Lyndon Johnson demanded Jackie Kennedy be present for famous swearing-in pic after her husband’s assassination
New book details how Lyndon Johnson took charge and swept Kennedy clan wishes aside after killing
Lyndon Johnson insisted that JFK’s wife Jackie Kennedy accompany him back to Washington on Air Force One just hours after her husband was assassinated and that she stand beside him in the famous photograph where he was sworn in as president, a new book reveals.
The famous photo of Mrs Kennedy, with JFK’s blood still on her clothes standing dazed beside Johnson as he took the oath, only occurred after Johnson insisted she be present so that Kennedy supporters accept his legitimacy as president.
Earlier in a scene fraught with tension, Jackie had arrived back at Air Force One thinking Johnson had already departed for Washington on Air Force Two. She entered her stateroom only to find Johnson inside, in one version sprawled on the bed, making plans for the transition.
Johnson and his wife Lady Byrd consoled Mrs Kennedy and she agreed that she should be present for his inauguration. Asked if she wanted to change out of her bloodstained clothes, she refused saying, “Let them see what they have done to him.”
The new book, by Johnson historian Robert Caro, titled 'The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power', will be released May 1.
It shows how Johnson ignored the wishes of the Kennedy clan that he travel on Air Force Two and that Kennedy’s body arrived back on Air Force One with only family and friends on board as his symbolic last trip as president.
The book also details how Johnson called up JFK’s brother Bobby, then Attorney General, and demanded the legal advice on how to take the oath for president. He wanted Bobby’s approval for taking the oath on the plane, again to give the act legitimacy. Accounts differ on whether the distraught Bobby Kennedy agreed or not.
Johnson also grabbed two key Kennedy Irish mafia members, Kenny O’Donnell and Dave Powers on Air Force One and demanded they serve in his administration, stating he “needed them more than JFK ever did.” Both men were moved by the gesture.
The book portrays Johnson on the day of the assassination as a politician going nowhere, a former powerful Senate Majority Leader who had shrunk in his new job.
The purpose of the Kennedy trip to Texas had been to heal wounds between Senator Ralph Yarborough and Governor John Connolly who were both vital to Kennedy’s re-election prospects. Johnson however was unable to heal the rift between both men and Kennedy had to intervene.
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