This speech, given May 8th, 2012, is a great story told by, Welcome W. Wilson Sr., about a time he sat down with Lyndon. B. Johnson. Hear how Lyndon B. Johnson confided in Senior about his views on civil rights prior to becoming president.
IREM (Institute of Real Estate Management) Speech on May 8, 2012
Mr. Wilson: So that’s why Johnson was there, so we went over there; and I got a glass of wine and over by the fireplace the Vice President was sitting; and he was drinking decaf coffee, no wine just decaf coffee, one cup after another. Takes the cup, put it down, get another cup decaf coffee, so always smoozing big shots whatever I walked over and sat down in an over-stuffed chair next to his over-stuffed chair and I said, Mr. Vice President what is going to be the fate of Kennedy’s Civil Rights Legislation he’s trying to get passed and whatever was going on was the Civil Rights Legislation had been introduced, it was going nowhere in the Congress, nowhere Richard Russell, Georgia, had absolutely blocked it and it was dead on arrival, so I said is that gonna get loose or not, he paused for a minute, I could tell he was trying to decide whether or not I was worth an explanation and finally decided in my favour and so he said, Welcome let me tell you a story, in 1960 when we were campaigning for Vice President and President we were driving through New Mexico and you know how New Mexico is you drive for an hour and there is nothing but cactus and then you come across a service station, and you stop and get a coke and go to the bathroom. So, we had an entourage of about 6 cars in the Vice-Presidential campaign and we pulled into this gas station and everybody got out and went inside and went to the bathroom and got a coke.
And we got ready to leave and there was a girl missing, he said Welcome we looked everywhere in that service station to find this girl and could not find her, since she was a staffer in the majority leader’s office and we couldn’t figure it out to save our neck and he said, it turned out she was a block behind the building squatting down behind the bush because they would not let her use the bathroom because she was black, and Johnson grabbed me on the knee and he leaned over and he stuck his finger in my face and he said, Welcome that is wrong, that’s wrong and when I can do something about that I’m going to.
Six months later he was President of the United States, 6 months after that he passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and for that I think we should all be very grateful. Alright our time is about up here, yes sir Ed.
Question: I rate Johnson as one of the great Presidents that we had because not just what he did there but what he did for our State, how do you rate him?
Mr. Wilson: I think Johnson was probably the most underrated President, all because of the Vietnam war, for which I blame Robert McNamared, not McNamara, I knew McNamara slightly but he was the one that kept going in there to the President and saying all we need is another 6 months and another gazillion troops or whatever and we will win this war, well anyway that was Johnson’s big failure. But when you consider Medicare, when you consider the Civil Rights Act, when you consider the major earth changing legislation he got passed and by the way, he was very conservative, he was from the conservative wing of the Democratic Party when there were no Republicans. We had several Republicans in Texas in those days and they were never elected or anything, but we had 2 parties within the Democratic Party and Johnson was head of conservative. He used to go around in the White House cutting of the lights to save electricity. (laughs) Any other questions? Yes sir.
Question: Out of all the things that you have seen and done what would you describe as the one defining moment for your life if you look back on it?
Mr. Wilson: Well this may sound politically correct but it’s when I married my college sweetheart in 1949. (applause) And you know in those days we had a 44-hour week, everybody worked on a Saturday, well I never got out of that habit I still work on Saturdays, 6 or 7 hours on Saturdays. On Sundays I work out of my brief case at home, so I spent my life as a workaholic and my wife has put up with it and we have 5 kids, 16 grandkids etc., she is an accomplished artist, she has made a big difference with me. Let me mention one other thing, when we married she was Catholic, so I decided that I would become a Catholic and because I studied the Catholic Church and I was favourable inclined and so forth, well my mother became unglued not because of a hatred for the Catholic Church, she became unglued because if I became a Catholic I could never be President of the United States and that’s the way mothers thought in those days. (laughs) that’s the way they thought. Really, she was so disappointed in me because then I would never be President of the United States and she was certain I was going to be one, any other questions? Thank you kindly, How many people here know Dr. Red Duke.
Saw him last month (laughs).
Mr. Wilson: Red is an old man although he is younger than I by a couple years, so I bumped into him at the Country Club the other day and we got to talking about old age and he said, Welcome you know you are getting old when you tell your best friend that you are having an affair and he wants to know whose catering it, thank you very much. (applause)
Thank you so much Welcome, I know I enjoyed your stories just as everyone else do, thank you so much. (applause)