As we think about the formality of the upcoming inauguration on Monday we remember a time in American history, back in the 1960s, when a momentous transfer of power occurred without any forethought, without ritual, and without inauguration at all.
The whimsical bubble gum 60s were interrupted in 1963 by a bullet. Young president John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas, Texas and his much older successor vice president Lyndon Johnson, a Texan, took the oath of office a few hours later. A stark sudden transfer of power with no real script, few formalities, and the first such transition in the nuclear age.
During our recent trip to the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, library director Mark Updegrove gave us a tour of the historical records and a new exhibit that highlights remarkable audio archives of President Johnson's time in office. His transfer of power is highlighted as well as the entire history of Lyndon Johnson's rise as a politician. LBJ, Updegrove says, had the perfect training for this moment of suddenly taking power in the midst of chaos.