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

TED KOPPEL

(VO) It was the day America stood still.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

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

sharp, loud report, a shot.

TED KOPPEL

(VO) A day of personal tragedy.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

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

ever saw anybody so much alone in my life.

TED KOPPEL

(VO) And of a new beginning.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

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

left, Lyndon took the oath of office.

TED KOPPEL

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

audio diaries. Tonight, November 22, 1963.

ANNOUNCER

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

Koppel.

TED KOPPEL

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.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

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.

1ST REPORTER

It appears as though something has happened in the motorcade route.

Something, I repeat, has happened in the motorcade route. There are

numerous people running there, but it is believed that President

Kennedy has been shot. President Kennedy was -- something is

terribly wrong. I think behind the motorcade. It looks as though

they're going to Parkland Hospital.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

It seemed to me to come from the right above my shoulder from a

building. Then one moment and then two more shots in rapid

succession. I heard over the radio system, "Let's get out of here!"

A Secret Service man vaulted over the front seat on top of Lyndon,

threw him to the floor and said, "Get down!"

Senator Yarborough and I ducked our heads. The car was

accelerated terrifically fast, faster and faster. Then suddenly they

put on the brakes so hard that I wondered if they were going to make

it as they wheeled left around a corner. I looked up and saw it said

"hospital". Only then did I believe that this might be what it was.

As we ground to a halt, I cast one last look back over my

shoulder and saw a bundle of pink, just like a drift of blossoms,

lying in the back seat. I think it was Mrs Kennedy lying over the

president's body.

Throughout it all, Lyndon was remarkably calm and quiet. He

said, "We'd better move the plane to another part of the field. He

spoke of going back out to the plane in black cars.

PRES LYNDON B. JOHNSON

What raced through my mind was that if they had shot our president

driving down there, who would they shoot next and what would they --

what was going on in Washington and when would the missiles be

coming? And I thought that it was a conspiracy and I raised that

question and nearly everybody that was with me raised it.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

People came and went. Every face that came in you searched for the

answers that you must know.

TED KOPPEL

(VO) Also searching for answers was Pierre Salinger, the president's

press secretary. He was accompanying a handful of cabinet members,

including Secretary of State Dean Rusk, on a flight to Tokyo to

prepare for an upcoming presidential trip. Pierre Salinger's Secret

Service code name was "Wayside."

PIERRE SALINGER

White House situation room, this is Wayside. Do you read me, over?

Over.

DISPATCHER

This is the situation room. I read you. Go ahead.

PIERRE SALINGER

Give me all available information on the president, over.

DISPATCHER

All available information on president follows. He and Governor

Connally of Texas have been hit in the car in which they were riding.

We do not know how serious the situation is. We have no information.

We are getting our information over the tickers, over.

PIERRE SALINGER

That is affirmative, affirmative. Please keep us advised out here.

This plane, on which secretary of state and other cabinet ministers

headed for Japan, turning around, returning to Honolulu.

TED KOPPEL

(VO) At Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Lady Bird sees Mrs Kennedy

waiting for news on the president's condition.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

Suddenly I found myself face to face with Jackie in a small hall. I

think it was right outside the operating room. You always think of

her, or somebody like her, as being insulated, protected. She was

quite alone. I don't think I ever saw anybody so much alone in my

life. I went up to her, put my arms around her and said something.

I'm sure it was quite banal, like, "God, help us all," because my

feelings for her were too tumultuous to put into words.

TED KOPPEL

When we come back, Lady Bird Johnson, Jackie Kennedy and a hurried

swearing in of the new president.

(Commercial Break)

TED KOPPEL

Just after 1:00 pm central time, about 30 minutes after the shots

were fired, news of President Kennedy's condition emerged from the

operating room. Vice President Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson were

with Malcolm Kilduff, President Kennedy's press person that day in

Dallas and Kenny O'Donnell, White House chief of staff.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

I turned and went back to the small white room where Lyndon still

was. Mr Kilduff and Kenny O'Donnell were coming and going. I think

it was from Kenny's face and from Kenny's voice that I first heard

the words "the president is dead". Mr Kilduff entered and said to

Lyndon, "Mr President."

