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The University of Texas at Austin


Briscoe Center Acquires Papers of Harry McPherson
LBJ Speechwriter and Counsel's Papers Add to Congressional and Political Collections

April 30, 2014

Harry McPhearson and LBJ
Harry McPhearson and President Johnson, White House photo

AUSTIN, Texas — The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin has acquired the papers of Harry McPherson. McPherson was a White House counsel and speechwriter for President Lyndon Johnson from 1965 to 1969.

His papers include memos and speech drafts to President Johnson; drafts of his 1972 memoir, A Political Education; and clippings from his service on the 1979 presidential commission that investigated the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant.

The papers join those of others whose careers intersected with McPherson and President Johnson’s including the Judge John Singleton papers, the Jack Brooks Congressional Collection, the Henry B. Gonzalez papers and those of journalists active during the Johnson administration including Walter Cronkite, and photojournalists Eddie Adams and Flip Schulke.

The McPherson papers will be located at the center’s Research and Collections division, which is adjacent to the LBJ Presidential Library and the LBJ school of Public Affairs. The LBJ Library holds the papers of President Johnson and those of several hundred other individuals, including family, friends, and associates of the Johnson administration.

“The Briscoe Center partners with the LBJ Library regarding public programming, exhibits and archival holdings,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “This partnership means the McPherson papers will no doubt have a wide exposure to the general public and academic community.”

McPherson was born in 1929 in Tyler, Texas, and graduated from the UT School of Law in 1956. Upon graduating he went to Washington and worked for the Democratic Policy Committee, which was chaired by Johnson (a U.S. senator at that time.) McPherson helped draft bills that became the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

After working as an official for the state department and the Pentagon, McPherson worked in the White House, shaping Johnson’s Great Society programs and penning presidential addresses. After his work in the Johnson administration, he continued to work in Washington as a lawyer and lobbyist.

McPherson played a pivotal role in one of the most significant moments in political history, drafting the speech President Johnson gave on March 31, 1968, announcing a halt in the bombing in North Vietnam and that he would not run for re-election. In a 2006 program at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, McPherson spoke about the speech and his career.

The papers also include photographs; scrapbooks; correspondence; videotapes; personal files such as poetry, awards, certificates, diplomas, and military records; and an oral history interview.