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4rly MY NOW: c4Oralw SOMWAMONNO IP” Swearing in of Lyndon B. Johnson as president. photo courtesy of LBJ Library by Cecil Stoughton the authors of those ‘surprising articles in the big magazines in the late 1950s prom`oting the lanky Lyndon Johnson of Texas for president of the United States. I remember \(I .am not referring, for this Lady Bird nor Mary Margaret said one word all evening. Oh, perhaps one or two, but I don’t remember even one. They sat silent and still as good women of old were supposed to during an argument among the men. Yet both Bird and Mary Margaret were highly intelligent. How strange the evening must have seemed to them, their guy trying to turn a journalist into his secretly bought public promoter, their senator and this younger guy battling over irreconcilable opinions, completely missing each other, reaching no agreement. Many’s the time since that evening there has replayed on the stage in my mind a vivid reseeing of what happened upon my departure that evening. I am five or six feet away from Lyndon and me, watching the two of us illuminated by the ranch-house lighting locked in animated argument in front of his house at his low wire fence, he inside the fence, I outside, our knees braced against it and each other, intensely disputing directly into each other’s faces a few inches apart, he leaning first a little into my face, and then a little more, and then so much my head is bent back, and I shift my heels backward to be able to stand up straight to him again. My first associate editor at the Observer, Billy Lee Brammer, a reporter’ on the Austin daily \(and later the author of the classic Texas novel The Gay started showing up unbidden evenings and helping me clip the 3-foot-high mounds of the rotgut Texas daily newspapers of that era, then quit downtown and came on staff. He flourished in reporting Texas politics for us, most memorably “the Port Arthur story” and the Austin lobby’s junket for Texas legislators to the Kentucky Derby, until Johnson hired him onto his Washington staff. The liberal Democratic organizing of the ’50s caught hold in the cities, especially in Houston and San Antonio. In the 1956 Democratic state convention, over the furious objections of Johnson and his operatives there, the delegates elected Mrs. Randolph, who had become the de facto publisher of the Observer, to the Democratic National Committee. Four years later, favorite son Johnson trounced his opponents in Texas and swept into that year’s state convention, where he had Mrs. Randolph replaced. In one of these. conventions, Mrs. Randolph told me, Johnson sent her word asking her to call on him, and when she did he asked expansively, “Well, Mrs. Randolph, what can I do for you?” She replied: “Nothing.” Texas labor leaders Fred Schmidt and Hank Brown told me that, when they lobbied the Democrats’ Senate leader in Washington, he railed against the Observer and me, on some specified occasion with a copy of the journal on his desk. Mrs. Randolph said that when he asked her to get me to do something or other she replied, “Talk to him:’ At least I could think, when for example I wrote a series of columns on the horrors of nuclear weapons, or during the Vietiam war when I ran a headline across the front page, “Will Johnson Bomb China?” that the man himself might be reading it. During one state Democratic convention, I was running tandem some with Mark Sullivan, the Southwest bureau chief for Time-Life, for which I was a stringer. Mark and I approached Johnson on the convention floor for an interview. Johnson barked out that he wouldn’t talk to us with me there because “that boy prints lies about me:” We left himor at least I did; I am not sure what Mark did. That was the first and has been the only time in my life when I have directly experienced from another person the will to ruin me. The Time-Life connection was enabling me to hold up my financial end with .my wife and children despite my annual Observer salary of $6,500. With this one ferocious remark to my boss at Time-Life, Johnson surely meant to kill me professionally. Deep in my convention story in the Observer, I reported the scene and what Johnson had said about me. I was deeply offended, and a year or two had to pass before my anger about it subsided. But Time-Life stood by me \(in fact in 1961, after a lunch with Henry Luce, I was invited to join the staff of Time, In 1959, preparing a special focus for the Observer on Johnson’s candidacy for president, I asked him for an interview in Washington, and he granted it. I remember that on my way into his regal office as majority leader, I saw Mary Margaret at her desk, and we exchanged cautious smiles and slight nods when my eyes briefly met hers as I passed. The interview went well enough. This time I got the full Johnson treatment of 14 THE TEXAS OBSERVER AUGUST 22, 2008