Miller Center

Senator Edward Kennedy and the JFK, LBJ, and Nixon White House Tapes

As part of our ongoing series of releases pulling together material from the White House tapes related to prominent figures, we have posted a collection of transcripts of conversations involving and directly related to the long career of Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy. Drawing from the JFK, LBJ, and Nixon tapes, it includes calls between the newly elected Senator and his older brother, President John F. Kennedy; calls with President Lyndon Johnson during the 1964 election campaign while bedridden recovering from a broken back suffered during a plane crash; and President Richard Nixon's efforts to spy on Kennedy in the lead-up to the 1972 election. On Tuesday, August 25, 2009, Senator Ted Kennedy died after a lengthy battle with brain cancer.

The Kennedy Family

JFK Assassination

LBJ calls Edward Kennedy to offer his condolences after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

RFK Assassination

LBJ calls Edward Kennedy to offer his condolences and support after the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

"You're the Man With All the Influence"

LBJ and Edward Kennedy call the Kennedy family patriarch, Joseph Kennedy, to let him know that a long-time Kennedy friend would be nominated for a federal judgeship.

Christian Herter's Mercedes-Benz

In this telephone call, President Kennedy and his brother Edward marvel that Christian Herter, the President's special assistant on foreign trade, arrived at a highly publicized meeting to discuss protecting American products in a foreign-made luxury car.

JFK Tribute at the Democratic National Convention

Kennedy raises with LBJ the delicate topic of a tribute to the slain former president at the Convention.

Presidential Representatives

LBJ suggests that Edward, Robert, and Jacqueline Kennedy represent him on an overseas trip.


Campaigning from a Hospital Bed


Edward Kennedy

The 30-year-old Edward Kennedy was elected in November 1962 to fill the seat vacated by his older brother, President John F. Kennedy. Because that had been a special election to fill a vacancy, the seat was up for re-election again in November 1964.


In June 1964, Senator Kennedy's reelection bid received a major setback. On the night of 19 June, a plane carrying Edward Kennedy crashed in Western Massachusetts in poor weather conditions. Pulled from the crash by fellow Senator, Birch Bayh [D-Indiana], Kennedy suffered severe injuries, including fractured vertebrae, a collapsed lung, and fractured ribs. The pilot and one of Kennedy’s aides, Ed Moss, died in the crash.

Kennedy's treatment included months of enforced immobility confined to a specially designed bed. Despite being bed-ridden, Kennedy continued his campaign for reelection with aides setting up offices near Kennedy's hospital room and his wife Joan taking on many of the public speaking events. Kennedy ultimately won reelection in November 1964 handily. He was discharged from hospital in December, a month and a half after the election. 

"It’ll Make You Stronger When You Get Older"

LBJ checks up on the patient.

JFK Tribute at the Democratic National Convention

Kennedy raises with LBJ the delicate topic of a tribute to the slain former president at the Convention.


LBJ and Edward Kennedy congratulate each other on their victories in the 1964 election.


Richard Nixon vs. Edward Kennedy


Edward Kennedy and Richard Nixon

As Kennedy's political star rose and speculation increased that he would seek the presidency in 1972, he, along with other leading Democrats, became a prime target of Nixon's "dirty tricks" operation.


Nixon Tries to Use Secret Service to Spy on Edward Kennedy

During the 1972 presidential campaign, President Nixon tried to use the Secret Service to gather political intelligence on Edward Kennedy in the hope that "we just might get lucky and catch this son-of-a-bitch and ruin him for '76."

Nixon Wants the IRS to Investigate Edward Kennedy

Nixon and John Ehrlichman discuss having the IRS investigate Kennedy; Ehrlichman reveals that they already have a man spying on Kennedy in Hawaii and Hyannisport; Ehrlichman talks about visiting Chappaquiddick.

Nixon Asks for More Wiretapping

Nixon asks for increased use of wiretapping on leading Democratic figures. Haldeman updates Nixon on the status of their surveillance of Kennedy and Edmund Muskie.

Nixon Orders Financing of a Kennedy Write-In Campaign

In an effort to interfere with the Democratic primary in New Hampshire, Nixon orders Charles Colson to arrange for financing a write-in campaign for Edward Kennedy.

Playing Politics with the War

In a recent speech, Kennedy had accused the Nixon White House of playing politics with the war by delaying withdrawal from Vietnam until after the 1972 election. Democratic Senator and former Vice President Hubert Humphrey had come to Nixon's defense. 


Government Business


Edward Kennedy and Jimmy Carter

A selection of recordings related to the business of governing.


Challenging for Democratic Whip

Kennedy informs Johnson of his intention to challenge Senator Russel Long for a Senate leadership position.

Regional Development Aid for New England-1

Regional Development Aid for New England-2

Kennedy lobbies for New England to get the kind of federal government aid being given to Appalachia.

Floating a Compromise

Kennedy and Vice President Hubert Humphrey discuss a possible compromise on his Poll Tax amendmant to the Voting Rights Bill.