On April 6, 1968, President Lyndon Baines Johnson ordered federal troops to Chicago to halt violence that broke out in the city in the wake of the April 4, 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis.
By April 7 in Chicago--Palm Sunday, 1968--11 people were dead with more than 500 injured and 3,000 arrested.
Some 5,000 federal troops arrived after Johnson talked twice to the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, the father of the current mayor. Two newly transcribed tapes--done by the University of Virginia Miller Center of Public Affairs Presidential Recordings Program--reveal the appeal Daley made to Johnson for help on the afternoon of April 6. The first conversation was for three minutes starting at 5:19 p.m. The second was just a minute starting at 5:35 p.m.
Here's an excerpt of the conversation:
The Johnson conversations in the wake of the King murder show "as the streets erupted in Washington, DC., Chicago, Detroit, and Boston, Johnson struggled to provide local officials with the federal resources they needed to help restore peace to their cities," the U of Virginia presidential recordings program found.
"We're in trouble. We need some help," Daley said to Johnson.
The two are obviously familiar. Johnson calls Daley "Dick." Johnson keeps mispronouncing the name of the Illinois governor--Gov. Samuel Shapiro. Daley calls Attorney General Ramsey Clark "Ramsey."
Johnson and Daley talk briefly about the procedure that Shapiro and Ramsey need to follow to get troops to Chicago quickly.
Johnson asks Daley how many he wants.
"At least 3,000," Daley said.
Johnson replies, "Yeah, well, you better say 5 (,000.)"
To hear the complete "We're in trouble" conversation, click here.
To hear the second tape, "They're on the way," click here.
To hear the third tape, from April 19, 1968--where Johnson chastises Daley for delaying in asking for federal troops, click here.
Below, the transcript of the "We're in trouble" conversation Johnson had with Daley.
Operator: There you are.
President Johnson: Hello?
Richard Daley: Mr. President?
President Johnson: Yes, Dick ?
Daley: We're in trouble. We need some help.
President Johnson: Yes. I was afraid of that.
Daley: Yes. It's starting to break down in different places.
President Johnson: Yeah.
Daley: And we just met with our people, and they felt that we should try to get some federal assistance. I've talked to [Illinois] Governor [Samuel H.] Shapiro, and he's ready to do anything and everything, so we needed help as soon as we can get it.
President Johnson: All right. First thing you ought to do is talk to the Attorney General [Ramsey Clark∇] and see what kind of finding his legislature's got to make. In the meantime, we'll--I've talked to the Attorney General. I told him I'd call early this morning and told you, because they have to move from California, you see?
President Johnson: They won't do any good tonight.
Daley: Mm-hmm. Well, we--
President Johnson: That's why--
Daley: --hope to get them in tonight if we can.
President Johnson: Well--
Daley: Where is Ramsey tonight?
President Johnson: He's right here at the Department of Justice, and I'll switch you over there now, and you can talk to him. But the Governor has to--[unclear comment by Daley] You know the finding they have to make? [Unclear comment by Daley] They have to make a finding in the state that you've used all your [National] Guard, that you've used all your facilities, that you're unable to take care of the situation--
President Johnson: --and therefore, you ask for federal troops.
President Johnson: Then he has to make a finding for the President. The President has to issue an order. That is to keep a President from doing it except for at the instance [sic: insistence] of local officials.
Daley: I see.
President Johnson: [with Daley acknowledging] That's what I anticipated this morning, and I knew dark was coming, and I knew if we thought we'd rather have them, they ought to be moving.
Daley: Well, these fellows kept saying to you, you know, which they will, but now this--we had a meeting [unclear]--
President Johnson: That's what they did to me yesterday and I just cried.
President Johnson: I chewed--I ate my fingernails off and I finally ordered the men on my own while a mayor couldn't make up his mind. And we got them in, but they got big headlines here. Here's the--"Too Little, Too Late?"
President Johnson: "Long Stretches of the Capital Laid to Waste. What it Cost: 690 Injured, 299 Fires." So, what we'll do is we'll--we will have Governor Shapiro call Ramsey and I'll have Ramsey alert to the call. He'll be waiting for it.
Daley: All right.
President Johnson: Just tell him to call the White House, and they'll connect him. That's number--
Daley: I see.
President Johnson: Just tell him to ask for the White House in Washington. They'll connect him. He'll tell him exactly what kind of wire to send. He'll--ask him to dictate it--
President Johnson: And then, in the meantime, I'll see where he can find the troops and how many. Do you know how many they want?
Daley: At least 3,000.
President Johnson: Yeah, well, you better say 5[,000].
Daley: Yeah. I think we need 5[,000].
President Johnson: I would tell him--
President Johnson: --what you're do, and we'll be right back to you, Dick.
Daley: I'll have Shapiro call Ramsey--
President Johnson: That's right.
Daley: --through the White House.
President Johnson: That's right. Thanks.
Daley: Thanks, Mr. President--
President Johnson: Right.