In an article Friday about White House meetings at which President Kennedy discussed his pending tax-cut proposal, the Rep. Howard H. Baker (R-Tenn.) mentioned by Kennedy was incorrectly identified. The person in question was the father of the current Senate majority leader.
Following are excerpts from a transcript of the John F. Kennedy tape recordings of conversations during the period Sept. 28 through Oct. 3, 1962, in relation to the crisis over admitting a black student, James Meredith, to the University of Mississippi. The first is a telephone conversation between President Kennedy and Gov. Ross Barnett of Mississippi.
JFK: What we're concerned about is, uh, how much violence is going to be and what kind of, uh, action we'll have to take to prevent it. And I'd like to get assurances from you about, that the state police down there will take positive action to maintain law and order.
GOV.: Oh, they'll do that.
JFK: Then we'll know what we'll have to do.
GOV.: They'll, they'll take positive action, Mr. President, to maintain law and order as best we can.
JFK: And now how good is . . .
GOV.: We'll have 220 highway patrolmen . . .
GOV.: . . . and they'll absolutely be unarmed.
JFK: I understa- . . .
GOV.: Not a one of them will be armed.
JFK: Well, no, but the problem is, well, what can they do to maintain law and order and prevent the gathering of a mob and, uh, action taken by the mob? What can they do? . . . Can they stop that?
GOV.: Well, they'll do their best to. They'll do everything in their power to stop it.
JFK: Now, what about the suggestions made by the attorney general in regard to, uh, not permitting people to congregate and start a mob?
GOV.: Well, we'll do our best to, to keep 'em from congregating, but that's hard to do, you know.
JFK: Well, they tell them to move along.
GOV.: When they start moving up on the sidewalks and . . . uh, different sides of the, uh, streets, what are you gonna do about it?
JFK: Well, now, as I understand it, uh, governor, you would do everything you can to maintain, uh, law and order.
GOV.: I, I, I'll do everything in my power to maintain order . . .
JFK: Right. Now . . .
GOV.: . . . and peace. We don't want any shooting down here.
JFK: I understand. Now, governor, what about . . . can you maintain this order?
GOV.: Well, I don't know.
GOV.: I, I, that's what I'm worried about. . . you see. I don't know whether I can or not.
GOV.: I couldn't have the other afternoon.
JFK: You couldn't have?
GOV.: There was such a mob there, it would have been impossible.
JFK: I see.
GOV.: There were men in there with trucks and shotguns, and all such as that. Not, not a lot of 'em, but some we saw, and uh, uh, certain people were just, uh, they were just enraged.
JFK: Well, now, will you talk . . .
GOV.: You just don't understand the situation down here.
JFK.: Well, the only thing I got is my responsibility.
GOV.: I know you do.
JFK: This is not my order; I just have to carry it out. So I want to get together and try to do it in such a way which is then most satisfactory and causes the least chance of, uh, damage to, uh, people in, uh, Mississippi. That's my interest.
GOV.: That's right. Would you be willing to wait a while and let the people cool off on the whole thing?
JFK.: Till how long?
GOV: Couldn't you make a statement to the effect, Mr. President, uh . . . that under the circumstances existing in Mississippi, that, uh, there'll be bloodshed; you want to protect the life of, of, of James Meredith and all other people? And under the circumstances at this time, it just wouldn't be fair to him or others, uh, to try to register him at this time?
JFK: Well, then at what time would it be fair?
GOV.: Well, we could wait a, I don't know.
GOV.: It might be in, uh, two or three weeks, it might cool off a little?
JFK: Well, would you undertake to register him in two weeks?
GOV.: Well, I, you know I can't undertake to register him myself . . .
JFK: I see.
GOV.: . . . but you all might make some progress that way, you know.
JFK: Yeah. Well, we'd be faced with, uh . . . I'm, I, unless we had your support . . .
GOV.: You see . . .
JFK: . . . and assurance, we'd be . . .
GOV.: . . . I say I'm going to, I'm going to cooperate. Uh, I might not know, uh, when you're going to register him, you know.
JFK: I see.
A later telephone conversation between the president and Barnett:
GOV.: . . . This man has just died.
