More on the Telephone Conversations

Telephone Conversations: Processing

Transfer to the Archives

On January 29, 1973, Mildred Stegall, a longtime member of President Johnson's staff, transferred control of a collection of recordings and transcripts to the Director of the LBJ Library, Harry Middleton. At that time, she indicated that President Johnson had wanted this material to be closed for research until fifty years after his death. This collection currently consists of two types of recordings: 1) recordings of telephone conversations, primarily made on Dictaphone Dictabelt Records, from November 22, 1963, through January 1969, and corresponding transcripts; and 2) recordings of international meetings and of meetings held in the Cabinet Room from late November 1967 through 1968, made on reel-to-reel audio tape, and corresponding transcripts.


John F. Kennedy Assassination-Related Recordings (the "K Series")

In response to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, the staff of the LBJ Presidential Library prepared a special series of recordings and transcripts of telephone conversations. This series, entitled "JFK Assassination-Related Conversations," consists of the recordings and transcripts of all recorded telephone conversations from November 22, 1963, through December 31, 1963, as well as conversations containing information related to the assassination of President Kennedy from the following later periods in the Johnson administration:

  • January and February 1964, while the transition between administrations continued
  • September 1964, the month of the release of the Warren Commission report
  • December 1966, when the controversy over the serialization in Look magazine and the publication of William Manchester's book, Death of a President, occurred
  • January 1967 to the end of the Johnson administration, the period of the Garrison investigation and subsequent trial of Clay Shaw

This series was opened in increments from September 30, 1993, through April 15, 1994. The only previous release from this collection was made in response to a subpoena in conjunction with the "CBS v. Westmoreland" lawsuit in 1984, when small portions of selected transcripts were released to the court.

With the fifty-year restriction effectively broken by the congressional mandate of the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act, the decision was made by the Director to continue to open these materials. The White House Series continued chronologically where the JFK Series left off, beginning in January 1964. 

When Archives staff completed the White House Series in Dec. 2008, the decision was made to reprocess and add the Kennedy Series conversations, so that the recordings were represented with their true provenance . Though the conversations do not correspond exactly, due to changes in prcessing techniques, all of the content from the Kennedy Series now exists in the White House series.



Pilot Project

A pilot project to duplicate the belt recordings was initially undertaken in June 1992. At that time, the belts were duplicated onto analog cassettes, beginning with belts from November 22, 1963, and continuing through February 26, 1964. Each belt was recorded in its entirety onto a separate 60-minute analog cassette. No attempt was made at that time to list the subject matter of the conversations, nor to inventory the complete collection of recordings; however, an inventory of the transcript collection was begun by the Supervisory Archivist prior to the pilot project.

The earliest presidential recordings were made on IBM belts. The Library no longer possessed working IBM dictating equipment but was able to obtain a working machine on loan to duplicate these belts during the pilot project. After that was done, the machine was returned to IBM.

In April 1993, the Archives staff prepared a preliminary inventory of all the belts in the collection, using the information recorded by President Johnson's secretarial staff on the slips and envelopes which accompanied the belts. After surveying the collection, the Archives staff decided that Digital Audio Tape (DAT) would be a more suitable medium for duplication of the Dictabelts than analog cassette. After the preliminary inventory was completed, duplication of the belts resumed, using DAT equipment and beginning with February 27, 1964.  



A single Dictabelt could hold recordings of several telephone conversations. The use of DAT technology enabled the staff to insert an electronic identification marker, or Program Number (PNO), at the start of each conversation to facilitate locating the beginning of the conversation on the tape. The staff used the Tape and PNO numbers to link description information to each individual conversation. Contents of belts were recorded in their entirety, and mute sound was inserted to separate the contents of belts.

When the recording of a conversation originally continued onto a second belt, mute sound was also recorded to indicate the separate belts and the staff inserted another PNO marker at the beginning of the continuation. Therefore, some single conversations which span more than one belt have more than one PNO number. In many cases, some of the conversation at the end of the first belt was also recorded on the beginning of the second belt on the original recordings, and this repetition has been preserved on the DAT recordings. Continuations are noted in the Comments field.


White House Series


When the Library began processing the White House Series, a number of changes were made to improve both the quality and the efficiency of tape production. First, the conversations on the White House Series have been reproduced on tapes containing no more than 74 minutes of recording, in anticipation of eventually making the collection available on compact disks, which contain a maximum of 74 minutes of recorded time. In order to fit the maximum number of conversations in a 74-minute format, the Library decided not to preserve the original full contents of individual belts on single tapes. That is, contents of a single belt may be divided between two tapes in the White House Series. However, the Library has always retained on a single 74-minute tape those conversations which span more than one belt. The finding aids available in the Reading Room which accompany each tape contain photocopies of the accompanying slip information; when the contents of a belt have been divided between tapes, the copies of the slip have been annotated to indicate this division.




