Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at a Party Marking the 85th Birthday of Former Representative Carl Vinson.

November 18, 1968

THANK YOU so much for coming here today to help us extend birthday greetings to a great American.

George Christian, anticipating some queries from the press, asked me this afternoon how I would characterize this group. I started to say, "Friends and admirers of Carl Vinson." But then I realized that if we had all his friends and admirers, we probably couldn't fit them in D.C. Stadium. So I guess I'd have to say selected friends and admirers. Few public servants have been so honored and so respected in their lifetimes as Carl Vinson. And none has deserved it more than he.

It was just a little over 4 years ago, on the eve of his retirement, that I had the privilege of presenting to him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I want to read to you the citation that went with that medal:

"Master legislative captain, helmsman, and navigator, his fixed star has always been the national interest."

For half a century, this great and good man graced the Congress of the United States. Through our birth pangs as a global power, through two terrible World Wars, through isolationism and a cold war, through the momentous first years of the atomic age, he stood like a towering rock, lending his voice and his vision to the cause of national responsibility. His voice was not always heeded, but his vision was never faulty.

And if the Congress is, as I believe it is, the combined product of those who have served in it since it was founded, then Carl Vinson will surely go down in history as one of those who added more honor to that body than he took from it. He belongs with the Clays, the Websters, the Calhouns, and the Rayburns as a legislative giant. And he is a living legend in Georgia, the State he represented so ably and well.

On a more personal note, I think everyone here knows the debt that I owe to Carl Vinson. He was my Chairman, my tutor, and my friend. And in more recent times, he has advised me, he has bolstered me, and he has stood by me when it was not always the most popular thing to do. Now I could go on and on, singing his praises, but if there is anything I learned from Carl Vinson, it is brevity.

So, with your leave, Mr. Chairman, I'll just make one more point. Power and greatness seldom carry with them the guarantee of affection. But Carl Vinson was the exception. For more than 30 years, he was not only one of the most powerful men in Washington, but one of the most beloved men as well. And we are here today to prove it. Happy birthday, Carl, and God bless you. Maybe we can all make a pilgrimage to Milledgeville 5 years from now to celebrate your 90th birthday. Or maybe we'll rent D.C. Stadium and really do it up right.

Note: The President spoke at 4 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House during a birthday party in honor of Carl Vinson, Representative from Georgia 1914-1964, who served as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. During his remarks the President referred to George E. Christian, Special Assistant to the President.

For remarks of the President upon presenting the 1964 Presidential Medal of Freedom Awards, see 1963-64 volume, this series, Book II, Item 568.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at a Party Marking the 85th Birthday of Former Representative Carl Vinson. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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