LBJ Drops In Unannounced

I chose this picture because of the car. I was born too late to own one and Ive always felt kind of cheated.

On August 14, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson landed in a helicopter in the Rice Stadium parking lot with absolutely no warning. At about 11:30 that morning someone in the Rice administration got a phone call from a reporter, who told him that the president was going to be arriving there in a couple of hours. (I don’t know who this person was, even though he wrote up a detailed description of what happened that day, because he did not put his name on the memo he deposited in the files. Let this be a lesson to us all.) No one from the Secret Service or anyone else for that matter ever told the University that this was going to happen–all the information they had, from start to finish, came from reporters. It was August and classes hadn’t started, so most of Rice’s senior administration wasn’t around. (It strikes me just now that President Pitzer may have very recently resigned. In any event, he wasn’t there. The highest ranking person on campus that day seems to have been the Dean of Humanities–I’m not sure if that’s funny or sad, but my first impulse is to laugh.) A certain amount of chaos ensued.

Is this taking off or landing? I think its taking off, but I dont have a real reason for that.

In the end, Rice people from Campus Security and what was then called Building and Grounds Maintenance set up a landing spot on “the only logical and safe air path on the campus” with some bright yellow canvas panels that someone ran over and bought from a dry goods store in the Village. News people were now calling and asking for press credentials to cover the landing, which still no one had told Rice was going to occur. (They didn’t get them.) When Rice sent someone over to Ellington Field, it was clear that LBJ was about to arrive by plane but no one would tell them where he was going from there. He landed near the stadium just before 2:00.

Johnson was then swept in a limo over to the Shamrock Hotel, where he gave a rostrum-pounding, barn-burner of a speech to the mostly black doctors’ organization, the National Medical Association, from whom he received a thunderous welcome. (He told them to restrain medicare fees.) By the time he got back to the helicopter at Rice, a small group of Gene McCarthy supporters were waiting, but according to newspaper accounts he didn’t look at them.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to LBJ Drops In Unannounced

  1. Deborah Bennett ('82) says:

    The car you mention looks like a Ford Falcon. My family had one earlier in the decade (probably about a 1963 model). Ours was a red station wagon, standard shift, three-on-the-tree. Ford Falcons of that era are very distinctive. Have you ever seen the film ‘North by Northwest’ (director Alfred Hitchcock)? I love the green Park Service station wagons in that film – same 1960’s era.

    • Deborah Bennett ('82) says:

      In the last picture (with the protesters), if it is the same car, the car may be a Ford Country Squire instead. We had one of those after the Falcon. We had the type with the fake wood-grain panels along the sides.

  2. Katherine Kampe ('08) says:

    I believe you are correct. The helicopter in the picture is taking off. They tilt forward like that when they do.

  3. John May ('76) says:

    I also remember LBJ coming to a Rice Football game in the fall of 1972 or 1973. We gave him a big salute from the MOB at a time out in the football game, and he stood up and waved his white cowboy hat for us!

    • Farrell Gerbode ('73) says:

      LBJ did indeed attend a football game at Rice although it wasn’t ’73 because he that was after his death. I think it was the ’71 game vs. UT. As I was returning to the student section from the NE concourse, a flying wedge of Secret Service agents were ushering LBJ in the opposite direction. I stood still, the agents parted around me, leaving me inside with LBJ. We shook hands and moved on. Wouldn’t see THAT happen today!

      • Melissa Kean says:

        I didn’t know about this. I’ll do some checking when I get a chance. Thanks!

        • effegee says:

          Thanks to today’s helicopter story about LBJ’s 1968 invasion of the campus, I looked up the dates for UT games at Rice. It had to be either 1970 (Oct 24) or 1972 (Oct 28) that citizen Johnson attended Texas v Rice. It was definitely a Texas game and was definitely before his death in January 1973.

  4. Michael Joe Thannisch says:

    That’s not a Ford Station Wagon, it is a Mercury Colony Park or Monerey.

  5. Michael Joe Thannisch says:

    Make that Monterey.

  6. Mark A says:

    LBJ spoke at the opeining ceremony for Sid Rich College in October, 1971. I got to ride in the elevator with him and shake his hand.

  7. Pingback: Helicopter Landing + Liftoff | Rice History Corner

Leave a Reply