Because of the sound problems inherent in some of the original recordings, some belts have been re-recorded several times in an attempt to get the best recording. The Archives staff has made a judgment on the quality of the various recordings and has made the best recording possible available. When that recording has been substituted for one which was duplicated with other conversations originally recorded on a belt, four seconds of mute sound have been inserted before and after the PNO to indicate that substitution. Occasionally, two different re-recordings have been made available when the recording quality of each is superior in different parts of the conversation; these are noted as "Re-Records" in the Comments section of the description. On very rare occasions, when a single audible recording of a lengthy conversation could not be made, the Archives staff prepared a composite recording of the audible portions of more than one recording of a conversation so that all audible parts of the conversation are available as a single PNO. In these cases, a note has been made in the Comments section.

Determining Chronology

Apparently, more than one Dictabelt machine was used to record conversations on some days, so the calls for that day may have been recorded out of chronological sequence on the various belts used that day. The Archives staff has arranged all of the conversations on a day in chronological sequence, regardless of where they may have been recorded on the original belts. Mute sound has been inserted to indicate that a conversation has been separated from the original sequence of the recorded conversations on the original belts.


Telephone Conversations: Descriptions


The Dictabelt "Slips"

When the Archives staff assumed responsibility for processing the collection of recordings of telephone conversations, the first step undertaken was inventorying the entire collection of telephone recordings. A database was created for the inventory using Paradox 3.5 software. Information was entered for each conversation, initially based on the information provided on the slips attached to each belt. As the recordings were duplicated, additional information was entered into the database for each recording. This database has been used to create the descriptions.

Citation/Reference Numbers

The citation numbers from one month to the next are not sequential because the staff has reserved numbers at the end of each month in the event that additional recordings or transcripts for that month are located in the future.

The same citation number(s) assigned to a recording are also assigned to any corresponding transcript of that conversation. When several versions of a transcript of a single conversation exist, they are assigned the same reference number, but with an alpha extension to distinguish the different versions. Transcripts of conversations which originally spanned more than one belt and whose recordings have reference numbers are assigned all the number given the recording. The Citation Numbers are written on the upper, right-hand corner of the transcript.

Date and Time 

Date and time the are based on the time zone where the call was recorded. Thus, if the conversation was recorded at the LBJ Ranch, it is Central Time; if it was at the White House, it is Eastern Time.


Information about physical characteristics of the recording, or information about the call as originally noted on the slips.


Closures on the White House Series are indicated by a tone for the actual length of the closure. When a conversation is closed in its entirety, four seconds of mute sound precede and follow the tone to distinguish from sanitizations, which are indicated by a tone which flows immediately from the preceding words. 


While the belts were intended to record the President's telephone conversations, other conversations were occasionally recorded, apparently when the speakerphone and recording equipment were left on. Such conversations are described in the Speaker sections of the descriptive notes as "Office Conversation." At other times, the equipment recorded the sounds of a teletype machine, radio, television or other non-human sounds; these recordings are described as "Office Noise." Finally, static was sometimes recorded, and these recordings are described as "Machine Noise." 


Specific information about the topic of the conversation. This field has been assigned the maximum length possible in the database software.Researchers should be aware that it is not possible for the Archives staff to describe every aspect of a conversation, particularly for lengthy conversations. The sequence of information in this field is not necessarily the same as the sequence of topics covered in the conversation itself.

Names of countries, federal agencies, and some terms used in the Topics field reflect contemporary terminology used during the Johnson administration (i.e., "Congo" is used, not "Zaire"; "AEC" for Atomic Energy Commission, is used not "DOE" for Department of Energy; "Negro" is used rather than "Black" or "African-American").


Subjects include the General Topic(s) of the call, from the master list compiled by the Archives staff, with some additonal metadata added later. Subjects are listed in alphabetical order, not order of importance in the conversation.

