Miller Center

Swimming With Billy Graham

In this excerpt from a conversation with Representative Frank Thompson (D-NJ), President Johnson explained his administration's position about the possible funding of Catholic school programs through the War on Poverty's community action provisions. The issue had exploded into controversy after Representative Hugh Carey (D-NY) had introduced an amendment to the Economic Opportunity Act that would allow such funding. Johnson argued that the problem would be better handled by placing a passage in the committee report that would prohibit any discriminatory use of the funds. He maintained that he and Poverty Director Sargent Shriver would see that parochial schools were treated fairly. Any other approach, he argued, would inflame anti-Catholic sentiment among conservative members of the House. He also recounted a story about how he had once been swimming in the White House pool with evangelist Billy Graham when a Southern Baptist leader called to complain about alleged pro-Catholic bias. The conversation, and the underlying dispute, suggest the continuing tensions over the role of Catholicism in U.S. politics - even after the presidency of John F. Kennedy.

Date:  May 13, 1964
Participants:  Lyndon Johnson, Frank Thompson
Conversation Number:  WH6405.05-3431, 3432

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