TED KOPPEL

(VO) A short time later, the plane loaded with cabinet members, also

received the news.

DISPATCHER

This is situation room relay following to Wayside. We have report

quoting Mr Kilduff in Dallas that the president is dead, that he died

about 35 minutes ago. Do you have that, over?

PIERRE SALINGER

The president's dead, is that correct?

DISPATCHER

That is correct. That is correct.

2ND REPORTER

We have this from Washington. Government sources now confirm that

President Kennedy is dead.

TED KOPPEL

(VO) Shortly after the president was pronounced dead, the Secret

Service rushed LBJ and Lady Bird out of Parkland Hospital.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

It was decided that we should go immediately to the airport. We

drove along as fast as we could. I looked up at a building and there

already, it was a flag at half - mast. I think that was when the

enormity of what had happened first struck me.

When we got to the airplane, we entered Airplane Number One for

the first time. There was a TV set on. The commentator was saying,

"Lyndon B. Johnson, now president of the United States."

2ND REPORTER

There is no longer any doubt the president is dead. The vice

president himself, vice president and soon - to - be president,

Lyndon Johnson.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

All the shades on the plane were lowered. We heard that we were

going to wait for Mrs Kennedy and for the coffin. There was

discussion about when Lyndon should be sworn in as president. There

was a telephone call to Washington, I believe to the attorney

general. It was decided that he should be sworn in there in Dallas

as quickly as possible, because of the international implications and

because we did not know how wide, whether this was an incident there

only or whether it had a wider spread as to the intended victims.

TED KOPPEL

(VO) Three years later, LBJ defended his decision to be sworn in in

Dallas during a phone conversation he had with his press secretary,

Bill Moyers.

PRES LYNDON B. JOHNSON

I thought the most important thing in the world was to decide who was

the president of this country at that moment. I was fearful that the

Communists were trying to take us over. And I think that Bobby

agreed that it would be all right to sworn in and said he wanted to

look into it and he would get back to me, which he did.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

Judge Sarah Hughes, a federal judge in Dallas, and I am glad it was

she, was called to come in a hurry. We borrowed a Bible. Mrs

Kennedy had arrived by that time and the coffin. And there, in the

very narrow confines of the plane, with Jackie on his left, her hair

falling in her eyes but very composed and then Lyndon and then I was

on his right, Judge Hughes with the Bible in front of him and a

cluster of Secret Service people and congressmen we'd known a long

time, Lyndon took the oath of office.

JUDGE SARAH HUGHES

I do solemnly swear ...

PRES LYNDON B. JOHNSON

I do solemnly swear ...

JUDGE SARAH HUGHES

That I will faithfully execute ...

PRES LYNDON B. JOHNSON

That I will faithfully execute ...

JUDGE SARAH HUGHES

This office of president of the United States ...

PRES LYNDON B. JOHNSON

This office of president of the United States ...

TED KOPPEL

(VO) Air Force One took off for Andrews Air Force Base at 2:45 pm

central time, just minutes after the swearing in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE

Roger. The president is onboard, the body is onboard and Mrs Kennedy

is onboard.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

We all sat around in the plane rather speechless. We had been

quickly ushered first into the main private presidential cabin out of

which we very quickly got to when we saw where we were because that

is where Mrs Kennedy should be.

TED KOPPEL

When we come back, presidential historian and author, Michael

Beschloss.

(Commercial Break)

TED KOPPEL

And joining me now, the presidential historian, Michael Beschloss,

who is the author of the new book, "Taking Charge: The Johnson White

House Tapes 1963 - 1964." I want to get back to a question that I

raised early on, Michael, having to do with what Mrs Johnson's

intentions were when she first started dictating those diaries. Do

you think that she ever planned to publish them or to make them

public in any form?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, AUTHOR, "TAKING CHARGE"

I don't think she did at the outset. She had kept a diary in

previous years before she became first lady, but I think the moment

she returned to Washington from those tragic events in Dallas, her

first thought was I've been through an important moment in American

history that only I have seen in quite this way and I owe it to

history to record it.

