Audio Transcript
Compiled by LBJ Library Staff

Transcript of audio of President Johnson in New Orleans following landfall of Hurricane Betsy, September 10, 1965.

The President's Remarks Upon Arrival at New Orleans Municipal Airport

Mr. Mayor and my friends of New Orleans:

Today at 3 o'clock when Senator Long and Congressman Boggs and Congressman Willis called me on behalf of the entire Louisiana delegation, I put aside all the problems on my desk to come to Louisiana as soon as I could. I have observed from flying over your city how great the catastrophe is that you have experienced. Human suffering and physical damage are measureless. I'm here this evening to pledge to you the full resources of the federal government to Louisiana to help repair as best we can the injury that has been done by nature.

Throughout the day I have talked to Senator Long and Senator Ellender, Congressmen Boggs and Willis, my friend Jimmy Morrison, Otto Passman and Congressman Wagner about what has taken place in this great state. As we flew to New Orleans we discussed the ways and means of putting the compassion of the United States in specific and helpful action. With me are Governor Buford Ellington, in charge of the federal government's Office of Emergency Planning, and whose responsibility it is to make sure that all needs to be done gets done and quickly as possible. Also with me are Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman, General Collins, Chairman of the American Red Cross, Dr. Luther Terry, the Surgeon General of the United States. Mr. -- the head of our Small Business Administration is here, and we'll have further announcements as we go along. Mr. Gene Foley will have a briefing just before we return to Washington on what that agency will be able to do.

The agony and the loss of Louisiana would have been far greater without the cooperation, effective work of the Weather Bureau, the Civil Defense Authorities of Louisiana, the Red Cross and other local groups. I'm delighted to see your mayor has been on the job for many hours now and is here to welcome us. More than 180,000 citizens were evacuated from southern Louisiana alone. Because we were alerted to the assault of Hurricane Betsy, I am ordering in teams from the Office of Emergency Planning, the Army Corps of Engineers immediately. The Small Business Administration has already declared this area a disaster area and will be prepared to make long-term loans to rehabilitate both business establishments and all the homes that we saw, their roofs under water a few moments ago.

I am here because I want to see with my own eyes what the unhappy alliance of wind and water have done to this land and to its good people. And when I leave today to go back to Washington you can be sure that the federal government's total resources, with the help of the fine Louisiana Delegation, will be turned toward helping this state and its citizens find its way back from this tragedy.

Thank you for coming here to see us. We want to go and explore as much of the devastation as possible, and then we'll go on further up the state.

President Johnson Speaks to Hurricane Victim William Marshall

LBJ: Where's your home?
William Marshall: Right here in Orleans, 9th Ward.
LBJ: Where are you going now?
WM: Well I'm gonna try and go to the place where we can sleep tonight.
LBJ: How many in your family?
WM: Four or five of us.
LBJ: Is your home under water?
WM: Oh yes, [?] water. About three feet to the house.
LBJ: Where'd you sleep last night?
WM: I didn't sleep anywhere, I just sat up until the water ran us out this morning [?].
LBJ: How far down the road do you live?
WM: I live at 1409 Gordon Street.
LBJ: How far is it, a mile? Two miles?
WM: No no no...
LBJ: Half a mile?
WM: About six blocks.
LBJ: Six miles.
WM: From where I live to where [?]
LBJ: Where are you going now?
WM: I'm going to [?] Street, I'm told.
Unidentified Man: Yes, there's a school there where he will be taken care of tonight.
LBJ: Where's your family?
WM: Some behind me right in here, a couple in the front, [?]
LBJ: What's happened to your neighbors?
WM: Well they the same way. They're the same way, sir. They're the same way. We're all out of there, you know. I guess we'll maybe march back. We're all outta there.
LBJ: How long've you lived here?
WM: Well I lived right there thirteen years.
LBJ: You ever seen anything like this before?
WM: No sir, not in my life. I've seen storms and hurricanes, but not this much water. Unless of course...a cloud burst or something and it wasn't nothing like that...
LBJ: How come you didn't lose any more lives?
WM: Well [?], God, with the providence of him. I guess we will see through his mercy.
LBJ: Where do you work?
WM: I don't work. I do little ordered jobs... I'm not able. I'm 74 years old. I worked for the [?] governor after [?], and I went on to retirement.
LBJ: How old are you?
WM: 74.
LBJ: You look like a pretty young fella for 74.
WM: 1892, 16 of December.
LBJ: What state?
WM: Tennessee. Nashville, Tennessee.
LBJ: Well, good luck to you. I hope things work out alright.
WM: God bless you. God ever bless you.

