top of page

LBJ Speaks Out on Civil Rights in Florida

Feb. 27, 1964 - President Johnson swung into the South today with the blunt warning that “full participation in our society can no longer be reserved to men of one color.” His Administration, he said, believes “the Constitution applies to every American, of every religion, of every region, and of every race.” It is pledged, he continued, “to protect the constitutional rights of every American.” And it will “press forward,” he said, “with legislation, with education, and with action until we have eliminated the last barrier of intolerance.” “For as long as freedom is denied to some, the liberty of each of us is in danger,” the President said in a speech at a Democratic fund-raising dinner in Miami Beach, Fla.

These were some of the most forthright statements on civil rights a President had ever addressed to a Southern audience. President Kennedy made somewhat similar remarks to an academic convocation at Vanderbilt University in Nashville last spring. Delivered in Mr. Johnson’s Texas accent, the President’s words were even more striking tonight.

Mr. Johnson’s audience of about 3,500 Democrats in the Fontainebleau Hotel had each paid $100 a plate for dinner, entertainment, and a long evening of political oratory. It was the President’s first openly political speech, and he was in a confident, fighting mood. “The Democratic party,” he said, “welcomes all challengers.”

The President also ridiculed one of the leading Republican Presidential candidates, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. He did not mention the Senator by name, but the audience caught the allusion and applauded. He had heard, Mr. Johnson said, that some people thought “we ought to send a division of U.S Marines in to turn on a water faucet.” “But I thought it was much wiser to send an admiral shut it off,” he said. Sen. Goldwater suggested some days ago that the U.S. should have sent Marines to prevent the Castro regime from shutting off water supplies of the Guantanamo naval base. Mr. Johnson’s reference was to Admiral John Bulkeley, who ordered his men to cut the pipeline.

Earlier today, President Johnson braved a pouring rain at Palatka, near Jacksonville, to throw a switch that began excavation of the 107-mile Cross-Florida Canal. Then Mr. Johnson flew to Palm Beach to pay a courtesy call on Joseph P. Kennedy, father of President Kennedy. The former Ambassador has been an invalid since suffering a stroke in December 1961.

One well-informed political source in Florida said President Johnson would carry Florida’s 14 electoral votes — a total second in the South only to the 25 cast by Texas — unless there was a “new civil rights blow-up” or he made an “obnoxious” Vice-Presidential choice. By that, he said, he meant a choice of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.


bottom of page