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LISTEN: LBJ Faces the Loss of Martin Luther King

In an an era traumatized by public acts of violence, one of the most devastating was the murder on April 4, 1968, of Martin Luther King Jr. On the fiftieth anniversary of this tragedy, the Miller Center has posted an informative and quite powerful piece on President Lyndon Johnson's reaction to the news of King's death and his actions in the following days. You may read it here.

If not friends exactly, Johnson and King knew each other well—they worked together closely on the Civil Rights Act of 1964—and so Johnson was not only shocked by the news; he knew better than most people the full implications of the loss of King. His immediate concern that the emotional trauma could result in unrest was borne out by protests in a number of cities, most dramatically in Washington and Chicago.

The Miller Center has collaborated with the UVA Press's electronic imprint, Rotunda, to create The Presidential Recordings Digital Edition, which collects transcribed and annotated conversations—along with their actual audio files—from the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon White Houses. Oval Office recordings allow us, fifty years later, to listen in on Johnson's conversations during the events of this sad and tumultuous week. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the loss of King, the Presidential Recordings site will be open to the public though April 10. Links to some of the most relevant recordings:

April 4, 1968, day of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson in conversation with Ivan E. Allen Jr. mayor of Atlanta, Martin Luther King’s hometown.

April 6, 1968. President Johnson in conversation with John C. Stennis. Stennis, a senator surveying the state of Washington D.C. in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

April 6, 1968. President Johnson in conversation with mayor Dick Daley, who a day prior called 6,000 of the National Guard in Chicago to respond to civil disorder in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

April 6, 2018. President Johnson in conversation with Chicago mayor Dick Daley. President Johnson would send 5,000 American soldiers to join National Guardsmen in Chicago.

April 6, 1968. President Johnson speaking with Attorney General W. Ramsey Clark about sending troops to Chicago.

April 6, 1968. Report on conditions in Washington D.C.