Politics: A Family Affair

U.S. National Archives

On October 6th, Lady Bird Johnson left Union Station in Washington D.C. to begin the Whistle Stop campaign through the South.  At the station in Alexandria, President Johnson remarked, “Alexandria has been chosen as the first stop for one of the greatest campaigners in America, and I am very proud to announce that I am her husband.”

In the wake of the Civil Rights Act, the Johnsons turned their attention to the upcoming election. While President Johnson was key to helping the Democratic ticket carry the South in the 1960 election, many Southerners were angry on the eve of the 1964 election about the recent passage of the Civil Rights Act.

And so it fell to Mrs. Johnson to help the President win back the South.

Over the course of 4 days, Lady Bird Johnson made 48 stops aboard the Lady Bird Special for a Whistle Stop campaign through the South.

"Our star attraction was a Southern-bred First Lady. We were supposed to blow kisses and spread love through eight states and make them like it….”
--Liz Carpenter

October 6, 1964
The Whistle Stop tour began on October 6, 1964. Lady Bird Johnson traveled the first two days of the campaign trail accompanied by her daughter, Lynda Bird Johnson. President Johnson joined the two women for the first stop in Alexandria, Virginia. The day ended in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Lynda Johnson, President Johnson, and Lady Bird Johnson walking on the platform alongside the train in Alexandria prior to departing aboard the Lady Bird Special.

Modern view of the train station in Alexandria, Virginia.

October 7, 1964
The day began early with a departure from Raleigh, North Carolina at 6:20 am. After traveling through 15 stops, the Lady Bird Special finished the day at 7:29 pm in Charleston, South Carolina.

In Columbia, South Carolina, Lady Bird and the Whistle Stop encountered some of the trouble they had anticipated as a result of the recently passed civil rights legislation.

Mrs. Johnson responding to protesters in Columbia, South Carolina.
October 8, 1964
After departing Charleston, South Carolina, the Whistle Stop tour took Mrs. Johnson and travelers aboard the Lady Bird Special, which now included Lady Bird's youngest daughter Luci Baines Johnson, further south into Georgia and Florida. Apart from the scenic views the South offered, those on board the train were also able to enjoy some special southern cuisine.

The dining car offered a fixed menu throughout the train trip, as well as a rotating menu featuring different specialties for each state visited.

October 9, 1964
The Lady Bird Special completed its tour of the South and ended in New Orleans, Louisiana, where it was met by the President.

In the 1964 election, the Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater, won five of the eight states visited by the Lady Bird Special, but President Johnson won the election by an overwhelming majority.

Despite the loss of the South, many remember the strength and courage displayed by Lady Bird during her Whistle Stop tour through the South. 
Credits: Story

Exhibit created by Alexis Percle

This exhibit is a collaboration between the Archives and Museum departments of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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