JFK: Did he die?
JFK: Which one? State police?
GOV.: A state policeman.
JFK: Yeah, well, you see, we gotta get order up there, and that's what we thought we're going to have.
GOV.: Mr. President, please. Why don't you, uh, can't you give an order up there to remove Meredith?
JFK: How can I remove him, Governor, when there's a, a riot in the street, and he may step out of that building and something happen to him? I can't remove him under those conditions. You . . .
GOV.: Uh, but, but . . .
JFK: Let's get order up there, then we can do something about Meredith.
GOV.: . . . we can surround it. Phone rings in background. with plenty officials.
JFK: Well, we've gotta get somebody up there now to get order and stop the firing and the shooting. Then you and I will talk on the phone about Meredith . . .
GOV.: All right.
JFK: . . . but first we gotta get order.
Night, several days later. The president, his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and others, including White House aides Theodore Sorensen and Lawrence O'Brien, were monitoring the riots from the White House command center when they received word that retired major general Edwin A. Walker, who commanded the U.S. troops in the 1957 Little Rock integration crisis, was making speeches to the mob opposing the use of federal forces in Mississippi.
RFK: To those in the room. Gen. Walker's been out there downtown getting them, uh, people, stirred up. Talking on the phone. Can we get, arrange to get him arrested?
JFK: By the FBI?
RFK: Talking on the phone. Those words unintelligible , well, let's see if we can arrest 'em. I mean, tell the, uh, FBI need? arrest warrant.
JFK: . . . what's his crime?
RFK: Talking to people in the room. Uh, he's been stirring people up.
. . . SORENSEN ?: Obstruction of justice.
RFK: Talking on the phone. Right.
JFK: If you had trouble arresting him on . . .
RFK: Talking on the phone.Yeah.
JFK: How many agents do you have down there? I think you ought to get those MPs into there and over on the way to the airport. I don't see what you've got to lose, if they're at the airport. You can always send them back. . . .
JFK: Gen. Walker, he is . . . . Imagine that son of a bitch having been commander of a division . . . up till last year. And the Army promoting him.
. . . SPEAKER ?: Have you read "Seven Days in May"?
. . . SORENSEN: Very interesting . . . . I read it straight through. It's interesting.
. . . SPEAKER ?: Unrealistic? . . .
SORENSEN: And you thought it was, uh, too farfetched then.
O'BRIEN: No, I thought this sort of awful amateur's dialogue.
. . . JFK: I mean it's not any good at that point? The only character that came out at all was the general. The president was awfully vague. But I, well, thought, the general was a pretty good character.
Later phone conversation between Robert F. Kennedy and Gen. Creighton Abrams, later Army chief of staff and commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, about moving Army troops from Memphis to Mississippi during the riots:
RFK: What was the delay in getting them out of Memphis?
ABRAMS: They, uh, thi--, uh, I don't know the details of it, uh, Mr. Kennedy. They, uh, this is the best response they could make, apparently, under the circumstances.
RFK: Well, who's in charge of that?
ABRAMS: Each, uh, each of those battalions have a, has a battalion commander and, uh, the, uh, both battalions are under the command of General Billingslea. Uh, they had a meeting over here this afternoon, which I did not attend. But they had a meeting in which they discussed all these plans.
. . . RFK: Well, didn't they say they could get off with, and down there within an hour?
ABRAMS: Yes, they, uh, expected a much more rapid response than has occurred. I know Gen. Billingslea did.
RFK: What happened then?
ABRAMS: I don't know.
RFK: Is somebody gonna find out?
ABRAMS: Yes, sir.
RFK: Lets his breath out. What about the battle group?
ABRAMS: Uh, we have gotten ahold of the battle group and, uh, have diverted them. We got ahold of them at Selmer . . .
RFK: When will they be down there?
ABRAMS: . . . Tennessee. I don't have a new, uh, estimate on that, sir. We've, uh, it's only been within the last 15 or 20 minutes that we got ahold of 'em, and it hasn't been recast. But, uh, I can get it very shortly.
RFK: Yeah. Will you call me back at the White House?