Lady Bird Johnson's Audio Diaries

For two nights in 1997, Lady Bird Johnson talked with "Nightline's" Ted Koppel about the extraordinary years she spent with her husband, Lyndon Baines Johnson, in the White House. She recalls the horrific assassination of President John F. Kennedy that thrust her husband into the Oval office and the center of one of the most turbulent chapters in the nation's history.

Below is an unedited transcript of the interview:

October 8, 1997


(VO) It was the day America stood still.


We were rounding the curve, going downhill. Suddenly, there was a

sharp, loud report, a shot.


(VO) A day of personal tragedy.


Suddenly I found myself face to face with Jackie. I don't think I

ever saw anybody so much alone in my life.


(VO) And of a new beginning.


There, in the very narrow confines of the plane, with Jackie on his

left, Lyndon took the oath of office.


(VO) They've never been publicly heard before, the LADY BIRD JOHNSON

audio diaries. Tonight, November 22, 1963.


From ABC News, this is Nightline. Reporting from Washington, Ted



Diaries offer their authors the comfortable promise of absolute

privacy. Since most of the time the narrator and the intended

audience are one and the same, diaries are the perfect receptacle for

intimate revelations. And since they are normally kept on a regular,

if not a daily basis, the observations contained in them are clear

and fresh, unaffected by the passage of time or the loss of memory.

It is not altogether clear whether Lady Bird Johnson ever

intended her diary to become public, but she began keeping it,

dictating entries into what she called her talking machine, shortly

after John F. Kennedy was assassinated and her husband, Lyndon

Johnson, became the president of the United States. And Mrs Johnson

continued making entries into her audio diary virtually every day of

her husband's presidency.

Over the past four years, we have broadcast a number of programs

using Oval Office tapes that were recorded during the Johnson years.

If you've heard any of those tapes, I think you'll agree that they

capture something of Lyndon Johnson that would otherwise never have

emerged in public.

Helping us compile some of those programs has been historian

Michael Beschloss, whose new book, "Taking Charge: The Johnson White

House Tapes 1963 - 1964" has just been published. It includes

excerpts from Mrs Johnson's audio diary. They, and conversations

recorded aboard Air Force One on the day that Kennedy was shot are

being played in public for the first time tonight.


Friday, November 22nd. It all began so beautifully. After a drizzle

in the morning, the sun came out bright and beautiful. We were going

into Dallas. In the lead car, President and Mrs Kennedy and John and

Nellie. And then a Secret Service car full of men and then our car

with Lyndon and me and Senator Yarborough.

The streets were lined with people, lots and lots of children

all smiling, placards, confetti. People were waving from windows.

Then almost at the edge of town on our way to the trade mart, where

we were going to have a luncheon, we were rounding a curve, going

down a hill. Suddenly, there was a sharp, loud report, a shot.


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