TED KOPPEL

And when she was recording it, I mean she has always been extremely

loyal to her husband through some of his worst times, to what sense

do you have the feeling that she was trying to in any way brush up or

burnish the image?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS

I think not hugely. Certainly she was kindly toward her husband and

she loved her husband, but at the same time when you're keeping a

diary that you know that you have the ability later on to edit, the

impulse is much more to sort of talk into the microphone and let the

feelings pour out and the diary has very much that texture.

TED KOPPEL

Bobby Kennedy later on was angry at how quickly Lyndon Johnson moved

to take the oath of office. Talk about that for a moment and what it

was that motivated him to move as quickly as he did.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS

Well, the big feud between Robert Kennedy and President Johnson began

in Dallas when President Johnson got on Air Force One and wanted to

take the oath immediately because he felt it was important for the

nation to feel that they had a sworn - in president in command in

this crisis. RFK was at his home in Virginia. He sentimentally

would have liked his brother, the late president now, to return to

Washington one last time as president and have Johnson take the oath

in Washington.

TED KOPPEL

And what was Johnson's motive for being sworn in as quickly as he

was?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS

He had the responsibility to take command and give the nation a sense

of stability at the same time as he had the responsibility to be

sensitive to the Kennedys and not look as if he was grabbing power

and it was that first responsibility in this case that prevailed.

TED KOPPEL

He makes several references in the tapes, and I haven't read the

whole book, but I have read many of the excerpts, to the fear that he

initially had that there might be some, literally, a foreign plot

that might actually have targeted him next. How much of a role did

that play?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS

It had a big role. One of the things he says on the tapes to J.

Edgar Hoover was, were any of the shots fired at me in Dealey Plaza

in Dallas. It was the height of the Cold War. Johnson had to assume

that this assassination was the spearhead of a Russian, perhaps a

Soviet nuclear attack, surprise attack on the United States. He had

been told by his defense secretary the safest thing an incoming

president could do in a crisis situation like this is to get on the

plane, get the plane high up into the air.

TED KOPPEL

Let's come back, as we conclude our conversation now, to Lady Bird

Johnson. As you look back and knowing what you know from all the

other sources that you had, how good a reporter was she?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS

I think she was a terrific reporter and I think one thing that these

tapes show is that she was one of the most important members of the

Johnson administration, not only because she was able to give her

husband very shrewd political advice, but also because at a time like

the Kennedy assassination, where Johnson's emotion might have gone

into very much overdrive, she was there at his side to keep him a

little bit more stable and help him become president and calm the

nation.

TED KOPPEL

Michael Beschloss, thank you very much, indeed.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS

Thank you, Ted.

TED KOPPEL

In a moment, a preview of what you'll be hearing from the Lady Bird

Johnson diaries tomorrow.

(Commercial Break)

TED KOPPEL

Tomorrow, more from LADY BIRD JOHNSON's audio diaries. In the hours

after President Kennedy is pronounced dead, LADY BIRD JOHNSON pays a

visit to Jackie Kennedy aboard Air Force One.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

Mrs Kennedy's dress was stained with blood. And that was somehow one

of the poignant sights, exquisitely dressed and caked in blood. I

asked her if I couldn't get somebody to come in to help her change

and she said, "Oh, no, that's all right. I want them to see what

they have done to Jack."

ANNOUNCER

October 9, 1997.

1ST REPORTER

Something is wrong. Something is terribly wrong.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

Mrs Kennedy's dress was stained with blood.

TED KOPPEL, ABC NEWS

(VO) Throughout some of the worst days in American history, she kept

an audio diary.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

And that was somehow one of the most poignant sights, exquisitely

dressed and caked in blood.

TED KOPPEL

(VO) As she mourned in silent strength with the Kennedys.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

And I wanted to cry for them and with them, but it was impossible to

permit the catharsis of tears.

TED KOPPEL

(VO) And tonight, from her home in Texas, the former first lady

remembers.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

So I felt like I was walking onto a stage for a part I had never

rehearsed, hadn't even read.

TED KOPPEL

(VO) The LADY BIRD JOHNSON audio diaries -- the aftermath of the

Kennedy assassination.

ANNOUNCER

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

Koppel.

