summer.

Question: Was JFK about to ‘drop’ Lyndon Johnson? If so, why?

Background details of the people answering this questions can be found at:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=1169

Lyndon would likely have been indicted in the Estes and Baker scandals, making JFK's removal of him a no-brainer.

Jack White :o

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I agree with Jack that LBJ would have ended up in prison if JFK had not been killed in Dallas.

JFK had already told his secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, that he was going to replace LBJ with George Smathers, the senator from Florida.

Rumours began to spread that JFK was going to drop LBJ as his running mate in 1964. Nixon made a speech claiming he knew LBJ was going to be replaced. Robert Kennedy appeared to confirm this by briefing against LBJ. This including information that suggested that LBJ would be prosecuted for political corruption.

The political situation looked good for JFK in the summer of 1963. The same was not true of Lyndon Johnson. In fact, he told close friends that he expected to end up in prison. The reason for this was LBJ was embroiled in a serious political scandal.

Senator John Williams was known as the "Sherlock Holmes of Capitol Hill". During a 15 year period his investigations resulted in over 200 indictments and 125 convictions. In the summer of 1963 he began investigating the activities of Bobby Baker, Fred Black and Billie Sol Estes. Baker was LBJ’s political secretary. Black was one of LBJ’s political advisers. Both these men were involved in the business activities of Billie Sol Estes.

Senator John McClellan, chairman of the Permanent Investigations Committee, also became involved in this inquiry.

Williams and McClellan discovered that in 1962 Baker had established the Serve-U-Corporation with his friend, Fred Black, and mobsters Ed Levenson and Benny Sigelbaum. The company was to provide vending machines for companies working on federally granted programs. The machines were manufactured by a company secretly owned by Sam Giancana and other mobsters based in Chicago. It was claimed that LBJ was getting a rake-off from Serve-U-Corporation in return for arranging for vending machines to be placed in these company’s offices and factories.

Evidence also emerged that Lyndon B. Johnson was also involved in political corruption involving the placing of arms contracts. This included the award of a $7 billion contract for a fighter plane, the TFX, to General Dynamics, a company based in Texas. Fred Korth, the Navy Secretary, and a close friend of LBJ, had been involved in negotiating this contract.

On 7th October, 1963, Baker was forced to leave his post as LBJ’s secretary. On 1st November, 1963, Korth was forced to resign over the TFX contract.

Rumours began to spread that JFK was going to drop LBJ as his running mate in 1964. Robert Kennedy appeared to confirm this by briefing against LBJ. This including information that suggested that LBJ would be prosecuted for political corruption.

At this time the key witness had yet to testify. His name was Don B. Reynolds. A close friend of Bobby Baker, Reynolds claimed that for many years he had a business relationship with LBJ. Reynolds was due to provide evidence before a secret session of the Senate Rules Committee on 22nd November, 1963. LBJ would not be there to hear what was said for on that day he was to be visiting Dallas with JFK

On returning from Dallas LBJ discovered what Reynolds had told B. Everett Jordan and his Senate Rules Committee that day. According to Reynolds he had seen a suitcase full of money which Baker described as a "$100,000 payoff to Johnson for his role in securing the Fort Worth TFX contract".

LBJ immediately contacted B. Everett Jordan to see if there was any chance of stopping this information being published. Jordan replied that he would do what he could but warned Johnson that some members of the committee wanted Reynold's testimony to be released to the public. On 6th December, 1963, Jordan spoke to Johnson on the telephone and said he was doing what he could to suppress the story because " it might spread (to) a place where we don't want it spread."

Abe Fortas, a lawyer who represented both Lyndon B. Johnson and Bobby Baker, worked behind the scenes in an effort to keep this information from the public. LBJ also arranged for a smear campaign to be organized against Reynolds. To help him do this J. Edgar Hoover passed to Johnson the FBI file on Reynolds.

John McClellan, the chairman of the Senate subcommittee investigating the TFX contract said that he wanted to interview Don Reynolds. However, for some reason the subcommittee did not resume its investigation until 1969. This was of course after Johnson had left office.

Don Reynolds also testified before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on 9th January, 1964. This time Reynolds provided little damaging evidence against Johnson. As Reynolds told John Williams after the assassination: "My God! There's a difference between testifying against a President of the United States and a Vice President. If I had known he was President, I might not have gone through with it." Maybe there were other reasons for this change of approach.

Reynolds also appeared before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on 1st December, 1964. Before the hearing Reynolds supplied a statement implicating Bobby Baker and Matt McCloskey (Treasurer of the National Democratic Party at the time) in financial corruption. However, the Democrats had a 6-3 majority on the Committee and Reynolds was not allowed to fully express the role that Johnson had played in this deal.

In December, 1966, Edward Jay Epstein wrote an article for the Esquire Magazine where he claimed that Reynolds had given the Warren Commission information on the death of John F. Kennedy. Reynolds said that Bobby Baker had told him that Kennedy "would never live out his term and that he would die a violent death." Baker had also said that "the FBI knew that Johnson was behind the assassination".

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Question: Was JFK about to ‘drop’ Lyndon Johnson? If so, why?

There seems to have been discussion of this, as a series of growing scandals centered around Johnson, including those relating to Billy Sol Estes and Bobby Baker. When Kennedy was assassinated, and Johnson became President, the investigations were quietly dropped.

Martin

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