Fifty-five years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which he considered his most important legacy. Less than five months earlier, he had given a special address to the Congress that was televised nationwide.
Given only a week after the bloody events in Selma, Ala., the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis watched the address on television in the city. Lewis said recently it was "one of the most meaningful speeches of any American president in modern times."
He said he and Martin Luther King wept when hearing these words from President Johnson:
Johnson did not run for reelection in 1968, and in December 1972, he convened a Civil Rights Symposium at the new Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas. He was very ill, and he died just a few weeks later. His doctors asked him not to speak at the event. But he insisted, and spoke for 30 minutes. Here are excerpts from that speech:
It was Lyndon B. Johnson’s final public speech. He died a little more than a month later.
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