TED KOPPEL

When John Kennedy was shot on November 22, 1963, everything and

nothing changed. The miracle of that tragic moment was that the

American system proved its extraordinary resilience. In the middle

of all the shock and the trauma, the transition of power occurred

almost seamlessly. One minute Kennedy was president; within a couple

of hours of his death, Lyndon Johnson was sworn into office.

But, of course, the lives of those at the center of the drama,

especially the Kennedy and Johnson families, would never be the same

again. LADY BIRD JOHNSON realized that she was experiencing and

witnessing a moment of history that she was uniquely placed to

capture. She began recording a diary.

Those of you who were with us last night will have heard her

immediate account, put on tape shortly after the assassination, of

the frantic ride to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, of Lady

Bird's encounter in a hospital corridor with Jackie Kennedy, more

alone at that moment than ever before or perhaps again.

Mrs Johnson agreed to join us for this program tonight. Her

tapes and hundreds of others that were made of Lyndon Johnson's

conversations in the Oval Office during his presidency have been put

into context by historian, Michael Beschloss, in his new book,

"Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1963 - 1964."

There was, of course, another transition taking place in those

first hours after the assassination. During the two hour, 20 minute

flight from Dallas back to Andrews Air Force Base, Jackie Kennedy and

LADY BIRD JOHNSON began ever so delicately to pass off the role of

first lady.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

The ride to Washington was silent and strained, each with his own

thoughts. The casket was in the hold. I went in to see Mrs Kennedy

and I don't -- oh, it was a very, very hard thing to do. She made it

as easy as possible. She said things like, "Oh, Lady Bird, we've

liked you two so much." I remember other things she said, "Oh, what

if I had not been there? I am so glad I was there."

Mrs Kennedy's dress was stained with blood. One leg was almost

entirely covered with it. And her right glove was caked. That

immaculate woman, it was caked with blood, her husband's blood. She

always wore gloves like she was used to them. I never could. And

that was somehow one of the most poignant sights, exquisitely dressed

and caked in blood.

I asked her if I couldn't get somebody to come in to help her

change and she says, "Oh, no, that's all right. Not right now." And

then there was something, if with a person that gentle, that

dignified you can say had an element of fierceness, she said, "I want

them to see what they have done to Jack." I tried to express

something of how we felt. I said, "Oh, Mrs Kennedy, you know we

never even wanted to be vice president and now, dear God, it's come

to this."

Well, I would have given anything to help her and there was

nothing I could do to help her. So rather quickly I left and went

back to the airplane, to the main part of the room where everybody

was seated.

TED KOPPEL

(VO) At around 3:00 pm central time, the president and first lady

called Rose Kennedy, President Kennedy's mother, from Air Force One.

None of them knew it at the time, but this call, too, was recorded.

PRES LYNDON B. JOHNSON

Mrs Kennedy?

ROSE KENNEDY

Yes. Yes, Mr President.

PRES LYNDON B. JOHNSON

I wish to God there was something that I could do, and I wanted to

tell you that we were grieving with you.

ROSE KENNEDY

Yes, well thanks, thank you very much. Thank you very much. I know.

I know you loved Jack and he loved you.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

Mrs Kennedy, we feel like we've just had ...

ROSE KENNEDY

Yes, all right.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

We are glad that the nation had your son as long as it did.

ROSE KENNEDY

Yes, well thank you Lady Bird. Thank you very much. Good - bye.

TED KOPPEL

(VO) Along with the emotions of the moment, the flight was also

filled with quick planning for the arrival of both a new president

and the body of the late president.

1ST OFFICIAL

Everyone aboard Air Force One, with the exception of the body, will

be choppered into the South Grounds. The body will be choppered to

the Naval Medical Center at Bethesda. Over.

2ND OFFICIAL

This body is in a casket, you know, and it will have to be taken by

ambulance and not by chopper. The casket is in rear compartment and

we suggest, because it is so heavy, that we have a forklift back

there to remove the casket. And we want the regular post - mortem

that has to be done by law under guard performed at Walter Reed. Is

that clear, over?

1ST OFFICIAL

Watchman, should the secretary of defense and others be at Andrews on

your arrival?

2ND OFFICIAL

No, negative. President Johnson wants to meet the White House staff,

the leadership of Congress and as many of the cabinet members as

possible at the White House as soon as we get there.

