Los Angeles, California (JFK50) Fifty-five years ago this evening, July 14, 1960, Lyndon Baines Johnson of Texas, majority leader in the United States Senate, was nominated by the Democratic National Convention for the office of Vice-President of the United States.
Senator John F. Kennedy, who had been nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate the previous night, surprised many people, including members of his own staff, by offering the Vice-Presidential nomination to Senator Johnson.
JFK's personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, would write that shortly after JFK had received the presidential nomination, the Senator gave her the following message to deliver to Senator Johnson...
"Dear Lyndon...I would like to talk to you in your room tomorrow morning at 10:00..."
Despite this message, Mrs. Lincoln says that there had "never (been) any talk in the office that Mr. Johnson was to be the running mate." It is her view that JFK 's meeting with LBJ was not to offer him a place on the ticket, but "to gracefully shake Johnson's hand....and to discuss with him the southern leaders' meeting scheduled for later that day."
Mrs. Lincoln writes that JFK was forced to offer the Vice-Presidency to LBJ only after "news leaks" suggested that he would. She added that Mr. Kennedy did not expect Lyndon to accept the offer.
When JFK returned from the meeting, he told his secretary that LBJ had not rejected the offer, but had expressed an interest in it. By 4 p.m., Senator Kennedy made the announcement that Lyndon B. Johnson would be his running mate.
In his book "Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero," Chris Matthews relates that JFK's decision to offer a place on the ticket to LBJ "was a model of cold-blooded politics." A Massachusetts Democrat could not win the presidency without
the support of the "once reliable Democratic South." LBJ's presence on the ticket would definitely give JFK a better chance to carry Texas.
According to Mr. Matthews, House Speaker Sam Rayburn passed along the word to the Kennedy people that if a spot on the ticket was offered, LBJ would not turn it down. It wasn't really that simple. JFK later told Pierre Salinger...
"I don't think anybody will ever really know how this all came about."
It has been well publicized that despite criticism in some quarters of LBJ's selection, JFK's father liked the idea. Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. told his son...
"Don't worry, Jack, in 2 weeks they'll say it's the smartest thing you ever did."
"Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero," by Chris Matthews, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2011.
"Kennedy & Johnson," by Evelyn Lincoln, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1968.