11.03.2010

Thursday, November 3, 1960: LBJ photo explained



A campaign appearance in Amarillo, Texas, by the Democratic ticket yields this memorable photo.

The photo has frequently -- and incorrectly -- been described as Johnson shouting back at a heckler. What it actually depicts is Johnson yelling at pilots of nearby planes to cut their engines so that Kennedy could speak. Also, the photo sometimes appears online with Lady Bird Johnson cropped out, putting the focus squarely on LBJ's legendary temper.

There is some debate as to whether the pilots' actions were intentional. The Johnson biography on the U.S. Senate web site describes it this way: "(Johnson) also pressed for a joint appearance of the Democratic candidates somewhere in Texas. They arranged the meeting at the airport in Amarillo, where campaign advance men stopped all air traffic during the brief ceremonies so that the candidates could address the crowd. But they had not counted on the Republican-leaning airline pilots, who deliberately ran the engines of their planes in order to drown out the speakers. At the close of the ruined appearance, a photographer snapped a concerned Kennedy placing his hands on Johnson's shoulder, trying to calm his angry, gesticulating running mate."

Kennedy made light of the noise during his speech, quipping "That is Dick coming in" (Richard Nixon was also campaigning in Texas that day) and "They can't stop the truth anyway. I don't care how much that engine warms up."

The picture was taken by Richard Pipes, a photographer for the Amarillo Globe-News, who described the scene as "a noisy mess."

* Cropped image: @
* Johnson's speech: @
* Kennedy's speech: @
* 2000 story from Amarillo paper: @

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