From the Archives: LBJ talks with Gov. Breathitt in 1964 About Presidential Election

In early August of 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson and Gov. Edward “Ned” Breathitt of Kentucky spoke about the upcoming presidential election and arrangements being made behind the scenes to ensure LBJ carried Kentucky’s delegates.

The phone call, obtained by Kentucky Fried Politics via a National Archives search, discusses an informal survey from the Kentucky Democratic delegation in regards to Hubert Humphrey, who was being discussed as a possible Vice Presidential running mate with Johnson.

Breathitt told LBJ that Humphrey, who would go on to be Johnson’s Vice-President, would not “hurt in Kentucky,” but the Democratic delegation polled, said he ” wouldn’t add much,” either. Among the Kentucky delegation, Breathitt reports that they are “softly for” Humphrey as VP, adding the Humphrey came and spoke before Young Democrats, but was “not known at all here in Kentucky.”

An audience of Democrats, “warmed up” to Humphrey, Breathitt told the president. He also added insider information that the Louisville Courier-Journal was expected to publish a “strong editorial in support” of Humphrey in the commonwealth.

The Kentucky governor, who served from December 1963 to December 1967, also told LBJ they wanted to name a Kentucky campaign chairman for LBJ. Speaking with Gov. Bert Combs, who preceded Breathitt in office and was appointed by LBJ to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, “Earle,” who is presumably former U.S. Senator and Gov. Earle Clements, and former Gov. Lawrence Wetherby, who all want LBJ to name Frank Paxton, the publisher of the Paducah Sun as his Kentucky campaign chair.

It was not decided on the call, but Johnson would go on to select Paxton to chair the Kentucky campaign for LBJ.

“You get that group to do where they’ll go the way you want to, and let’s not have any quarreling up there,” Johnson warns Breathitt on the call.

The two also discuss former Gov. A.B. “Happy” Chandler’s resignation from the Kentucky delegation on the call, part of which is inaudible.

Johnson would go on to win Kentucky with 64 percent of the popular vote against Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater, who garnered 36 percent. Johnson won the presidency in 1964 picking up 486 electoral college votes, including Kentucky’s nine electors.

The phone recording is part of the LBJ Presidential Library collection.

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