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The Poverty Tours (1964)

LBJ Library & Museum

Sound | 1964

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  •  South Bend, Indiana at the Lulu V. Klein Trade School 
  •  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 
  •  Speaking at the Steelworkers Union 
  •  Meeting Tom Fletcher, a typical Martin County resident, and his family at their home 
  •  LBJ meets with governors of seven Appalachian states in Huntington, West Virginia to discuss solutions for unemployment 
  •  LBJ and daughter Lynda Johnson stop in Cumberland, Maryland 
  •  Martinsburg, West Virginia 
  •  Lockbourne Air Force Base near Columbus, Ohio 
  •  McGhee Tyson Field in Knoxville, Tennessee 
  •  The Johnsons take off from Seymour Johnson Airforce Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina to visit a farm just outside of Rocky Mount, North Carolina 
  •  Gainesville, Florida 
  •  Lady Bird Johnson continues the War on Poverty by visiting economically depressed Eastern Kentucky 
  •  Visiting Albert Robertson, a tobacco farmer, and his family 
  •  Lick Branch School 
  •  Wood Utilization Center at the University of Kentucky 
  •  Kentucky Federation of Women’s Clubs 
  •  President Johnson signs the Anti-Poverty Bill into law 
  •  LBJ [voiceover]: Today I took a trip which should be unnecessary. I took a trip which in our time, should become impossible. Everywhere I have gone, I have met good people who wanted to do something about the problems that faced our country. Everywhere I have gone, I have seen men and women who wanted to leave this country a better place to live in than they found it.  
  •  For the first time in our history, an America without hunger is a practical prospect, and it must—it just simply must become the urgent business of all men and women of every race and every religion and every region. We have declared unconditional war on poverty. Our objective is total victory.  
  •  NARRATOR: South Bend, Indiana, badly shaken by unemployment in December 1963 when Studebaker ended its United States auto production, is fighting its way back. At the Lulu V. Cline Trade School, President and Mrs. Johnson visit with South Bend residents who are training for new jobs.  
  •  This is the President's first tour of the economically distressed urban and rural areas since he announced his War on Poverty campaign. 
  •  Outside the school, the president and Mrs. Johnson tell their audience what a real inspiration it has been to see the people of South Bend, the young and old alike, rolling up their sleeves and attacking their problems by learning new skills and finding new ways of life.  
  •  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, one of the country’s most heavily industrialized areas and the capital of the nation’s steel industry, is the next stop on the President’s tour. Unemployment has become a major problem in Pittsburgh. By last year, more than one hundred thousand workers were without jobs, and many families had left the area in despair.  
  •  In Pittsburgh, the President tells the National Convention of the League of Women Voters that the temple of America’s unprecedented prosperity must never be allowed to muffle the cries of those who are denied a fair share of it.  
  •  The President’s motorcade makes an unscheduled stop, so he may tell the crowds along Carson Street that we must become united in our efforts if we are to bring unequaled prosperity to all the people. He states that no president can be stronger than the people behind him. 
  •  In an address to the steel workers, the President declares that he is here to fight an enemy, that he is here to start that fight and keep up that fight until the enemy is destroyed. That enemy is unemployment, and its ally is poverty. Continuing, he assures them that they will hear a lot more about poverty in this country because it is his intention to do something about it in every county of this land. 
  •  On his way to the airport, the President points out to a young audience that they should stay in school, for America’s future strength rests with them and the education they receive.  
  •  In Huntington, West Virginia, the President and Mrs. Johnson board helicopters for a trip to the roots of Appalachian poverty in Martin County, Kentucky.  
  •  In this south-central mountain country, over a third of the population is faced with chronic unemployment. Typical of this group is Tom Fletcher, his wife, and eight children. Fletcher, an unemployed sawmill operator, earned only $400 last year and has been able to find little employment in the last two years.  
  •  Joblessness in the Inez area is attributable primarily to a general lack of industrialization and losses in the coal mining industry. Median family income is slightly over $2,000 a year.  
  •  The Mayo State Vocational School in Paintsville is a federally assisted institution which provides training for over 3,000 of the hardcore unemployed in this region. Training is offered in a variety of occupations, including service station attendants, draftsmen, clerk stenographers, and beauticians.  
  •  While in Paintsville, the President points out that the people of America are not asking for handouts. They want a chance to support themselves. 
  •  Before returning to Washington, the President meets in Huntington, West Virginia, with the governors of seven Appalachian states. He tells them our challenge is clear. It is to cure what needs to be cured, correct what needs to be corrected, and set the people of this region out on the bright highway of hope as free men, living in dignity, and with a promise of opportunity.  
  •  Swinging through six states in his second tour of Appalachia in two weeks, the President, accompanied by his daughter, Lynda, is warmly greeted in Cumberland, Maryland, the first stop on his itinerary.  
  •  The chief executive is here for another first-hand look at the problems of urban and rural poverty and to publicly urge support for his anti-poverty program.  
  •  Speaking from the courthouse steps in Cumberland, the President reflects on the vital role that Maryland has always played in building America since the days of the Revolution. He asks his audience to help him in carrying forward a new American Revolution, to help free 30 million Americans imprisoned by poverty.  
