Interview with Harry McPherson

OK, we're talking about Dr. King coming out against the war.


Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson had a strained relationship. I remember sitting in the little room off the Oval Office with the two of them one evening, ah, in which, ah, Johnson talked about his problems, ah, with, with trying to get over the agenda that King wanted in the cities and also tried to explain to King why we were unable to bring the Vietnam War to a close. ah, it was a quite civil conversation on both sides. It was strained. And it reminded me as I listened to them that Johnson's relationships, his close relationships with Black leaders had been with those who, like him, were legislators, were legislative leaders. Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, Whitney Young of the Urban League, Clarence Mitchell, the lobbyist for the movement on the Hill, A. Philip Randolph of the Sleeping Car Porters who, ah, people who were accustomed to dealing with the political, ah, machinery, of going and lobbying the Congress, working with, ah, like-minded or reasonably friendly members to fashion a legislative result. King, was out there in the streets. King, I think was the catalyst for the great movements that were made. King's suffering was the catalyst. His being beaten, his being hosed, his being, ah, put in jail, all the suffering that he endured, and finally his even, his death in 1968 brought about in every case a legislative response. So that the legislators, the Wilkinses and the, and the Lyndon Johnsons used that national anger and, and, outcry against the treatment that King and his people had suffered at Selma and Birmingham and elsewhere, used that as the, ah, the momentum builder to get the legislation through.