TED KOPPEL

(VO) At 6:05 pm eastern time, Air Force One arrived at Andrews Air

Force Base, where a crowd of White House staff, family and

journalists was waiting.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

Finally, we got to Washington. There was a cluster of people

watching, many bright lights. The casket went off first and Mrs

Kennedy and the family who had come to join them and then we

followed. Lyndon made a very simple, very brief and I think

appealing and strong talk to the folks there.

PRES LYNDON B. JOHNSON

This is a sad time for all people. We have suffered a loss that

cannot be weighed. For me, it is a deep personal tragedy. I know

that the world shares the sorrow that Mrs Kennedy and her family

bear. I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help

and God's.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

We got in cars, dropped him off in a hurry at the White House and I

came home.

TED KOPPEL

When we come back, Lee Harvey Oswald is shot as the nation watches in

disbelief.

(Commercial Break)

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

Sunday, November the 24th. This was the day the president lay in

state at the Capitol. It is a day I will never forget, nor will

other people of America.

After church, we went to the White House and waited in the Green

Room for the family. As they came in, Mrs Shriver turned to me and

said, "I hear Oswald has been killed." That was the first news I had

about Oswald.

2ND REPORTER

There's been a shooting at Dallas police station as Oswald is being

transferred.

3RD REPORTER

Just one minute ago, they were bringing Oswald out. He was just

going out the door heading towards the armored car and there was a

bang. We believe it was a shot.

TED KOPPEL

(VO) Before the nation, on live television, Jack Ruby had shot and

killed Lee Harvey Oswald. Later that week, Johnson discussed with

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover how Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, had

managed to get so close to Oswald.

J. EDGAR HOOVER

He knew all the police in that white light district where the joints

are down there, and he also let them come in and see the show, get

food and get the liquor and so forth. That's how I think he got into

police headquarters, because they accepted him as kind of a police

character hanging around police headquarters, and for that reason

raised no question. Of course, they never made any moves, as the

pictures show, even when they saw him approaching this fellow and got

up right to him and pressed his pistol against Oswald's stomach.

Neither of the police officers on either side made any move to push

him away or to grab him. It wasn't until after the gun was fired

that they then moved.

TED KOPPEL

(VO) At about 1:00 pm eastern time the president and Mrs Johnson got

into a limousine with members of the Kennedy family, including

Robert, Jackie and her two children, Caroline and John John, and

headed for the Capitol.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

As soon as we emerged from the gates of the White House, the first

thing I was aware of was that sea of faces stretching away on every

side -- silent watching faces. And I wanted to cry for them and with

them, but it was impossible to permit the catharsis of tears. I

don't know quite why, except that perhaps one reason is that the

continuity of strength demands it and another reason was the dignity

of Mrs Kennedy and the members of the family themselves demanded it.

The only note of levity was John John, who bounced from the back

to his mother's lap to the front until finally the attorney general

said, "John John, you be good. You be good, we'll give you a flag

afterwards."

TED KOPPEL

(VO) As the caisson slowly rolled towards the Capitol, past what used

to be the Esso Building, Bobby Kennedy remembered and for a moment

thought out loud.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

The only time the attorney general said anything was when we passed a

big building on the left and he looked over there and said, and I

think as much to himself, perhaps to the children, "That was where it

all began. That was where he ran for the presidency." And there was

a flinching of the jaw at that moment that almost made, oh, well, it

made your soul flinch for him.

Then Lyndon advanced and laid a wreath at the foot of the

casket. And Mrs Kennedy went over and knelt. Odd how you remember

little things, but I remember how gracefully she knelt and kissed the

casket. Caroline, by her side, simply put her little hand on the

flag, sort of underneath the flag.

TED KOPPEL

At that point, the audio portion of Mrs Johnson's diary apparently

runs out on that day. So this evening, we asked Mrs Johnson to read

that final portion of the day's diary entry.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

To me, one of the saddest things in the whole tragedy was that Mrs

Kennedy achieved on this desperate day something she had never quite

achieved in her years in the White House, a state of love, a state of

rapport between her and the people of this country. Her behavior

from the moment of the first shot until I last saw her was, to me,

one of the most memorable things of all. Maybe it was a combination

of great breeding, great discipline, great character. I only know it

was great.

