Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of Buford Ellington as Director, Office of Emergency Planning.

March 04, 1965

Governor, Catherine, Members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen:

This is a very proud occasion for me. There are few men in public life for whom I have such respect, admiration, and affection as I have for Buford Ellington. Ever since I became President I have wanted to have him as part of my administration, and it is very gratifying to me this morning to have him here now.

There is another story about this occasion I think I should tell, because we don't want any secrets around the White House. This ceremony represents an exercise in emergency planning--by me and not Buford.

The background is this. That doesn't mean this is a backgrounder. That is on the record.

I was so proud to have the Governor aboard I spent several days congratulating myself to all who would listen. And finally, several nights ago, I told Buford I wanted to make a speech about him when he had a swearing-in ceremony in a week or so--and Buford looked a little ill. He went ahead and finished his supper and after he completed his dessert he looked up at me and said, "Mr. President, I have already been sworn in and I'm on the job."

Well, knowing that everybody sends out invitations and has relatives and friends, their Senators, Congressmen, and others present for such an event, I asked him why he didn't invite me. He said, well, he didn't invite anybody. He just got himself sworn in without any fuss or feathers. Then he explained that always since he had been in public life he had tried to follow a personal policy as laid down by Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson said: "My great wish is to go in a strict but silent performance of my duty, to avoid attracting notice and to keep my name out of the newspapers."

I told him right away that he could have his policy but we had to have a different one, and that we just couldn't have the same. So we declared Buford Ellington's lack of publicity on his swearing in to be a disaster and we proceeded to do some emergency planning of our own--and this is the result.

Seriously, over the years of our Nation's history the Governors of the States have produced much of the leadership that America has followed. At this period of our history the governorships are being revitalized by a new breed of men--men that are close to the people, men that are close to their problems, men that are deeply and responsibly involved in finding answers to the Nation's needs.

I believe that Governor Ellington is a member of that generation. As a great Governor of the great State of Tennessee he proved himself to be an outstanding representative of the modern responsible legislator and statehouse leader.

The office in which he will now serve can be, and I would like for it to be, a vital point of contact between the Federal and the State governments. I spend a good deal of time talking to the distinguished Vice President about how we can see that the Federal Government and its activities are more closely coordinated with the activities of the States and the activities of the cities.

In the year 2000, 80 percent of our people are going to be living in the cities. The Vice President, as the able and outstanding distinguished mayor of Minneapolis, has agreed to assume another responsibility and try to be the administration's point of contact with the mayors of the United States. And working with Governor Ellington, we are going to try to have the cities and the Governors work more closely with us--the choice of the people in those two places of both parties.

We are planning very shortly, at the suggestion of Governor Ellington, to have the Governors come to Washington to talk to them about the various problems that face us--the problems of the cities, the problems of transportation, the problems of pollution and the problems of crime, the problems of civil rights, the problems of economics and how to maintain the economy, problems of our relations with other nations.

We think that we not only can give them some information that we have collected here and is made available to us from day to day, but they may be able to counsel with us and perhaps all of us can have a better understanding of how to give the taxpayer his dollar's worth.

I hope that these relations can be marked by new respect and a new understanding, by an absence of bipartisanship--by effective devotion to the needs of the people that transcends political boundaries. For the task of advancing Federal-State relations to a new level of constructiveness, I think that Governor Ellington is well suited.

Chester Arthur once listed the characteristics of a model public servant, and among them he named these: probity, industry, good judgment, good habits, good temper, vision, patience, order, courtesy, tact, self-reliance, manly deference to superior officers, and manly considerations for inferiors.

In the many years that I have observed Governor Ellington I know of few men who measure so highly by that list as he does. I think that we are fortunate and I know that I am fortunate to have him here to serve in these times. He will sit with our Cabinet regularly, he will sit with our National Security Council on the most serious problems of the day, but most important, he will sit with his friends in the Cabinet and the White House and give them the benefit of a mature and seasoned and I think, generally speaking, very wise judgment on the problems of the day.

Note: The President spoke at 1:20 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. His opening words "Governor, Catherine" referred to Buford Ellington, former Governor of Tennessee, and his wife Catherine.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Swearing In of Buford Ellington as Director, Office of Emergency Planning. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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