Thursday, September 14, 2006

The President is on the line...

Posted By on Thu, Sep 14, 2006 at 10:10 PM

LBJ does good phone.

It's not funny enough to make you spew your Starbucks all over the monitor, but technology, like traffic court, can be a great leveler of society. Here's the 411:

In this age of digital communications, it's hard to conceive of your
long-distance phone call winding up in the Oval Office. Back in 1965,
that's just what happened to a Denver couple, who inadvertently ended
up talking with the 36th President of the United States. It happened
during a highly confidential conversation between President Johnson
and Abe Fortas on the night of May 14, 1965, about what became known
as the Dominican Intervention. Fortas, a trusted legal advisor acting
as a special negotiator, was calling from Puerto Rico to update the
President on the situation in the Dominican Republic. During the
conversation, a call from Denver to Washington was suddenly patched
onto the same line.

Since the release of the conversation on January 12, 2001, Library
archivists learned that the couple was Cecil and Walter Messner of
Denver calling their friend, Jim, in Washington, D.C. Cecil had
apparently just retired and returned to Denver after nearly 25 years
as a switchboard operator at the White House. The Messners' niece,
Audrey McKay of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, identified the couple after
reading about the newly released conversation in the Denver Post.

At the time, it was customary for members of the White House staff to
patch calls through the White House switchboard to save on
long-distance charges. The Messners got more than they had bargained
for when they patched their call through to their friend in the
nation's capital.

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