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LBJ Tours Impoverished Areas

Apr. 24, 1964 - President Johnson stumped through pockets of poverty today, campaigning like a candidate on election eve.

He came to talk poverty, not politics, he insisted.

But somewhere along the way, the roars of the mammoth crowds turned his scheduled poverty tour into a political triumph.

South Bend mobbed him. Pittsburgh hailed him. And people from some of the poorest areas of West Virginia and Kentucky came out of the greening hills and coves to tell him their stories of hard luck.

The aim of his anti-poverty program, the President told steelworkers in Pittsburgh, is quite simple: “A little house with a picture on the wall and a rug on the floor and music in the home.”

He saw for himself, as he helicoptered into impoverished eastern Kentucky, that some homes had neither pictures nor rugs.

He drove up a mountainside to visit two families living in shacks on the banks of the slow, winding Rock Castle Creek.

The Tom Fletcher family — the parents and eight children — were on the porch of their three-room, tarpaper-covered house to greet him. The Noah Bowens and their three children came over from the shack next door.

The President sat down on a pile of lumber and talked long and hard to Mr. Fletcher, an unemployed sawmill worker who earned $400 last year.

“Don’t forget now,” the President told Mr. Fletcher, “I want you to keep those kids in school.”

President Johnson’s five-state swing, lasting from daybreak in Chicago until after 9 p.m. in the mountains of West Virginia, left policemen and other security officers shaken. Bareheaded and smiling, the President repeatedly plunged into the screaming crowds, shaking every hand in sight.

Speaking under a bright moon at the Huntington Airport, the President again pledged to erase poverty in America.

“Today I took a trip that should be unnecessary,” he told several hundred persons gathered to see him off.

Mr. Johnson said he would soon send a message to Congress asking for action to implement the Appalachia anti-poverty program.

The President then again shook hands with all within reach — as he had been doing all day — and stepped into his jet plane, Air Force One, for the trip back to Washington, ending a 14-hour nonstop day.



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