Q: In the spring of '68, President Johnson announced, "I shall not seek nor shall I accept the nomination of my party for another term as your President." I believe those were his words. May have been your words, I don't know. What did that do to your future at that point, when he decided that he was not running for another term?
TJ: March 31, 1968: To the shock of the Democratic Party, to the nation, to most of his staff, he announced he would not seek another term. I had worked on a concluding set of paragraphs for him to deliver at the State of the Union Address earlier that year with the same announcement. He had it in his inside pocket as he drove up to Capitol Hill that night as the ending for his State of the Union. Between the time he left the White House and the time he got to the Capitol, he decided that he couldn't do it then, because he was asking the Congress to approve several new pieces of legislation and he would not be effective as a lame duck, so he held off. He had consulted with very few people and he did not consult with me, I knew of it because I was asked to type it. I try to tell people, some of my roles, I had helped to write the one in January, but on this one I helped type it before it went to the teleprompter operator. No more than a dozen people in the White House knew that he was going to do that. Mrs. Johnson knew and George Christian knew and a few others. Anyway, in any case, to answer your question, it meant that I had to get ready to go back to Macon. I was then finally going to be free to be able to get back to Macon, and then maybe one day, if I was lucky, become the editor or publisher of the Macon paper.
Q: Instead the President asked you to go with him.
TJ: That was an even tougher decision.
Q: Tell me about that.
TJ: Many of his most loyal aids were taking these mega buck jobs. Jack Valenti to the Motion Picture Association of America, Marvin Watson to Occidental Petroleum, Jim Jones to a major law firm, George Christian...Bill Moyers had already left to become publisher of News Day...and I must tell you, he just worked a piece of me, that I probably have the ultimate vulnerability on...and that is loyalty. I had two intense mentors. He said, "If you will just do it during the transition, to get back to Texas for this office of the former president. He had this secretary named Marie Fammer (?) who came to me and said, "Tom, you just must do this! All of the rest of 'them' are leaving him!" “Them” being the other aids. Edwina and I talked, and let me tell you, the hardest call I ever had to make was to call Peyton Anderson and tell him that I was going with President Johnson for an interim period of time. He was really disappointed and it wasn't long after that that he sold the papers to Knight Ridder.
Q: You went to Austin with the President, you had some years, I don't know the exact
TJ: I worked for him for four years in Texas, until I announced his death.
Q: And you arranged his funeral.
TJ: I arranged his funeral. I literally dressed him.
Q: You were close to Mrs. Johnson?
TJ: Very close to Mrs. Johnson. And I had become like a brother to Linda and Lucy. They had no brother. Mrs. Johnson said I was the son that Lyndon never had and she also had said that about Bill Moyers, but Bill had left. I was really close.
Q: You went then to their family business?
TJ: Yes, went on to become the executive vice president of all of their family businesses. Muzak Photo Processing, KCTB Television, AM, FM, ranching...I was even president of Comanche Cattle Company. I knew nothing about cattle, but I learned...learned? I mean, I was told with him standing there, that I needed to learn to pregnancy test a cow! I know that he did that, so he could tell the world that I taught Tom to pregnancy test a cow, but if you've never reached in to find something that feels almost like an egg shell, to pregnancy test a cow, then you haven't lived! I mean, I've looked back, and am amazed at the various things he taught me to do during that period of time. He was a worker! I've never known a man to work like that. He would get up early, work until about 1 o'clock, take lunch, take a nap, go back to work and then maybe work maybe 2:30 - 3 o'clock until 11 that night. He put in two days everyday. That was true when I was in the White House. He didn't stop. The ranch became just like another White House in a way. He was out there helping to lay aluminum pipes for irrigation, he was commanding the ranch foreman like he was commanding the Pentagon, he would buy these $25,000 bulls to mate with cattle that we had down in ranch in Mexico. He'd say, "Tom, look at this as a lesson. Those cows...", whatever you call a woman cow..."those cows, they look pretty pathetic, they haven't been fed, they haven't been treated properly, but you mate them with a great bull and they turn out these beautiful, beautiful calves!" And they did, and I don't know what the lesson was, but it was unbelievable, some of the things I learned. It was just hard work. You may disagree with him, but I tell you, he tried his best with his Great Society programs to make this world a better place with the Medicare, with Public Broadcasting, with Job Corps, Head Start, with those civil rights bills where he had to overpower his old friend, Richard Russell to pass those, but he...Vietnam, so over shadowed it. Even there, he felt like the people of South Vietnam had a right to live free from Communist aggression and free from oppression. He went to his grave believing we had signed a treaty with South Vietnam. I talked a lot more with him when we got back into Texas about these things, than I probably would have been able to in the White House.