General Topic/ Subject: Usage

  • Africa: For Egypt (UAR) see "Middle East" instead.
  • Agriculture
  • Appointments and nominations: Appointments demonstrating a commitment to equality for Negroes and Hispanics, see also "Civil rights."
  • Arms control and disarmament
  • Arts
  • Assassinations
  • Atomic Energy: Refers to peaceful uses only. For weapons, see "Arms Control and Disarmament" or "Defense"
  • Beautification
  • Business: Matters affecting particular firms, industries or economic sectors, but see also "Agriculture" and "Transportation.". See also "Economics," "Labor."
  • Civil disorders
  • Civil rights: Includes appointments demonstrating a commitment to equality for Negroes and Hispanics, but not those involving women.
  • Communist bloc: Use for Sino-Soviet issues, international Communism, Cold War issues.
  • Condolences and greetings
  • Congressional relations: Used in all conversations with or about members of Congress, individually or collectively, except those concerning a member's activities as a candidate for office (e.g., Barry Goldwater) rather than as a legislator (in such cases, use "Elections" and "National Politics" or "Texas Politics").
  • Consumer affairs
  • Crime and law enforcement
  • Defense
  • Diplomacy: International contacts or negotiations, with or without third parties, and for discussions of reports about such contacts. See also "Treaties."
  • Disasters
  • East Asia and the Pacific: Includes Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea (North and South), Micronesia, New Zealand, Taiwan. For Philippines, see "Southeast Asia" instead.
  • Economics: Used for matters pertaining to national economy as a whole. See also "Business," "Labor."
  • Education
  • Elections: Includes conventions and specific races. See also "National Politics," "Texas Politics."
  • Federal Budget
  • Lady Bird Johnson
  • Foreign Aid
  • Health Policy: Includes Medicare.
  • Hispanics: Refers to those in U.S., not Latin America or Iberia.
  • Housing
  • Humor and mimicry: Use for jokes, stories and anecdotes, mimicry of others.
  • Immigration
  • International Economic Policy: Includes trade and monetary issues (currency, interest rates if in international context).
  • Investigations: Refers to both congressional and law enforcement agency probes.
  • Invitations to LBJ
  • Johnson family: Includes LBJ ancestors, and Luci and Lynda, but not Mrs. Johnson's ancestors.
  • Judiciary
  • Labor: Includes strikes and other disputes, wages, employment conditions. See also "Business," "Economics."
  • Latin America: Mexico, Caribbean, Central and South America.
  • LBJ personal: Includes conversations between LBJ and family members or friends, unless the conversation concerns the friend's role (e.g., as legislator) rather than personal matters.
  • LBJ reminiscences
  • LBJ travel
  • Legislation: Use in connection with formulation and progress of legislation, legislative strategy.
  • Middle East: Region from Egypt (UAR) to Turkey to Afghanistan (inclusive) and Arabian Peninsula.
  • NATO: See also "Western Europe," "Middle East" (Turkey).
  • National politics: Includes political matters in individual states besides Texas and those in more than one state. See also "Elections."
  • Natural resources and national parks: Includes parks and wilderness, economic uses of resources.
  • Pre-Presidential
  • Presidency:Refers to the office/institution.
  • Press relations: Includes both print and broadcast media. Use for conversations with or about journalists, and for conversations concerning media coverage or reaction to it.
  • Procurement and disposal
  • Public Relations: Includes opinion polls, measures to influence the general public, groups or individuals more favorably toward LBJ or administration.
  • Religion
  • Selective Service
  • Social events: Relating to events sponsored by President or family members, but not for casual or strictly personal contacts. See also "LBJ Personal," "Public Relations.”
  • South Asia: Bhutan, Ceylon, India, Kashmir, Maldive Islands, Nepal, Pakistan.
  • Southeast Asia:Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, North Borneo, Philippines, Sarawak, Singapore, Thailand.
  • Space program
  • Speeches: Used in relation to any statement except press conferences (for which use "Press Relations"), by LBJ or others.
  • Taxes
  • Texas politics
  • Transportation
  • Treaties
  • United Nations
  • Urban affairs
  • USSR and Eastern Europe: East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Albania and countries east of those.
  • Veterans
  • Vietnam: Includes all aspects of conflict except criticism of administration policy.
  • Vietnam criticism: Includes all (hawks and doves) opponents/critics of administration policy.
  • Welfare and the War on Poverty
  • Western Europe: Finland, West Germany, Austria, Italy and countries west of those, and for Greece and Cyprus.
  • White House administration: Includes White House personnel and transportation matters.
  • Women

Abbreviations used in Description and Comment Fields 


FDR: Franklin D. Roosevelt
HHH: Hubert H. Humphrey
JFK: John F. Kennedy
LBJ: Lyndon B. Johnson (Used instead of "The President" or "Johnson")
MCC.: McChesney
MLK: Martin Luther King
RFK: Robert F. Kennedy


