LBJ and the Warren Commission
Selected Telephone Conversations Concerning the Special Commission to Investigate
the Assassination of
President John F. Kennedy (the Warren Commission).
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX on November 22, 1963. Shortly
thereafter, the House of Representatives and the Senate considered independent investigations
of the assassination and the murder of Kennedy’s putative assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.
To trump these congressional efforts,
President Lyndon Johnson decided to form a presidential commission to investigate
the assassination and Oswald’s death. These conversations document the formation
of the commission — identified by the popular title “The Warren Commission” —
because the chairman was
Chief Justice Earl Warren.
The selected conversations you will hear document Johnson’s extraordinary persuasiveness.
The matchup of personalities called on all of Johnson’s ability. Appeals to patriotism,
family, and honor were interspersed in his conversations. Some people were honored,
others were reluctant despite the Johnson treatment. In the end, all served. These
conversations explain how Johnson cobbled the committee together. (The conversations
are in chronological order.)
A comment about the recordings. These recordings vary dramatically in audio
quality. The recordings were made on Dictaphone Dictabelt equipment. You will hear
many imperfections. Sometimes the audio may be inaudible. This is not the fault
of your RealAudio Player. The problem lies in the source material. Do not be discouraged,
for there are riches to be found here that will illuminate those sad and frightening
days following Kennedy’s death.
November 24, 1963
Bill Moyers (the President’s Special Assistant) and Eugene Rostow (Dean of Yale Law
School). Rostow suggests a presidential commission but no Supreme
November 25, 1963
LBJ and J.Edgar Hoover (Director, FBI). Johnson wants to avoid a
presidential commission and briefs Hoover on his view that a Texas inquiry would
be adequate with the full cooperation of the FBI.
LBJ and Joseph Alsop (columnist). LBJ explores the idea of a Texas
investigation of the assassination. Alsop urges Johnson to appoint a special blue-ribbon
panel and avoid the unsettling prospect of the U.S. Attorney General (Robert Kennedy,
brother of the slain President) participating in an investigation of his brother’s
November 28, 1963
LBJ and Sen. James Eastland (Dem.-Miss.) Johnson explores the idea
of a presidential commission.
November 29, 1963
LBJ and Rep. Hale Boggs (Dem.-La.). Johnson explores the idea of
a presidential commission rather than separate Senate and House investigations.
LBJ and Sen. Everett Dirksen (Rep.-Ill.). Johnson explores the idea
of a presidential commission then goes on to discuss Senate business.
Second conversation between LBJ and Rep. Hale Boggs (Dem.-La.). Boggs
reports on efforts to start a House investigation of the assassination and plans
to establish a presidential commission.
LBJ and Abe Fortas (Washington attorney and LBJ confidant). Fortas
and LBJ discuss possible composition of the commission.
Second conversation between LBJ and J. Edgar Hoover (Director, FBI).
LBJ briefs Hoover on the presidential commission and solicits reactions to possible
membership. Hoover reports on Lee Harvey Oswald’s visit to the Cuban Embassy in
Mexico City and information on Jack Ruby. Hoover also briefs LBJ on ballistics results,
reconstructs assassination events, and shares intelligence reports on Oswald. LBJ
and Hoover discuss safety concerns, including the use of a bullet-proof car at the
LBJ ranch. Johnson expresses confidence in Hoover’s judgment.
LBJ and Sen. Richard Russell (Dem.-Ga.). LBJ discusses the release
of the FBI report and floats the idea of Russell’s service on a presidential commission
to investigate the assassination. Russell declines. LBJ and Russell discuss commission
membership. Russell weighs the merits of a Supreme Court justice serving on the
commission versus other candidates.
LBJ and House Speaker John McCormack (Dem.-Mass.). LBJ discusses
commission membership with McCormack. Issues include regional and ideological balance.
Rep. Otto Passman (Dem.-Tex.) joins the conversation.
Second conversation between LBJ and Sen. Everett Dirksen (Rep.-Ill.).
LBJ briefs Dirksen on presidential commission in lieu of separate congressional
investigations. They discuss membership.
LBJ and Allen Dulles (former director, CIA). LBJ asks Dulles to serve
on the commission.
Second conversation between LBJ and Abe Fortas (Washington attorney and LBJ confidant).
Fortas reviews a draft announcement of the commission. LBJ invites Fortas to serve.
LBJ and Rep. Les Arends. LBJ consults with House leadership prior
to release of statement.
and Rep. Charles Halleck. (Rep.-Ind.) LBJ consults with House leadership
prior to release of statement. Johnson indicates his wish for Warren to chair the
commission, though Warren has declined to serve. Halleck opposes Warren’s appointment.
Halleck agrees to avoid a separate House investigation of the assassination.
LBJ and Dean Rusk (Secretary of State) LBJ consults with Rusk on
LBJ and House Leader Carl Albert (Dem.-Okla.) LBJ consults with the
House majority leader on commission membership.
LBJ and Rep. Gerald Ford (Rep.-Mich.) LBJ invites Ford to serve on
Second conversation between LBJ and Joseph Alsop (columnist). Consults
with Alsop about commission membership prior to release of the announcement.
Second conversation between LBJ and Sen. James Eastland (Dem.-Miss.)
Johnson seeks Eastand’s reaction to the appointment of Earl Warren to chair the
commission. Johnson claims reluctance to appoint Warren but regards it as a necessity.
LBJ and Sen. Tom Kuchel. Johnson reviews commission membership and
then explains how he convinced Warren to serve.
Second conversation between LBJ and Sen. Richard Russell (Dem.-Ga.).
LBJ reports that he has publicly announced the commission and has appointed Russell
and Warren to serve. Russell is upset since he indicated to Johnson that he did
not wish to serve. Russell declares that he cannot serve with Warren.
Note: This particular clip contains some very weak audio segments. Johnson reports
on his ability to persuade Warren to serve (point to 15:30 of the RealAudio file)
and then brings Russell into line with all the others on the commission.