Nixon’s Surprise Visit from Elvis
President Richard Nixon shakes hands with Elvis Presley in the Oval Office. Presley was born on January 8, 1935, and Nixon was born on January 9, 1913 (100 years ago tomorrow).
Incidentally, the photo from this impromptu meeting on December 21, 1970, is among the most requested from the National Archives. The Elvis-Nixon meeting draws more inquiries than the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
Birthday cheers for Elvis and Nixon!
-from the Nixon Library
Presley responded that he did his thing by “just singing.”
Elvis Presley arrives unannounced at the gate of the White House. He is there to see President Nixon and he is ready to sign up as a federal agent to combat drugs. It’s December 21, 1970.
What happens next? A Nixon Aide took these notes:
“The meeting opened with pictures taken of the President and Elvis Presley.
Presley immediately began showing the President his law enforcement paraphernalia including badges from police departments in California, Colorado and Tennessee…
The President mentioned that he thought Presley could reach young people, and that it was important for Presley to retain his credibility. Presley responded that he did his thing by ‘just singing.’ He said that he could not get to the kids if he made a speech on the stage, that he had to reach them in his own way. The President nodded in agreement…
Presley indicated to the President in an very emotional manner that he was ‘on your side.’” Read More
No video was taken of the President meeting The King, but here’s a sequence put together from the White House contact sheets.
From the Nixon Library - Elvis in the Oval Office
I felt a real special relationship to Elvis Presley because he came from Mississippi, he was a poor white kid, he sang with a lot of soul. He was sort of my roots — “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Love Me Tender,” that was sort of the beginning of the awakening of America to rock and roll.
President Bill Clinton in a 1997 interview with VH1.
If you’re near Little Rock, Arkansas, the “Elvis at 21” exhibit will be up for one more week, featuring photographs by Alfred Wertheimer of Elvis Presley at the very beginning of his fame.
Elvis Presley, January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977
“We think it bad enough to send Elvis Presley in the Army, but if you cut his side burns off we will just die!”
-Linda Kelly, Sherry Bane, and Mickie Mattson writing to President Eisenhower, circa 1958
For some historical connect-the-dots, here’s the “Elvis Letter” referred to in the “I Found It in the National Archives” story submitted by Stuart Leibiger.
Thanks for the memories, Stuart!
From the holdings of the Eisenhower Presidential Library.