RFK recommends Allen Dulles for a civil rights mission

Listen to this fascinating telephone call in June 1964 between President Lyndon Johnson, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and former CIA director Allen Dulles.

In the call, LBJ and RFK prevail upon Dulles to serve as the president’s personal emissary to Mississippi after disappearance of the three civil rights workers.

Which is the most telling exchange between the two men?

(H/T Jean, Dan, and Jim)


47 thoughts on “RFK recommends Allen Dulles for a civil rights mission”

  1. It is somewhat astounding to read the argument that JFK must have felt kindly toward Allen Dulles because he said positive things about him in a speech upon Dulles’s retirement. But then, we have also seen it argued that JFK could not possibly have privately planned to withdraw from Vietnam because he did not make a public announcement about it on the eve of a re-election year, and we have seen it argued that RFK could not possibly have disbelieved the Warren Report because he did not openly denounce it. It seems that the Kennedy brothers, unlike any other political figures in all of human history, always said exactly what they were thinking in public at all times and never bent the truth for any reason.

    1. I hope you’re not talking about me, J.D., because those aren’t actually my arguments. Sorry if I haven’t been clear.

  2. JFKfacts is a modified limited hangout meant to recycle endlessly arguments already made. The fact is the coup d’etat of November 22, 1963 is and has been a proven fact for at least 45 years.

    This place is just a trap of “repetition-repetition”.

  3. It is telling that Johnson let RFK persuade Dulles, rather than use the Johnson strongarm tactics LBJ used on members of the Warren Omission. This is a strange conversation between Dulles and RFK. Dulles is asking all the questions, RFK is stating what the job entails. Why didn’t LBJ handle this call? This was way out of Dulles purview, although he is a lawyer and was head of the CIA. I am perplexed as to why LBJ didn’t pressure Jedgar Hoover about the 3 missing Freedom Riders. There appears to be more going on (beneath the surface) here than just this phone call. The tension is palpable.

  4. RFK clearly did not want to engage with Dulles re: Dulles’s anger. I give Dulles much credit to bring this up (twice!). If they are going to work together, clear out the left over baggage. Who knows they may have had more of a discourse later.

  5. Is it possible that RFK was just following the orders of his president? Evidence in favor of my speculation is that it sounds like these two men haven’t spoken in quite some time. They are not pals. It’s easy for me to envision a scenario where RFK is subjected to LBJ’s famously overwhelming skills at persuasion. The Lincoln Memorial couldn’t have withstood his Warren Commission appeal.

  6. [CORRECTION: After June 19, 1964, is the consensus. The local Mass. website I first read is the outlier there in terms of the crash date.]

  7. In the interest of supplying some JFK facts:


    Regarding that weird bit around the minute 2:00 mark, the (by this point) late John F Kennedy and Robert Kennedy’s brother, Ted, had just been in a plane crash in Southampton, which puts this call after June 16, 1964, most likely. Ted was on route to the state Democratic convention in West Springfield.

    Something about the way the audio loops there sounds to me like the person who recorded this did not hear the original recording in that context, but I may be wrong about that. I would love some clarification about that looping and what it means or might mean.


    Here’s a transcript of part of the call I think is pretty fascinating.


    [Starting at minute 7:00]

    Dulles: Why did you pick me for this?

    RFK: Because I *know* you.

    [ laughter, maybe mutual, but largely Dulles, the full import of which I do not pretend to understand ]

    Dulles: I’ve been a little mad at you, you know, a little bit, on this “Bay of Pigs” book–

    RFK: Uh …

    Dulles:–but I [might?] forget that pretty easily.

    RFK: Oh … Well, I’m glad. Well, anyway, you know–

    [ more laughter from Dulles ]

    Dulles: I don’t stay angry long.

    RFK: No … [ Then Something ??? ]

    [Ending at 7:23]


  8. Worthy of note is the Fact dulles was at this time the only otherwise unemployed member of the warren omission. He was in Fact the unsolicited head of it, participating in it way more than any other member, much less Warren himself.

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