No, I’ve never really gone out of my way to find autographed copies of books or waited in line to get a book signed. During the 2007-2008 Obama campaign, at certain events, there would be a small table backstage with maybe a dozen or so copies of Obama’s books for him to sign, usually for top donors or local civic leaders/surrogates. Early in the campaign (I think it might have been in Oakland), I made sure to slip my copy of The Audacity of Hope (BOOK•KINDLE) in there for Obama to sign, but I really think that’s the only time I have actively sought a signed copy of a book by an author.
The other autographed books that I have were basically accidents. A few years ago, I was buying some books in an outlet mall at a book store that was going out of business and liquidating its merchandise for cheap. I bought Behind the Oval Office: Getting Reelected Against All Odds by Dick Morris, who helped Bill Clinton during Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign, and who happens to be a world-class slimeball with no actual political soul. Anyway, I paid maybe $3 for the book and realized later that it was an autographed copy. I’m guessing a non-autographed copy of that book would have cost about 50 cents.
The only other autographed copy of a book in my library that I can think of was actually a pretty cool find. When I lived in Sacramento, there was a little used book store on Marconi Avenue not far from where I lived called Book Chek (yes, that is how it is spelled). Book Chek has been in the same little shopping center since I was a little kid and, quite frankly, they have never had that great of a selection. They were cheap, though, and every once in a while, I could find a few good history titles. On one trip to Book Chek, I found the autobiography of professional wrestling legend Bret Hart, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling (BOOK•KINDLE). On its own that was a great find at Book Chek because it had only recently been released and was, in fact, on the New York Times best-seller list at the time. Plus, it’s a fantastic book — one of the best ever written on wrestling or by a wrestler because Hart is a talented writer, kept meticulous details about his career, and was unabashedly candid about the good and bad that he experienced. Anyway, I opened it up when I got home and it was autographed — not bad for $7.
I think that’s it, though. I’m pretty sure that there aren’t any others I have that been signed. When I visited the Nixon Library several years ago, I was definitely drawn to the signed copies of Richard Nixon’s Memoirs and Gerald Ford’s autobiography, A Time To Heal, on sale in the gift shop. Then I saw the price tag and bought magnets instead.
I do have autographed 8”x11” photos of President Ford, President Carter, and President George H.W. Bush, so that’s cool. I’d love to somehow get an LBJ autograph. I’m sure he probably signed some surplus copies of his autobiography, The Vantage Point, or a bunch of photographs for his office to send out to people who wrote him letters. Now, I could be wrong, of course, since LBJ has been dead for nearly 40 years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a stack of signed photos somewhere in the LBJ Library.
(So, ummm, hello to my buddies down there at the LBJ Library in Austin! I just want to throw this out there, but if you find an LBJ autograph that you are just dying to send to me, you know how to get in touch with me! Have I mentioned that you are my favorite Presidential Library research staff lately? Because you totally are.)
To my friends at the LBJ Library:
I am, of course, already your biggest supporter but if anything would unyieldingly keep me devoted to the cause of Lyndon B. Johnson and the LBJ Library, it would be a replica of that AWESOME belt buckle that I can’t believe it’s taken me 32 years of life and study of LBJ to notice.
P.S.: A closer look:
Maybe I’m getting lazy, but I’m going to let Lyndon Johnson tell this story himself, thanks to the LBJ Library’s Oral History Project and with an assist from LBJ Library Director Mark K. Updegrove’s awesome new book Indomitable Will: LBJ In The Presidency (BOOK•KINDLE).
According to LBJ:
I was three months old when I was named. My father and mother couldn’t agree on a name. The people my father liked were heavy drinkers — pretty rough for a city girl. She didn’t want me named after any of them.
Finally, there was a criminal lawyer — a country lawyer — named W.C. Linden. He would go on a drunk for a week after every case. My father liked him and he wanted to name me after him. My mother didn’t care for the idea but she said finally that it was alright, she would go along with it if she could spell the name the way she wanted to. So that is what happened.
I was campaigning for Congress. An old man with a white carnation in his lapel came up and said, “That was a very good speech. I want to vote for you like I always have. The only thing I don’t like about you is the way you spell your name.”
He then identified himself as W.C. Linden.
There have been instances where I knocked my experience in Texas, but one thing that I always will remember fondly is the wonderful LBJ Library at the University of Texas — the best Presidential Library and Museum in the entire federal system of Presidential Libraries. Every time I visited the LBJ Library, I was always mesmerized by the amazing exhibits, the accessibility of such fascinating historic artifacts, and the kindliness and attentiveness of the staff and volunteers. The LBJ Library will always be my favorite memory of Austin and Texas.
My appreciation has only grown since I left Texas, and I wanted to share why. A couple of weeks ago, I sent an e-mail to Brittany, who is a docent at the LBJ Library and a fellow Tumblr user. I mentioned a photograph that was on display at the LBJ Library that I fell in love with when I first saw it. It’s a photo of LBJ after he left the White House. He’s at the LBJ Ranch and, to me, the photo is one of my favorites of any President. Knowing LBJ’s personality and how badly he missed being President while also knowing how saddened he was that he had to leave office as he did, the photograph seems to tell a dozen different stories.
I didn’t know when the photo was taken, who took the photo, and couldn’t give much information besides mentioning to Brittany what I remembered it looking like. Brittany passed along my e-mail and the other day, I received an e-mail from staff at the LBJ Library who had located the photo and sent a copy to me so that I could frame it and hang it in my office. I thank Brittany, first of all, but also the staff at the LBJ Library Tumblr and specifically, Laura, Liza, and the archivists in the LBJ Library’s audio-visual archives in Austin. I’m so thankful that they would take the time to find the photo for me, and it just confirmed what I already figured: the LBJ Library is the best Presidential library, museum, and archives in the United States.
I’m going to share the photograph in a different post because the thank you deserves to stand alone. Thank you again, and I encourage all of my followers to check out the LBJ Library Tumblr, as well as the Our Presidents Tumblr from the National Archives.
Harry C. McPherson, who was one of Lyndon B. Johnson’s most trusted aides, died on Thursday in Bethesda, Maryland, at the age of 82.
As one of LBJ’s closest confidants, he served the former President as a speechwriter, counsel, and wore many hats in the Johnson Administration. Due to his proximity to LBJ, McPherson has been an invaluable source for researchers of LBJ, the Johnson Administration, and the era in which Johnson served. If you have read a biography about Lyndon Johnson, there is a good chance that the author interviewed McPherson or used information from the extensive oral histories of McPherson at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas.
I’m saddened to hear of Mr. McPherson’s death and disappointed that I missed my chance to see Mr. McPherson speak at the LBJ Library when I was in Austin. It would have been a privilege to have listened to him in-person as I have always been fascinated by the insight that Mr. McPherson was able to provide in his speeches, writings (including a wonderful memoir, A Political Education, published in 1972), as well as the aforementioned oral histories that he left behind.
As I mentioned, I am currently in Austin, and I’m excited to say that I’ll be spending tomorrow at the LBJ Library and Museum at the University of Texas. It opens at 9 AM and closes at 5 PM, so it’s pretty much a given that there are eight hours of my schedule blocked out for time with LBJ tomorrow.
I’ll give you my thoughts after I visit the library. I will say one thing about the LBJ Library which impresses me: it’s free. Anyone who has been to the Reagan or Nixon Libraries can tell you that we don’t have that same luxury in California. Free admission and free parking? There’s a chance I might be moving into the LBJ Library every day from 9 AM-5 PM.