Chicago Sun-Times
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After MLK killed, Mayor Richard J. Daley tells LBJ, "We're in trouble" Listen to tapes here



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:

Hear the audio

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?
Daley: Yeah.
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--
Daley: Yeah.
President Johnson: --and therefore, you ask for federal troops.
Daley: Yeah.
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.
Daley: Yeah.
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?"
Daley: Yeah.
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--
Daley: Yeah.
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--
Daley: Fine.
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.


never heard that before

I remember that time, very scary and sad. I'm actually surprised there were not more casualties. Hopefully America will not be so stupid as to go in that direction again, though somehow, with the rhetoric and terrible behavior that's been out there lately by those who need others to step on, I tend to doubt we as a nation have really learned anything. Well, some of us have learned, others cling to their hatred. God help us all...

A large part of those cities are disaster areas now. It would have been better to fight Black extremism rather than try to appease the extremists/separatists by giving away trillions of dollars and hundreds of square miles of working-class White neighborhoods. Appeasing extremists and giving them other people's property is a huge mistake. It just makes them stronger and more bold.
I suppose that Johnson thought he was providing some kind of domestic Marshall Plan for Black America with his Great Society plan, but it has backfired. Safe, thriving, working-class White neighborhoods across the country have been transformed to violent, decaying ghettos.
Working people are being taxed punitively, and the money is being given to unmarried, illiterate teenagers who have more children than responsible, dual-income couples can afford. It's a complete disaster.

I don't understand. Why didnt they reintroduce the McRib.

People behaving badly. A lesson yet to be learned.

What is the point of releasing this now? The past is dead and gone, we need to move on. Today there is much greater diversity of thought, political/economic views among americans of all cultures and races.

I suspect that someone behind the scenes wants to divide Americans along racial lines. Don't fall for it folks.

Just like the Trib the Times is a Daley family but kisser. On the home page of this website under the picture of Daley and Johnson, the Times says Daley made an appeal to Johnson for federal troops in Chicago. What was the appeal. All Dumb Daley said was "Were in trouble." Johnson did most of the talking and instructed Daley what to do. There was nothing moving about Daley's comments what so ever. Never amazes me how Dumb Sr. and Dumb Jr. get so much credit for being retards!

That was another black eye for America. I don't know why some people in America think that the answer to violence is more violence. We see how that is working in the middle-east. We see how well it is working between Israel and Palestine. Violence only begets more violence no matter how powerful a country is because when the underdog's back is against the wall, we will see what's happening now. Suicide Bombings. I guess America will not be happy until it starts here.

This is very relevant to today. The MLK assassination inspired real, actual violence. Not the largely imaginary violence being reported by an exploitative press today. Yelling at a political demonstration is not violence; 11 dead and 500 injured is violence. Let's keep things in perspective.

I witnessed that time here in Chicago and was on the West Side two days after the riots. Even though the fires were at ebb, I remember smoke still billowing from the windows, broken glass and debris sprewed throughout the streets. Not a very nice time in Chicago.
Then Mayor Richard J. Daley, done a marvelous job in controlling the crowds and restoring peace.
Later on, he was critized for the "shoot to kill or mame order". If I were Mayor at that time, I would have echoed the same order.
Anyone who visits Holy Sepulcure Cemetery, should say a special prayer for a special man who made the City what it is today.

In response to censored1, I wonder if he has ever heard of the term "white flight?" The places to which censored1 refers became what they were because white people fled the areas in droves.

I those few days and nights are etched in my memory, I was about 6 and from my luxury view from Robert Taylor Homes, I could see a glow all over the city. I also remember this man came to Chicago to visit Marquette Park and these White People were spitting and throwing things at him and yelling nigger and I was scared. Emmitt Till's service was held at my Church Robert's Temple. Now today we have groups spitting on Black Congressmen and throwing things and yelling Nigger. When we realize that Biology makes us who we are there are no superior or inferior beings on this planet. The rich keep the poor blacks and poor whites fighting while they rob the country blind, and export jobs to 3 world countries where $12 dollars a day is considered well off. Keep fighting so we can all starve.

I remember those days. I was 12. My dad worked across the street from the Robert Taylor homes. In fact, he worked there until he died in 1980. We were scared that he wouldn't get home since so much of the violence was down there. He made it home safely that night and went back to work as soon as it was safe. Believe me, my mother didn't like that. Even with the violence running through the city wspecially in '68 and'69, I felt safe there. Something about the way Mayor Daley handled everything and comparing it to what was happening in other parts of the country-we were lucky.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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