October 6, 1964. The Whistle Stop campaign tour rolls along across Virginia, on into North Carolina. Lady Bird, her daughter Lynda, 100 or so members of the press, and more than a dozen white-gloved ‘hostesses” ride aboard the un-air-conditioned Lady Bird Special.
Hospitality committees along the route gave out pennants, buttons, and other small campaign material for visitors aboard the Lady Bird Special and the crowds gathered to see Lady Bird. In the dining car, in another nod to Southern hospitality, guests were treated to specialty dishes from each state along the route: Virginia ham, North Carolina BBQ, Georgia pecan pie, and Louisiana shrimp creole were among the choices.
In addition to the hospitality committees, travelers and dignitaries from the states could also visit with the Masters of Ceremonies, Congressman Hale Boggs and Luther Hodges, depending on which leg of the journey they were on board. The Masters of Ceremonies were also responsible for introducing Mrs. Johnson and her daughters to the crowds at each of the stops.
Listen to the recordings of the speeches at the stops on our YouTube playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE4ezrXJCEOS6QeZeAzpT22z71gqdlrqb
“Alexandria has been chosen as the first stop for one of the greatest campaigners in America, and I am very proud to announce that I am her husband.”
LBJ kicks off Lady Bird’s Whistle Stop in Alexandria. They will meet again in Raleigh that evening, after all of these stops:
- Fredericksburg, Virginia
- Ashland, Virginia
- Richmond, Virginia
- Petersburg, Virginia
- Suffolk, Virginia
- Norfolk, Virginia
- Ahoskie, North Carolina
- Hobgood, North Carolina (slowdown)
- Tarboro, North Carolina
- Rocky Mount, North Carolina
- Wilson, North Carolina
- Selma, North Carolina
More on Day 1: http://whistlestop.lbjlibrary.org/#day-one
October 5, 1964. Lady Bird prepares to head out tomorrow on her four-day, eight-state Whistle Stop campaign. She knows that LBJ’s chances of taking the southern states are slim, in light of the recent passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and that she will face hostile crowds, heckling, and even violence. She is going anyway.
“And every time the rest of the nation makes one more snide joke about cornpone or rednecks, the defenses of the South go up more angrily. The dividing abyss widens and the curtain becomes thicker and murkier. It is partly the South wanting to pull away and partly the rest of the nation misunderstanding – yes even laughing – in a way. None of this is right or is good for the future of our country.”
—Lady Bird’s recorded thoughts before departing on her Whistle Stop campaign tour, LBJ Presidential Library transcript.
Whistle Stop History
The Ferdinand Magellan was the only private railroad car built for a President in the twentieth century. The car was 85 feet long and weighed 142 1/2 tons. The windows were made with three-inch bulletproof glass. The train had an escape hatch in the center of the car and in the ceiling of the observation lounge.
Originally created for Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Ferdinand Magellan transported Harry S. Truman across the country for his 1948 Whistle Stop campaign. Truman and his entourage traveled more than 21,000 miles, stopping in more than 250 cities, and delivered more than 300 speeches.
The code name for the train was “POTUS” and all other trains had to yield right-of-way. There was always another train running five miles ahead of the Ferdinand Magellan checking the safety of the railroad tracks.
In honor of election day and the many campaign miles traveled, here’s a gallery of Presidents on Whistle Stop tours. An exterior of the Ferdinand Magellan during Truman’s 1948 tour is at the top.
-from the Truman Library