  •  A brief helicopter flight puts the President in Martinsburg, West Virginia, where he boards Air Force One for a flight to Lockbourne Air Force Base near Columbus, Ohio. 
  •  As President Johnson swings through the Appalachian regions, he tells the people he came to Appalachia to listen and to learn, and because he cares. He promises them a better break economically, and reminds them of their responsibilities as Americans.  
  •  Before leaving Ohio, the President helicopters to Athens to participate in Ohio University’s 160th anniversary celebration. 
  •  At McGhee Tyson Field in Knoxville, Tennessee, it’s a key to the city for the President. And for daughter Lynda, an extra warm greeting from her Zeta Tau Alpha sorority sisters from Tennessee University.  
  •  As the motorcade nears Tennessee University, the chief executive, again, makes good use of the limousine trunk and a portable public address system to bring his message on poverty to a group of university students.  
  •  To a capacity-crowd in Knoxville’s huge coliseum, the President’s message concerns vision and leadership. He appeals to them to enlist their hearts and volunteer their hands in fighting the war on poverty.  
  •  Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Goldsboro, North Carolina, where the presidential party boards helicopters for a flight to the farm of sharecropper David Marlow, located four miles outside of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Marlow, a tobacco farmer, feeds and clothes his family of ten on a meager $1,400 a year.  
  •  In Rocky Mount, the President asks that economic opportunity be spread across the land, that all Americans, those on farms and those in cities, have a chance to drink from the cup of plenty.  
  •  The next morning in Atlanta, Georgia, the President directs his plea for his poverty program to a group of state legislators and members of the Georgia Congressional Delegation. 
  •  The President ends his second poverty tour in Gainesville’s town’s square with a promise to his audience that we’re going to keep on in our war on poverty until we drive it into the face of the earth, and it no longer exists in our beloved America.  
  •  May 21, 1964, Mrs. Johnson continues the President’s attack on poverty as she travels to the economically depressed areas of eastern Kentucky.  
  •  The 45 counties making up this area present one of the nation’s worst pictures of poverty. The principle causes are lack of education and training, unemployment, and limited opportunities to overcome these handicaps.  
  •  Several times, Mrs. Johnson halts her motorcade to greet local school children who have gathered along the roadside. This area has been the focus of cooperative federal, state, and local efforts for some time. Some of the results are the school lunch program, accelerated rural housing, and man-powered development and training program.  
  •  The first stop on the first lady’s schedule is the home of Albert Robertson at Warsaw Branch. 
  •  Robertson, a tobacco farmer who earned less than $300 last year, lives in a three-room, rough board home with his wife and seven children.  
  •  During a tour of his property, Mr. Robertson points out to the First Lady some of the improvements he has been able to make with a $650 federal grant.  
  •  Mrs. Johnson’s next stop is a one-room county schoolhouse at Lick Branch.  
  •  After freshening up a bit, the First Lady is the children’s guest for a typical hot lunch served under a cooperative program between the government and the school neighbors.  
  •  Later, she presents the school with a set of encyclopedias and a flag that is flown over the capitol in Washington.  
  •  At the new Breathitt County gymnasium in Jackson, Mrs. Johnson arrives for dedication ceremonies. The new building replaces one dedicated by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt in 1938. 
  •  Moving on to the University of Kentucky’s Wood Utilization Center at Quicksand, the First Lady sees demonstrations of the way Kentuckians are learning to use the region’s timber. The center is a joint effort of the Area Redevelopment Administration, University of Kentucky, the Kentucky Farm Bureau, and the United States Forest Service.  
  •  In her remarks, Mrs. Johnson points out that this joint effort represents the kind of pulling together that will grow and grow and succeed in bringing economic hope and vitality to this region.  
  •  The First Lady, in an address to the Annual Convention of the Kentucky Federation of Women’s Clubs in Lexington, points out that there are pockets of despair all over this land which cry out for attention. And she continues, “I hope that you will join your president in his fight on poverty, and join hands to make America’s tomorrow a bright and gleaming legacy from today.”  
  •  LBJ [voiceover]: We don’t ask much. The average American does not demand much, but we have a right to expect in this rich country if we’re willing to work from daylight to dark. We have a right to expect a job, to provide food for our family, a roof over their heads, clothes for their bodies, and opportunities to have our children educated, and the right to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.  
  •  Poverty not only strikes at the needs of the body, it attacks the spirit, and it undermines human dignity. It is not enough for the Congress to pass laws. We will not win our war against poverty until the conscience of the entire nation is aroused. We will not succeed until every citizen regards the suffering of neighbors as a call to action. We will not overcome until every child in every city in every town joins its parents and helps us to mobilize its resources.  
  •  Not in a day, not in a year will these goals be reached, but if we begin the effort, if we approach the task with great enthusiasm and not with cynicism, these achievements will be the glory, the glory of your generation. 
  •  So I have come here today to ask for your heart and your hand, to ask you to join us in a similar cause: help us to build a better land. Help us to build a greater society. Help us to open wide the doors of opportunity, and invite all to come in. For when we have done this, it will one day be said of America the She was a burning and shining light in man’s journey on Earth.  
