The Vault

“I Rely On You. I Need You.’ How LBJ Begged JFK’s Cabinet To Stay

The Vault is Slate’s history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

In this memo, the new President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, planned how he would address John F. Kennedy’s cabinet the day after his assassination. Traditionally, new Presidents choose new cabinets, but Johnson hoped to create a sense of continuity by retaining the personnel that Kennedy had in place.

Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who famously clashed with LBJ on a deeply personal level, stayed in his cabinet for only ten months, resigning in September, 1964, to run for the Senate in New York. Once successful, he harried Johnson from his position as Senator, mounting critiques of his policy in Vietnam.

A few other cabinet members stayed for two or three years before leaving for various reasons. And during his time in office, LBJ created two new Cabinet positions, both of which supported his “Great Society” initiatives: Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Secretary of Transportation.

In the end, four Kennedy cabinet members—Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, Secretary of Agriculture Orville L. Freeman, and Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz—stayed with LBJ through the final days of his administration in January, 1969.

This document is part of the LBJ Library’s new digital archive covering the transition between the JFK and LBJ administrations.

Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum.