Curious about Presidential History? Ask a Curator!
Do you have questions about Presidential history and artifacts? Tomorrow, the Presidential Libraries of the National Archives will be answering questions live for #AskaCurator Day on Twitter.
Over 600 museums from 40 countries will be participating, including our very own experts on Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter. You can also ask curators at the National Archives Exhibits in Washington, D.C.
Museum Objects from the Presidential Libraries:
Rocking Chair used by John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office; RCA Radio Microphone used by FDR to deliver some of his Fireside Chats from the White House; HMS Resolute Desk replica at the JFK Library; Portrait by Octavio Ocampo presented to President Carter on the occasion of a state dinner honoring José López Portillo, President of Mexico, February 1979; 1957 Inaugural gown of Mamie Eisenhower; WWII POW Diary at the Truman Library;1952 Eisenhower campaign hat.
40th Anniversary of the Nixon Pardon: The 1976 Election
As the country prepared for the next Presidential election in 1976 Watergate and President Ford’s decision to pardon Richard Nixon in 1974 was still on people’s minds.
Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter repeatedly said he would not make the pardon a campaign issue. “The American people know who pardoned Richard Nixon,” he stated. “They don’t need to have it raised by a candidate.” His running mate didn’t share that view. Vice Presidential nominee Walter Mondale mentioned it in his speech at the Democratic National Convention and continued to bring it up during the campaign.
The Harris Survey confirmed that it was still an issue. In August 1976 poll results showed a 59 to 33 percent majority of voters believed President Ford “was wrong to pardon Richard Nixon.” At the same time, a 52 to 34 percent majority felt that he had acted in the country’s best interests. Based on the data Louis Harris concluded “that any change in public attitudes towards the Nixon pardon could have an immediate impact on the race for the White House.”
Ford’s campaign advisers included a briefing sheet on the pardon in the President’s debate preparation materials. In the first campaign debate he was asked to address why former President Nixon received a full pardon while amnesty for Vietnam draft resisters had been conditional. He stood by both decisions, stating that “the need and necessity for me to concentrate on the problems of the country fully justified the action that I took” in pardoning Nixon.
On November 2, 1976, Jimmy Carter won the election by a slim margin, receiving 50% of the popular vote to President Ford’s 48%. Many believed that the pardon had contributed to President Ford’s defeat, including Betty Ford. “Many people who definitely were for Jerry could not bring themselves to vote for him because he pardoned Nixon,” she later said. One post election analysis of the factors motivating voters’ decisions reported that “seven points of the anti-Ford vote stemmed from Watergate.”
Image: President Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter Meet at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia to Debate Domestic Policy during the First of the Three Ford-Carter Debates, 09/23/1976.
On this day, July 8, 1975, Ford Officially Announced his Candidacy. During the primaries, President Ford faced a strong challenge by Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination. He prevailed, and chose Senator Robert Dole of Kansas as his running mate.
Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter presented another tough contest in the general election.
As November 2 neared polls showed that President Ford had succeeded in narrowing Carter’s large lead. The race had been neck and neck throughout the campaign but the election returns revealed that Carter pulled ahead to win with 297 electoral votes to Ford’s 241.
President Ford called his opponent to offer his congratulations and, since his voice was nearly gone, Betty Ford read his concession statement to the nation.
During the balance of his administration President Ford worked on the 1978 budget, delivered his final State of the Union speech, and strove to facilitate a smooth transition.
On January 20, 1977, President Carter began his inaugural address with a special recognition: “For myself and for our nation I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.”
Pictured: President and Mrs. Ford wave to the crowd at the Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, on August 19, 1976.
-from the Ford Library
On this day, June 18, 1979, Presidents Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev signed the SALT II strategic arms limitation treaty between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in Vienna.
The SALT II Treaty established clear rules and limits on nuclear weapons. Although SALT II did not end the arms race, the treaty and its protocol:
- Limited the number of strategic nuclear delivery systems (bombers and missile launchers) after January 1, 1981.
- Restricted the number of warheads that could be put on each ICBM and SLBM.
- Banned the deployment of mobile ICBMs or the flight testing of ICBMs from mobile launchers.
- Limited the range of land or sea-based cruise missiles, and
- Banned the testing or deployment of Air to Surface Ballistic Missiles.
Though the Treaty had been signed, it still had to be ratified by a 2/3 majority in the Senate. On June 22, the SALT II Treaty was submitted by the President to the Senate for debate. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved ratification of the Treaty, but the USSR invaded Afghanistan before it could be voted on by the full Senate.
In January 1980, President Carter asked the Senate to delay ratification until the US responded to the invasion. Although the treaty was never ratified, both sides agreed to honor its terms until it would have expired December 31, 1985.
Images: Presidents Carter and Brezhnev at the Vienna Summit. 6/15/79; Treaty Between the United States of American and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, page 1, 2.
LBJ Signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Fifty years ago, the work of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act. Passage was not easy and depended on the painstaking efforts of civil rights leaders, cooperation in a resistant Senate, and growth in public support.
When the bill was finally signed on July 2, 1964, it was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.
This week, The Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas honors this historic legislation. Presidents Obama, George W. Bush, Clinton, and Carter are part of the Summit, joining a full schedule of programs that address the civil rights issues we face today.
Our own Archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero, will introduce President Carter tonight at the Civil Rights Summit in Austin, Texas.
In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library is hosting the summit on April 8, 9, and 10.
You can watch the panel discussions and keynote address live on their website: http://www.civilrightssummit.org/updates/
The keynote speakers include President Barack Obama and three former Presidents: Jimmy Carter will speak on April 8; Bill Clinton will speak on April 9; and George W. Bush will speak on the evening of April 10.
Learn more about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in our new Google Cultural Institute exhibit, which includes videos, letters, telegrams, meeting minutes, and high resolution photos.
Image: LBJ signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Serial Number: A1030-17a Date: 08/06/1965. Credit: LBJ Library photo by Yoichi Okamoto.
If you weren’t able to get tickets to next week’s Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Library, don’t worry! The event will be live streamed on their website:
President Barack Obama will be joined by three former Presidents who will also deliver remarks at the upcoming Civil Rights Summit: Jimmy Carter will speak on April 8; Bill Clinton will speak on April 9; and George W. Bush will speak on the evening of April 10.
The Civil Rights Summit, comprised of afternoon panel discussions followed by evening keynote addresses, will reflect on the seminal nature of the civil rights legislation passed by President Johnson while examining civil rights issues in America and around the world today.
Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel
On March 26, 1979, on the North Grounds of the White House, Presidents Jimmy Carter and Anwar Sadat and Prime Minister Menechem Begin joined hands in celebration of the signing of the “Treaty of Peace Between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel.”
This is one of the most requested photographs from the Carter Library.
Breaking News — President Barack Obama will join former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter at the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Library.
The White House announced today that President Barack Obama will deliver the keynote address at the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, April 10, 2014. First Lady Michelle Obama will attend the Summit with the President.
The three-day Civil Rights Summit commemorates the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act, along with the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act in 1968, helped establish the legal foundation in fulfilling the long elusive promise of equality among all Americans.
President Obama will be joined by three former Presidents who will also deliver remarks at the Civil Rights Summit: Jimmy Carter will speak on April 8; Bill Clinton will speak on April 9; and George W. Bush will speak on the evening of April 10.
Go to www.civilrightssummit.org to learn more.
-from the LBJ Library
Thrilled about this upcoming historic event!