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LBJ Received Enthusiastically in Georgia

May 8, 1964 - President Johnson, almost mobbed by enthusiastic Georgians in Gainesville and in Atlanta, stood up in the South today to say in his deep Texas accent that “full participation in our society” can no longer be denied men because of their race or color.

“The rights of no single American are secure,” he told a breakfast meeting of Georgia legislators, “until the rights of all Americans are secure.”

Johnson, given a roaring reception by more than half a million Southerners in the state where General William T. Sherman marched, repeatedly urged the Old Confederacy to bury forever its “dead issues” and move fully into “rewarding and fruitful union” with the rest of the nation.

The President identified himself wholeheartedly as a Southerner with family roots in the red earth of Georgia, where one of his forebears was sheriff of Henry County; and when his daughter, Lynda Bird, rose to speak, she said “y’all” as naturally as she smiled.

“But I come to you today to speak to you as an American,” Johnson said in Atlanta. “As I am President of all the people, you are part of all the people. I speak to you not, therefore, as Georgians, this morning, or as Southerners, but as Americans.

“Your hopes are the nation’s hopes; your problems are the nation’s problems. You bear the mark of a Southern heritage proudly, but that which is Southern is far less important than that which is American.”

Johnson got an ovation both from the Atlanta audience of more than 1,000 legislators and their guests, and from a crowd estimated at more than 40,000 jammed into every inch of sunbaked Franklin D. Roosevelt Square in Gainesville.

In Atlanta, more than a half-million persons lined 15 miles of streets to watch his motorcade. The crowd was so overwhelming that Police Chief Herbert Jenkins was moved to remark: “I’ve never seen anything like it in 18 years, including Franklin D. Roosevelt and ‘Gone With the Wind.’”

Roosevelt was the last President to visit Atlanta, in 1944. The city was the scene of the premiere of “Gone With the Wind” in 1939 — one of the most famous of all motion-picture events.

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