Marvin Watson on the LBJ Library Austin When Marvin Watson, President Johnson’s next-office neighbor for three and a half years in the White House, tells about the Johnson Library at the University of Texas, it may be assumed that he is reflecting President Johnson’s views. The postmaster general spoke on the subject recently on the campus here. “The president keeps the most exact records of any president in history,” Watson saidmemos, records of conversations and phone calls, even photographs recording “the facial expressions” as decisions a r e made. “Someday,” Watson said, “it will all come out.” Johnson’s records, Watson s a i d, contain everything that could possibly b e accumulated …. He asked that no holds be barred, but only that all materials be assembled.” These records cover his 37 years of public life and are “the last great gift that he can give to the American people.” “Here in these halls and on these grounds,” Watson said, “will reside all the facts and all the reasoning …. Everything that he has accumulated in the way of public records will be in this library,” and taken together, they will be two or three times as large as the records accumulated by any other AmeriCan public figure. ‘NwiliristiffiwarisifiwpWriarINNIENNIIIP*** says.’ 6 Johnson also will speak, next spring, at Rice University 17 and occasionally at his alma mater, Southwest Texas State.’ 8 He has received invitations to teach at more than 40 colleges and universities throughout the country, among them Yale, Harvard Law, MIT and Texas Christian University. He is not expected to become a member of any school’s faculty, confining himself to lectures while doing work on some magazine articles and one or more books about his career and travelling to foreign countries. 19 In any case, as he recently told a reporter for the UT-Austin daily, “I’ll be spending most of my time in Austin.” 20 Livingston expects that some “big names” will lecture at the LBJ Schoo1. 21 Columnists Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson recently reported that Johnson told Vice President Hubert Humphrey: “They’ve got a school to train diplomats at Princeton. Why shouldn’t we have a school to train city and county officials and congressmen? I’m going to get you down there to speak, Hubert. And I’m not going to pay you anything, either. I’m going to get Wayne Morse and some of those other great orators to come down. They charge too much and I’m not going to pay them anything ‘but their expenses. I want ’em to spend some time with the kids on the campus. I’m going to invite Stokely Carmichael and Rap Brown and we’re going to have free-for-all debates. I’m going to show ’em what free speech really is.” 22 The school will offer a two-year course for 200 graduate students. The first year will be devoted to basic courses in administration political processes and government service. The second year will be given to specialties of each student’s particular interest. Faculty members will be drawn from the rest of the university; some recruiting of additional teachers has begun by existing departments of UTAustin, says Livingston, in anticipation of the needs of the LBJ school. PLANNING FOR the LBJ Li 4 The Texas Observer brary began almost immediately upon Johnson’s assumption of the presidency in November, 1963, 23 when Heath began negotiating with Johnson for placement of such a library at UT-Austin. Johnson for a time considered several other locales, his boyhood home at Johnson City, Washington, DC, SWT, Baylor, the Library of Congress and Syracuse University, among others. 24 Erwin recalls that “If it were going to be in Johnson City or in San Marcos, there would have to be a public subscription. There was no way to get around that. The Kennedys were collecting money left and right [for the Kennedy Library] I’m certain that the president didn’t want to compete with them. Besides, think of the impropriety of raising money for a president who is still in office,” Erwin said in 1967, adding: “The Kennedys are going around blackjacking other countries for contributions. They are taking money right out of their foreign aid allotments.” 25 On Nov. 24, 1964, twenty days after Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater in the presidential election, Mrs. Johnson arrived on the UT-Austin campus, where she was accompanied ‘by Heath, Erwin, Ransom, humanities assistant librarian Mrs. Frances H. Hudspeth, an unidentified representative of the National Archives, three secret service men and two secretaries. “I had a marvelous time touring the campus,” Mrs. Johnson said afterwards, “seeing what changes have been made since I was here. I never got to do enough of that when Lynda was here at the university.” The visit had been unannounced beforehand; Ransom said it was a purely social. Erwin was carrying a long roll of what appeared to be architectural plans. 26 During the 1950’s the university had bid for the Johnson papers while LBJ was senate majority leader. When Johnson became president Ransom and Heath frequently visited LBJ at his ranch pushing the idea of locating the library at Austin. 27 At another time, during a party in Erwin’s Austin home, the president was again approached about the idea. In the spring of 1965 the UT regents made an informal bid for the library. As Johnson was against seeking public contributions or asking for a congressional money the UT offer suited him. 28 The university pledged to build at its own expense the library building whose furnishings and maintenance would be the responsibility of the federal government. The school promised at least a 14-acre site and at least 100,000 square feet of floor space for the library. 29 Mrs. Johnson, a UT alumna, has been credited with being instrumental in the president’s decision to locate the library in Austin 30 In late 1965 the university announced that two architectural firms would handle the LBJ Library/School project, New York-based Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and Austin’s Brooks, Barr, Graeber and White. Heath and Mrs. Johnson had seen several projects designed by Gordon Bunshaft, chief designer of the Skidmore firm. Bunshaft, as UT officials pointed out in their news release announcing the architectural appointments, was a classmate at MIT of Max Brooks of the Austin firm. Brooks et al. had been the UT consulting architects for three years at this time, was associated in the design of the new Federal Center in Austin in which LBJ has offices, helped design the US embassy in Mexico City, the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston and the new Labor Dept. Bldg. in Washington 31 In the spring of 1966 the university announced the library site. 32 In the fall of 1967 the university announced that bids on the Library/School complex would be accepted, estimating at the time that the project would cost $10.7 million. 33 Bids were a good deal higher than that, however, the Bateson firm low at $11,849,000. 34 ONE OF THE architects in Brooks’ office, James Stanley Walker, tells the Observer that the Brooks and Skidmore firms likely got the Library/ School job because of Brooks’ association with the Johnsons. Walker was one of seven architects who worked on the project for Brooks under Bunshaft’s general supervision. Walker recalls that when he first went to work for Brooks, in 1967, Walker helped design a 50-unit public housing project for the elderly at Johnson City. Walker says he was told by a superior, not Brooks, that “I want these to look like The Birthplace,” the referen’be being to the LBJ birthplace. “I said, ‘yes, sir,’ ” Walker recalls, “and sure enough that’s what they look like today, fifty Birthplaces.” “The Birthplace is not to be confused with the Boyhood Home,” Walker adds. He recalls that once he and J. Roy White, whom Walker describes as Lady Bird’s architect, had gone to Johnson City during work on remodeling “his” bedroom at the ranch. While there, Walker says, he found that references to Johnson around Johnson City and the ranch frequently are “his” and “he” and “him” without it being thought necessary first to indicate the speaker means Johnson. Walker also learned that, in Johnson
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