  •  NARRATOR: On August 20, 1964, President Johnson signed a $947.5 million Anti-Poverty Bill into law.  
  •  Transcribed by Adept Word Management™, Inc. 
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In April 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson, at times accompanied by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson and at other times by his daughter Lynda Bird Johnson, embarked on a series of Poverty Tours in which he visited impoverished areas of the country to deliver his message of hope and rally support for his War on Poverty. In this footage, the President and the first family travel around the nation—from Pennsylvania to Kentucky—meeting with families on their front doorsteps and addressing large crowds. The Poverty Tours culminated in August of 1964 with the signing of the Anti-Poverty Bill. Particularly noteworthy in this film are moving images of some of the most commonly seen images of President Johnson, such as his sitting with farmer Tom Fletcher on the porch of Fletcher’s Appalachian home. Transcribed by Adept Word Management™, Inc.
Thirty-sixth president of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson, was born on a hill country farm near Stonewall, Texas on August 27, 1908, to Samuel Ealy Johnson, a former Texas legislator, and Rebekah Baines Johnson. He attended Southwest Teachers College, now Texas State University, graduating with a degree in history and social science in 1930. LBJ spent one year as principal and teacher in Cotulla, educating impoverished Hispanic elementary school students. LBJ became the secretary to Texas Congressman Richard M. Kleberg in 1931; the four-year position helped him gain influential contacts in Washington. Johnson married Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor on November 17, 1934.
LBJ acted as Director of the National Youth Administration in Texas from 1935 to 1937. Johnson won his first legislative election in 1937 for the Tenth Congressional District, a position he held for 11 years. He was a firm supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal and in 1940 acted as Chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee. In 1948, following his service as a Lieutenant Naval Commander during World War II, LBJ ran as the Democratic nominee for Senate. In a cloud of controversy, he narrowly defeated former Texas Governor Coke Stevens and easily beat his Republican opponent in the general election. Before winning his second senate term, LBJ was elected Majority Whip in 1951, became the youngest ever Minority Senate Leader in 1953, and was voted Majority Leader in 1954. Johnson unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960 but was selected to be Vice President under John F. Kennedy. 
Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as Commander and Chief aboard Air Force One following President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, and won reelection in 1964. President Johnson passed landmark legislation with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Debate over military efforts in Vietnam intensified in late 1963 when the President stated that the United States would not withdraw from Southeast Asia. Escalation of the war against North Vietnam brought disapproval from Democrats, claiming the efforts were misguided, and from Republicans who criticized the administration for not executing sufficient military vigor. Antiwar protests, urban riots, and racial tension eroded Johnson’s political base by 1967, which further dissolved following the Tet Offensive in January 1968. On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced that we would not seek a second presidential term.
After returning to Texas, Johnson oversaw the construction of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum on the University of Texas campus in Austin. Throughout his political career, LBJ was an influential figure in Texas affairs; his policies brought military bases, crop subsidies, government facilities, and federal jobs to the state. After suffering a massive heart attack, former President Johnson died at his ranch on January 22, 1973. In February of the same year, NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, in honor of one of the country’s most influential Texans.
Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor was born in Karnack, Texas on December 22, 1912. Lady Bird, the nickname given by nursemaid Alice Tittle, attended high school in Marshall and junior college at Dallas’ St. Mary’s Episcopal College for Women. In 1933 through 1934, she received a Bachelor of Arts in history and a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. 
Mutual friends introduced Lady Bird to congressional aide and rising political star, Lyndon Baines Johnson. LBJ proposed on the couple’s first date and the two were married a month later on November 17, 1934. Lady Bird financed her husband’s first congressional campaign for Austin’s Tenth District using a portion of her maternal inheritance. During World War II, Lady Bird ran the congressional office while LBJ served in the US Navy.  In 1943, Lady Bird purchased Austin Radio station KTBC. The station proved an integral part of the LBJ Holding Company and became the main source of the Johnson family’s fortune. 
LBJ’s political career gained momentum in the post war years, and in 1960, he became Vice President to John F. Kennedy. Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as Commander and Chief aboard Air Force One following President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. As first lady, Lady Bird initiated the Society for a More Beautiful National Capitol and worked with the American Association of Nurserymen to promote the planting of wildflowers along highways. In 1964, the first lady traveled through eight southern states aboard her train, “The Lady Bird Special,” to foster support for LBJ’s presidential re-election and the Civil Rights Act. She was influential in promoting the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, referred to as “Lady Bird’s Bill,” and the Head Start program .
Following the death of LBJ in 1973, Lady Bird turned her attention to Austin. The Town Lake Beautification Project transformed Austin’s downtown lake, renamed Lady Bird Lake in 2007, into a useable recreation area. On December 22, 1982, Lady Bird and Helen Hays founded the National Wildflower Research Center outside of Austin. The Wildflower Center was established to increase awareness and research for North American flora.  During her lifetime, the former first lady received the highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1977 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1988. Lady Bird died of natural causes on July 11, 2007, survived by two daughters, seven grandchildren, and  ten great-grandchildren. 
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