Miller Center


University of Virginia

:: ABOUT the PRP ::   

Between 1940 and 1973, six American presidents from both political parties secretly recorded just under 5,000 hours of conversations. This site is designed as a service to the research community by making freely available all of the presidential recordings, along with relevant research materials, so that scholars, teachers, students, and the public can hear and use these remarkable tapes for themselves.

The site is hosted and maintained by the Presidential Recordings Program at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs.       

:: NOW Available :: 

(May 2005): The Presidential Recordings: Lyndon B. Johnson, vols 1-3: The Kennedy Assassination and the Transfer of Power (Nov. 1963-Jan. 1964). W.W. Norton. Edited by Kent Germany, Max Holland, Robert David Johnson, & David Shreve. Includes Multimedia DVD with all the audio corresponding to the transcripts.

Click here to listen to samples

. . . . . .

"[T]hese volumes offer a tantalizing glimpse into the innerworkings of the presidency and Johnson's style of governing." Eric Foner, New York Times Book Review

"It remains the most extraordinary presidential transition in history, and now, with the release of new tape transcripts, it is almost certainly the best documented of the tragic transitions that have followed the deaths of US presidents. That is why the new presidential recordings in the remarkable series presented by the Miller Center of Public Affairs of the University of Virginia are so captivating. They lend history an ear." David Shribman, Boston Globe

"This is a riveting and very important contribution to the historical record of the consequential 1960s." Jay Freeman, Booklist, American Library Association

"Carefully, painstakingly, knowingly transcribed and annotated, here is the true story of one of the most fascinating periods in American history."
Evan Thomas

"Here is the raw material of history as it should be presented: with scrupulous concern for accuracy. . . . Historians of the future will know they can depend on this material; the Presidential Recordings Program is creating an invaluable historical resource."
Robert A. Caro

Click here to watch a C-Span recording of an event at the LBJ Library where the editors discuss the volumes in detail. [Requires RealPlayer]

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:: Research Spotlight ::   

Taylor Branch on Civil Rights and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Taylor Branch was one of the first to make extensive use of the JFK and LBJ tapes in his Pulitzer Prize-winning history of American in the King years, Parting the Waters (1989), and his follow-up, Pillar of Fire (1999).

:: From the Headlines ::   

Eugene McCarthy dies, aged 89

Former Senator Eugene McCarthy (Democrat, Minnesota) died November 10, 2005. McCarthy's surprising success in the 1968 presidential primaries, running on a stridently anti-Vietnam War platform, helped convince President Lyndon Johnson to withdraw from the 1968 presidential election.

McCarthy and Johnson had long sparred on the Vietnam issue. In this February 1966 call, President Johnson tried to convince McCarthy to tone down his public attacks. He wanted an end to the war, Johnson said, but "I just can't be the architect of surrender."

From the LBJ Tapes:

Other resources:

From the White House to the Supreme Court

On September 3, 2005, President Bush nominated White House Counsel Harriet Miers to become Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Over the past decade, Bush has appointed Ms. Miers to several positions, and at one point retained her as his personal attorney.

Forty years ago, President Johnson nominated his longtime attorney and confidant to replace Associate Justice Arthur Goldberg. Fortas demurred, but Johnson was not deterred. While he considered several other candidates, including a number of Republicans, Johnson did not stop pressuring Fortas and eventually got his man.

From the LBJ Tapes:

Other resources:

Fly Me to the Moon

On September 19, 2005, NASA unveiled a program to carry out President Bush's earlier promise to return to the moon before the end of the next decade. The announcement comes at a time of intense debate and scrutiny of federal government spending, especially with large expenditures on the Iraq War and the redevelopment of the Gulf Coast region in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

On May 25, 1961, John F. Kennedy made the bold promise that Americans would go to the moon before the end of the decade. Acknowledging that his interest in the space program was fueled more by the political motives, especially the Cold War competition with the Soviet Union, than any scientific gains, Kennedy struggled to justify the expense of NASA's Apollo lunar landing program in the context of other needs. "We've wrecked our budget on all these other domestic programs," Kennedy complained in a meeting on November 21, 1962, "and the only justification for it, in my opinion, to do it in the pell-mell fashion is because we hope to beat them and demonstrate that starting behind it [them], as we did by a couple of years, by God, we passed them. I think it would be a helluva thing for us."

From the JFK Tapes:

Prelude to Faith-Based Initiatives?

In late 2002, President George W. Bush issued an executive order that expanded federal funding for faith-based social programs. This presidential action marked a new stage, if perhaps not the conclusion, of a dispute that has simmered for much of the last decade regarding the appropriate role of religious organizations in the delivery of federally supported social services.

The contemporary debate over the expansion of federal funding for faithbased social services, however, has proceeded on an assumption that such initiatives represent a clear break from past patterns of American social policy. During the debate overthe Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) of 1964, which formed the legislative cornerstone of the War on Poverty, President Johnson, his key domestic policy advisers, and leading members of Congress engaged in an intense series of discussions and political maneuvers that eventually defined the conditions of participation for church-affiliated organizations and programs.

From the LBJ Tapes:

LBJ, Louisiana, and Hurricane Betsy, September 1965

On the evening of September 9, 1965, Hurricane Betsy came ashore near Grand Isle, Louisiana, as a Category 4 storm, with the National Weather Service reporting wind gusts near 160 mph. As the storm tracked inland, the city of New Orleans was hit with 110 mph winds, a storm surge around 10 feet, and heavy rain. Betsy devastated low-lying areas on the eastern side of the city and eventually led to the expansion of an already impressive levee system to protect a city that lay mostly below sea-level. After the storm passed, Louisiana Senator Russell Long called President Johnson to get the President to tour the devastated areas.

From the LBJ Tapes:

Chief Justice William Rehnquist

On September 3, 2005, Chief Justice William Rehnquist died. He had served for 33 years on the Supreme Court, having been nominated by President Richard Nixon in late 1971 to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of John Marshal Harlan, II. Rehnquist had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer in late 2004.

From the Nixon Tapes:

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