President Johnson Speaks to an Unidentified Victim at a Shelter in New Orleans

LBJ: Is your house under water?
Man: It's under water, completely.
LBJ: All your family safe?
Man: Yes sir, my family's safe. Thank goodness, thank goodness.
LBJ: We're down here and we're gonna help every way we can.
Man: Thank you very much.


President Johnson Requests Water After Visiting Shelter

Get a hold of [?] and talk to the Mayor and see if you can get [?] water right away. Fellas at the shelter were saying they was thirsty and their starving for water... we've just got to get them some water in there as soon as we can.


President Johnson Speaks to the Media Prior to Departure for Baton Rouge

What we'll do...I think is this, he told me y'all need 30-40 minutes. We'll just sit, wait til y'all file your story, then you come on, we'll go we'll scratch Baton Rouge -- we've committed to go there, and I'll talk to the governor over the telephone from the plane if I can, and I'll have a statement for you when they get out here.

I've asked the mayor to call Coca-Cola, 7Up, Orange Crush people, everybody they could to try and get them out there this evening because they have no water. And that's one thing you can do without any fear of contamination.


President Johnson's Remarks Upon Departure of New Orleans to Washington, DC

Ladies and gentlemen, we will not go to Baton Rouge. I've talked to Governor McKeithen by telephone very shortly. I want to again thank the members of the Louisiana Delegation for escorting me here this evening and to the Mayor, who has taken me through the ruined city. I have just completed an extensive tour of New Orleans and the surrounding area. I am saddened by the damage and the suffering that I have seen. The high winds that reached a speed of 145 miles per hour wreaked massive destruction. Roofs were crushed, trees toppled, tons of broken glass and shattered electric and telephone lines lay in the wake of the savage storm. Most of the city as you observed, is still without lights this evening. With the winds came the rain, and untold misery has been caused by flooding. Many homes are now covered, including their roofs. But I am determined that we can help these people in every way that human compassion and effective aid can serve them.

I have ordered that all red tape be cut. Our assistance will be given the highest priority. The Department of Agriculture is already providing emergency food at food stations such as we visited. They've been set up by the Red Cross and the help of other local agencies. Troops from Fort Polk have called into action to prevent starvation and to protect life and property. The Small Business Administration, under the direction of Gene Foley, will tomorrow morning begin processing the first long-term loans in New Orleans. The Corps of Engineers is at work tonight, opening levees and dikes and removing debris. But we're ready to do much more. Within the hour, Governor McKeithen asked us to declare Louisiana a disaster area. We will so declare it tonight. At that moment, I will immediately order the following:

One, we will allocate the funds necessary to rebuild the streets, highways and bridges. We will repair essential facilities such as public buildings, docks, hospitals and schools. Two, we will distribute through the Red Cross the medicine and the food necessary to carry the victims through the emergency period. Three, we will provide temporary housing and emergency shelter. Four, we will supply federal equipment for construction, repair and clearing. Five, we will assist veterans to retain their homes by a temporary suspension of V.A. mortgage payments.

I congratulate Louisiana's local and state officials, particularly the Mayor of the city of New Orleans for their heroism and their devotion to duty. I want to pay tribute to the compassion and the around-the-clock concern of the entire Louisiana Congressional Delegation. Within two hours after they notified me that we should come visit this area, our plane was taking off the runway at Andrews.

This nation grieves for its neighbors in Louisiana, but this state will build its way out of its sorrow. And the national government will be at Louisiana's side to help it every step of the way in every way that we can.