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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Daisy Bates, October 11, 1976. Interview G-0009. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Voter registration drive continues after JFK's death

In this excerpt, Bates recalls hearing of President Kennedy’s assassination and how Lyndon Johnson reached out to her afterward, increasing the salary she had been receiving from the government for voter registration.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Daisy Bates, October 11, 1976. Interview G-0009. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Then did you do the same kind of work for President Johnson?
DAISY BATES:
Yes. I came home. I was at home. I would work three weeks, and then I would come home and spend a week. So I was home. I came to Chicago, and I spoke for a minister there in church. And I left there that Monday and came on home. Well, I was on my way to the Council on Human Relations office, and I kept my radio on, when the news came through that Kennedy had been shot. And I was just home on leave. And oh, I had worked at a little district office, and so when I came on home I just couldn't believe it, to see what was happening afterwards. unknown But anyway, L. C. asked me, "So what are you going to do?" I said, "I'm unknown going back." unknown But I didn't go back. They sent me my check. I had one more unknown check coming. And when Johnson came down and talked to Reeves—this is Frank Reeves—he said, "Where's Daisy Bates? They said she used to be around here." And they said, "She is at home." "Where's home?" "In Little Rock. She's staying in Little Rock." unknown . He said, "Why isn't she working?" unknown "You know she can't get a job in Arkansas." He said, "Well, suppose you get her here Thursday, a meeting." He said, "I'll call her." He said, "Then unknown make a reservation for her at the Mayflower, and call her." So he called me, and he said, "The President commands your presence on Thursday morning. I'm going to take you to his office at nine o'clock." And I thought he was kidding. unknown He said, "No, I'm not kidding." I said, "You're not kidding?" He said, "No, President Johnson wants to see you." Mr. Bates was crazy about President Johnson. So sure enough, the man at the ticket office called and said, "We have a ticket for you." American Airlines. And so I said, "Okay, unknown . They called; I went on down and picked up the ticket, and that must have been on Monday or Tuesday, and packed. And on Wednesday evening, unknown I got there about nine-something, and went to see Johnson the next morning. And he was one of the nicest persons to work for. And he gave me a raise in salary. I think I was making under Kennedy about ten thousand dollars. unknown And he raised it two thousand. He said, "Well, what were you making?" So he upped it to twelve thousand.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
And you were doing the same work, voter registration?
DAISY BATES:
Voter registration and getting the vote out, show them how to get the vote out. unknown And we used the Governor's private plane. I didn't like that, but we did it—because you see, the insurance didn't pay off a private plane. And in Indianapolis, Indiana— unknown that's unknown been a Republican stronghold for years—they had told me, "You can't go in here and expect them to vote Republican. They've unknown got all the Democrats together." And we talked about what could we do there. Could I be of any use unknown to them. Let's see. I think I said, "This is a Republican town. And we want their votes. Work harder." (Laughs) And I was working awful hard.