Government agencies and departments, etc

AEC: Atomic Energy Commission
A.I.D.: Agency for International Development
ARA: Area Redevelopment Administration
B.O.B.: Bureau of the Budget
CAB: Civil Aeronautics Board
CCC: Civilian Conservation Corps
CEA: Council of Economic Advisors
CED: Committee for Economic Development
CIA: Central Intelligence Agency
DOD: Department of Defense
EEOC: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
EOB: Executive Office Building
FAA: Federal Aviation Administration
FBI: Federal Bureau of Investigation
FCC: Federal Communications Commission
FDIC: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
FHA: Federal Housing Administration
FMHA: Farmers Home Administration
FNMA: Federal National Mortgage Association ("Fannie Mae")
FPC: Federal Power Commission
FRB: Federal Reserve Board
FTC: Federal Trade Commission
GPO: Government Printing Office
GSA: General Services Administration
HEW: Department of Health, Education and Welfare
HHFA: Housing and Home Finance Agency
ICC: Interstate Commerce Commission
IRS: Internal Revenue Service
JCS: Joint Chiefs of Staff
NASA: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NDEA: National Defense Education Act
NIH: National Institutes of Health
NLRB: National Labor Relations Board
NSC: National Security Council
NYA: National Youth Administration
OEO: Office of Economic Opportunity
OEP: Office of Emergency Preparedness
PCEEO: President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity
REA: Rural Electrification Administration
SAC: Strategic Air Command
SEC: Securities and Exchange Commission
TVA: Tennessee Valley Authority
USDA: United States Department of Agriculture
USIA: United States Information Agency
VA: Veterans Administration
VISTA: Volunteers in Service to America
WH: White House
WHCA: White House Communications Agency


International Business and Organizations

CENTO: Central Treaty Organization
ECOSOC:Economic and Social Council (United Nations)
GATT: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
IDA: International Development Association
IMF: International Monetary Fund
MLF: Multi-Lateral Force
NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NLF: National Liberation Front
OAS:Organization of American States
OAU: Organization of African Unity
OECD: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
UN: United Nations
UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Domestic Business and Organizations

ABA: American Bar Association
ABC: American Broadcasting Company
ADA: Americans for Democratic Action
AFL-CIO: American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
AMA: American Medical Association
AP: Associated Press
ASNE: American Society of Newspaper Editors
BLFE: Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engineers
CBS: Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.
CORE: Congress of Racial Equality
DNC: Democratic National Committee
GM: General Motors
ITandT:International Telephone and Telegraph
KKK: Klux Klan
KTBC: Johnsons' Radio Station, Austin
MFDP: Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party
MGIC: Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation
NAACP: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
NAM: National Association of Manufacturers
NBC: National Broadcasting Company
NYT: New York Times
RNC: Republican National Committee
SNCC: Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee
SWTSC: Southwest Texas State College
SWTSTC: Southwest Texas State Teachers College
TWA: Trans World Airlines
UAW: United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America
UPI: United Press International
UT: University of Texas (at Austin)

Countries and places (these abbreviations may also be used in the Location Details field)

DC: District of Columbia
LA: Los Angeles (NOT Louisiana)
UAR: United Arab Republic (Egypt)
UK: United Kingdom
US: United States
USSR: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

Common usage (abbreviations for military ranks can be combined, e.g., LT. COL. for "Lieutenant Colonel")

ABM: Anti-Ballistic Missile
AFB: Air Force Base
AM: morning
ASSN: Association
BBQ: Barbecue
CAPT.: Captain
CPL.: Corporal
CO.: County
COL.: Colonel
CORP: Corporation
DEPT: Department
DEPTS: Departments
DMZ: Demilitarized Zone
DR.: Doctor
EO: Executive Order
GEN.: General
GI: “Government Issue" A member of the American military forces
GNP: Gross National Product
GOV.: Governor
GOVT: Government
ICBM: Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
JR.: Junior
LT.: Lieutenant
MAJ.: Major
MR.: Mister
MRS.: Missus
PM: afternoon
PNO: Program Number
POL: petroleum, oil, lubricants
POW: Prisoner of War
SAM: Surface to Air Missile
SEN.: Senator
SGT.: Sergeant
SR.: Senior
SST: Supersonic Transport
ST.: Saint
TFX: Tactical Fighter - Experimental
TV: Television
UNIV: University
USS: United States Ship
VE: Victory in Europe (World War II)
VP: Vice President
WWII: World War II