Miller Center

Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Recordings

Johnson Conversation with Joseph Kennedy on Sep 23, 1965 (WH6509.07)


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Tape: WH6509.07

Conversation: 8902

Date: September 23, 1965

Details: Joseph Kennedy


Johnson had agreed to nominate Francis X. Morrissey for a Federal judgeship in Massachusetts. Morrissey was a long-time friend of Joseph Kennedy, Sr. In 1961, Joseph Kennedy had tried to convince his son, John F. Kennedy, to nominate Morrissey, but President Kennedy, who was trying to win American Bar Association approval on other nominations, refused. During the summer of 1965, Edward Kennedy renewed the campaign to convince President Johnson to nominate Morrissey. In September 1965, Johnson agreed. It was, as press reports accurately pointed out, done as a favor to the Kennedys. 1 In this call, Johnson called the ailing Kennedy family patriarch to let him know the news.

Edward Kennedy was meeting with LBJat the time of this call. Joseph Kennedy, the former ambassador to the United Kingdom was father of John (Jack), Edward (Ted), and Robert (Bob), and had suffered a major stroke in 1961, making it difficult for him to speak. With Joseph Kennedy at the time of this call was Ann Gargan, his favorite niece (and Edward's cousin).2

President Johnson: Hello, this is Lyndon Johnson.

Ann Gargan: Oh, Mr. President, just a minute.

Long pause.

Joseph Kennedy: Hello?

President Johnson: Mr. Ambassador, we are sitting here with [Edward] Teddy [Kennedy] and we’re getting ready to recommend your friend Judge [Francis X.] Morrissey for the Federal bench, and we wanted to tell you about it first.

Long pause.

President Johnson: Hello? [aside] . . . hear anything.

Gargan: Hello?

President Johnson: Yes, did he hear me?

Gargan: Yes, he did. Thank you. He was rather emotional about it, sir.

President Johnson: Well—

Gargan: [Unclear] him on, get him on [unclear].

President Johnson: Tell himthat we’re so glad that we had a chance to have a word with him, and Teddy is here in the office with me, and we’ll be sending the name to the Senate very shortly, as soon as the Attorney General [Nicholas deB. Katzenbach] can get it. It’s Francis Morrissey, and the Ambassador had been interested in him through the years, and we just wrapped it up this morning.

Gargan: Oh, well that’s wonderful. Thank you for [unclear]—

President Johnson: And you explain that to him, and here is Ted. He wants to say a word.

Gargan: Fine.

Edward Kennedy: Hello?

Gargan: Hello, Teddy?

Edward Kennedy: Oh, Ann, fine. Well, that’s—

Gargan: He didn’t—you know, Johnson didn’t hear him but he could [unclear]—

Edward Kennedy: Oh, fine. Yeah. Good.

Gargan: But everything is fine. You want to say hi to him?

Edward Kennedy: Oh, fine. I’ll be—yeah.

Gargan: Yeah. [aside, to Joseph Kennedy] Here's Teddy.


Edward Kennedy: Oh, Dad?

Joseph Kennedy: Uh-huh?

Edward Kennedy: Dad, well, it looks like you’re the man with all of the influence, still. So that’s really great, and I know how happy you are and . . . So they’re going to put that through. The President, very kind and we’ll—it’s going to—I know it will make Morrissey and you very happy. So, we’re just staying. I’m just down here trying to get a few lessons on how you get these things done, you know. The President said he is doing it for all of you and Jack and Bob and myself, so it’s really fine. But I think he is giving a little extra push because of your interest in it. So, that’s really fine, Dad.

Gargan: OK. We'll—are we going to see you this weekend?

Edward Kennedy: Yeah. Yeah.

Gargan: Oh, good.

Edward Kennedy: Yeah.

Gargan: Are you going—

Edward Kennedy: I’ll be over to see him in the morning. I’m—I’ll come in late tonight.

Gargan: Yeah, well your mother is coming down tonight, too.

Edward Kennedy: Oh, fine.

Gargan: But—

Edward Kennedy: Has he got lunch? Is he going out on the boat? We’ll go out on the boat tomorrow.

Gargan: No, he just came in from the boat.

Edward Kennedy: Tomorrow. Maybe we’ll go out tomorrow.

Gargan: Oh, great.

Edward Kennedy: OK, Annie.

Gargan: Bye.

Edward Kennedy: OK, Annie. Thanks a lot, Annie.

Gargan: Bye.

Edward Kennedy: Bye, bye.

The American Bar Association opposed Morrissey's nomination on the grounds that he was unqualified, specifically charging that he lacked trial experience and that he lacked the intellectual capacity to cope with the antitrust, patent, admiralty, and other issues that routinely came before Federal judges. They pointed out that Morrissey had failed the bar examination twice and had only gained admission to the bar--and even then, with difficulty--after 12 years of trying.3During Senate testimony, Morrissey himself admitted to using a "quickie" law diploma, a revelation that undermined his already unsettled nomination.4 Weeks of controversy, questions about the veracity of Morrissey's testimony, renewed FBI investigations, and intense lobbying by Morrissey's sponsor, Senator Edward Kennedy, ultimately resulted in Senator Kennedy abandoning the fight on 21 October by using a Senate procedure to let the nomination die.5

  • 1.William Chapman, "Kennedy Clan Friend to Get Judgeship," Washington Post, 27 September 1965, p.A1.
  • 2."Dad's Gotten Sick," TIME, 29 December 1961.
  • 3. John P. MacKenzie, "Bar Vows to Contest Naming of Morrissey," Washington Post, 28 September 1965, p.A3.
  • 4.Fred P. Graham, "Morrissey Admits Using a 'Quickie' Law Diploma," New York Times, 13 October 1965, p.1; Fred P. Graham, "Law: Controversy Over Morrissey," New York Times, 17 October 1965, p.E8.
  • 5. Fred P. Graham, "Edward Kennedy Drops His Fight for Morrissey," New York Times, 22 October 1965, p.1.