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Telegram to Governor Romney and Mayor Cavanagh in Reply to Their Request for Disaster Relief Assistance in Detroit.

July 27, 1967

IN REPLY TO your telegram, after conferring with the appropriate members of the Cabinet, I have directed them to help meet the emergency health, food and safety needs of the citizens of Detroit that cannot be met by state and local resources. To that end I have asked Mr. Vance and Mr. Christopher to confer with you immediately to determine what those needs are and to report promptly.

I have also instructed the officials concerned to move without delay to meet the needs of those who have suffered at the hands of rioters, as soon as those needs can be determined. The decision to move food into Detroit for those in need was made yesterday. I have directed the release of drugs and hospital equipment for emergency use and they are available upon the request of your health authorities.


Note: The telegram was read by George E. Christian, Special Assistant to the President, at his news conference at 4:10 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, in the Fish Room at the White House. It was not made public in the form of a White House press release. Mr. Christian announced that identical telegrams had been sent to Governor Romney and Mayor Cavanagh. In the telegram the President referred to Cyrus R. Vance, Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, and Warren Christopher, Deputy Attorney General.

The text of the telegram to the President from Governor Romney and Mayor Cavanagh was posted earlier on the bulletin board in the Press Room at the White House, as follows:

The catastrophe which has struck the City of Detroit is a "disaster" by any reasonable definition of that term. Entire blocks have been leveled by fire and pockets of destruction exist throughout the city. Losses due to fire and looting have been estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars and these estimates may very well prove to be conservative. However, we have been advised by Governor Farris Bryant and Deputy United States Attorney General Christopher that the provisions of the Federal Disaster Assistance Act have not in the past been applied to disasters other than those resulting from natural causes. Last week part of the Detroit metropolitan area was declared a disaster area following a five-inch rainfall. It simply does not make sense not to commit Federal assistance to the City of Detroit in view of what has happened there in recent days. We urgently request that this policy be reevaluted, in view of the fact that the statute covers natural disasters, "or other catastrophe which in the determination of the president" warrants special Federal assistance and that such assistance be approved for the City of Detroit.

On July 29, 1967, the White House released a statement by Cyrus R. Vance, Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, made at a press briefing following his report to the President that day. Mr. Vance said that order had been virtually restored in Detroit and that the people of the city, with Federal help, would "return the city to normal." He added that the President had directed the Administrator of the Small Business Administration to declare the riot-torn sections of the city a disaster area so that low interest Federal loans could be made available to homeowners and businessmen. The text of the statement is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 3, P. 1070).
See also Items 321,322, 331.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Telegram to Governor Romney and Mayor Cavanagh in Reply to Their Request for Disaster Relief Assistance in Detroit. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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