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Wednesday May 6th, 2015 6:34PM

The day the 'war on poverty' came to Gainesville

By Ken Stanford Reporter
GAINESVILLE - Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson was in Gainesville to lobby for his "war on poverty."

The Gainesville stop was one of several during a five-state swing across the country to promote the campaign (see third link below) which Johnson had kicked off January 8, 1964, in his State of the Union speech.

After a breakfast meeting and speech in Atlanta, Johnson helicoptered to the Gainesville airport, where they were welcomed by numerous local and state leaders and the Gainesville High School band. (You can read the text of the remarks the president made at the airport by clicking on the first link below.)

The official welcome was not given by the mayor or the county commission chairman or the head of the chamber of commerce or some other government, business or civic leader. But that honor went to a 12-year-old boy, Charles Overby, a recipient of a Carnegie Hero Fund bronze medal.

According to a story in the Corsicana (Tex.) Daily Sun, Overby had been awarded the medal for saving the life of a younger boy who was about to be hit by a train.

"Mr. President," the paper quoted Overby as saying, "I want to welcome you on behalf of Hall County and northeast Georgia."

Replied the president, according to the story: "I've never been welcomed better."

After the welcoming ceremony at the airport, a motorcade then carried Johnson and his entourage to downtown Gainesville.

Johnson spoke at Roosevelt Square, using the same podium that President Franklin D. Roosevelt used in 1936 when he visited Gainesville not long after the deadly and devastating tornado that struck the city on April 6 that year. Johnson made an impassioned plea for not only passage of his war on poverty, authored by then-9th District Congressman Phil Landrum, but the Civil Rights Act, as well. (You can read the text of the president's downtown speech by clicking on the second link below.)

NEW YORK TIMES' COVERAGE

The New York Times covered the president's visit to Atlanta and Gainesville, devoting several paragraphs to his visit in a story that also included an account of Johnson's stop earlier in the day in Atlanta.

The Times noted that Johnson's motorcade into town stopped at a store owned by Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Buttler, an African-American couple that had been doing business there since 1910, where he visited with the Buttlers and a number of their neighbors. The motorcade also stopped at a house owned Mrs. Eva Russell. There, Johnson visited with Mrs. Russell, her son Johnny and Mrs. Robert H. Helton.

The New York Times' story reported that the crowd filled the area between city hall and the county courthouse, an estimated 40,000-50,000.

To read the entire story, you can visit http://www.nytimes.com/1964/05/09/johnson-appeals-in-south-for-end-to-race-barriers-in-2-georgia-speeches-he-asks-the-burial-forever-of-sectional-dead-issues-huge.html?pagewanted=all

It was LBJ's second visit to Gainesville in four years. In May 1960, he campaigned here while running for Vice President on the Democratic ticket with John F. Kennedy.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Pictures courtesy The Hall County Library System, frequency.com, the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, and YouTube.)
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