TED KOPPEL

When we come back, an interview I recorded earlier this evening with

LADY BIRD JOHNSON.

(Commercial Break)

TED KOPPEL

And joining us now from her home in Austin, Texas, LADY BIRD JOHNSON.

Ms Johnson, thank you so much, first of all for letting us use

excerpts from your tapes and also for joining us tonight.

I asked Michael Beschloss yesterday, and I'm going to ask you

today, did it ever occur to you when you were doing these audio

diaries that they would one day become public or were you doing them

just for yourself and perhaps for your family?

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

I was doing them for sort of a mixture of reasons. It was,

incredible as it might seem, I was going to be in the unique position

as the wife of the president of the United States -- and it was

incredible. But only I would see events unfold from that particular

vantage point and so I wanted to remember it and keep it for myself

and my children and maybe some day grandchildren.

TED KOPPEL

We heard on this program tonight, Mrs Johnson, your recollection of

that flight back from Dallas to Andrews Air Force Base just outside

Washington. And you speak of what was almost a passing over of, I

don't know how one refers to what a first lady has, whether it's

power or just an enormous burden, but there was that passing off that

had to take place and it must have been an excruciatingly difficult

moment for both you and Mrs Kennedy.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

Oh yes, yes. I felt like I was walking onto a stage for a part I had

never rehearsed, hadn't even read, and we all knew from her face and

from her whole demeanor what she was going through.

TED KOPPEL

Your late husband had wanted so much and for so long to be president

of the United States.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

No, certainly ...

TED KOPPEL

But not this way.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

I know you, nobody believes it, but he hadn't set his sights on that.

Never mind. Let's go on.

TED KOPPEL

Talk about it in terms, you do speak of it in your diary with regard

to Air Force One, how initially you were ushered into what would be

the president and the first family's quarters aboard Air Force One

and you thought no, this is not appropriate. Mrs Kennedy should be

here.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

Absolutely.

TED KOPPEL

You must have felt ...

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

That was very clear.

TED KOPPEL

You must have felt much the same way when you ...

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

I felt like an intruder who didn't want to be here.

TED KOPPEL

Now, I understand that when you did move into the White House

finally, Mrs Kennedy had left something for you. Could you tell us

about that?

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

Yes. She had left a very sweet little bouquet of flowers and it was

quite small and precious and a sweet note.

TED KOPPEL

Let me just have, Mrs Johnson, if you would, some of your thoughts on

the value of public people keeping private diaries with an idea to

one day sharing them with historians or sharing them with the

American public at large. Your thoughts on the values and the

dangers of doing that.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

Oh, is it any danger from telling the truth as you see it? I didn't

think so and so I did it. I love words. I love writing. And that

was a subject so much worth it. I wish I could have done justice to

it. And it taught me a lot. Oh, boy, did it teach me. Memory is

not a faithful servant. One year after, 20 years after, you may

remember it washed over by the circumstances that come afterward, the

changes, the feelings. So it's better to have something that took

place at or as soon as possible after that time if you want to get it

right.

TED KOPPEL

As you look back now, and we have the distance of 34 years, that

prism to look through, what's your most vivid memory of that

extraordinary weekend?

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

Of that weekend? I guess it has to be one of the discipline shown by

the Kennedy family, especially by Mrs Kennedy and my respect and

admiration for it. And my anger burns so hot that our state should

have been tarnished by that and that added to my determination to try

to fulfill every obligation I had as the wife of a president.

TED KOPPEL

Mrs Johnson, you've been very gracious, as always. Those of us

who've watched you for the years you were here in Washington came to

expect that from you. Thank you so much.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

Thank you.

TED KOPPEL

And I'll be back with a word about tomorrow's Nightline Friday night

special in a moment.

(Commercial Break)

TED KOPPEL

Tomorrow, a Nightline Friday night special, the inspirational story

of Eric Davis, the Baltimore Orioles outfielder who's battling back

from cancer as he and the Orioles fight to get into the World Series.

That's our report for tonight. I'm TED KOPPEL in Washington.

For all of us at ABC News, good night.