Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Brian Lamb, February 20, 2020

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:28 - Joining the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War

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Partial Transcript: Well, thank you for, uh, agreeing to do this interview.

Segment Synopsis: Lamb discusses his career in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.

Keywords: Accepted; Allowed; Answering; Application; Arthur Sylvester; Assistant secretary of defense for public affairs; Audiovisual department; Busy; Calls; Chief of information office; Collateral duty; Controversial; Disliked; End; Enlisted; Eye-opener; Full-time; Interested; Interesting; Johnson administration; Kennedy administration; Law school; Left; Liaison; Lie; Liked; Lyndon Johnson; Manipulating; Naval officer; Networks; News; Newspaper industry; Officer Candidate School; Post; Public affairs; Public information officer; Radio program; Reserve officer; Right; Selected; Service; Ship; Stay; Submitted; U.S. Army; U.S. Navy; Uncaring; Uncle; Weekends

Subjects: Career; Change; Draft; Federal government; Indiana; Indiana University; Lafayette (Ind.); Norfolk (Va.); Pentagon (Va.); Publicity; Purdue University; Television; Time; Travel; United States. Department of Defense; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Washington (D.C.); Young

00:04:36 - Work as a White House social aide

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Partial Transcript: Well, uh, you came here to work at the Pentagon but somehow you wound up working at the White House as well. How did that happen?

Segment Synopsis: Lamb details his work as a White House social aide during the Johnson administration.

Keywords: After; Agreement; All-male; Announcer; Appointment; Arrival; Aware; Bachelor; Bess Abell; Birch Bayh; Breakfast; Bureau of Personnel; Captain; Careful; Cocky; Collateral duty; Comfortable; Commander; Confused; Dances; Different; Drinks; Driving; Easy; Ego-centric; Escort; Events; Exciting; Extension; Fascinating; First family; Flexible; Greeting; Help; Interested; Interview; Introduction; Job offer; Junior officer; Lady Bird Johnson; Lunch; Name; Nice; No ego; North portico; Not important; Office; Overwhelmed; Parking; Phone call; Phone number; Plans; Pulled off; Receiving line; Reception; Relax; Sent; Social aide; Standing; State dinner; Status; Suit; Tie; U.S. Air Force; Unfamiliar; Uniform; Violation; Visit; White House

Subjects: Arlington (Va.); Change; Childhood; Email; Explanation; Food; Friend; Handshaking; Home; Lafayette (Ind.); Oakland (Calif.); Pentagon (Va.); People; Politicians; Washington (D.C.); Women; Young

00:11:11 - Lady Bird Johnson

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Partial Transcript: Mrs. Johnson was the greatest.

Segment Synopsis: Lamb offers his opinion of Lady Bird Johnson.

Keywords: Admiration; Angry; Answer; Anxious; Bess Abell; C-SPAN; Difficult; Dishonest; Honest; Husband; Interesting; Lady Bird Johnson; Last interview; Listen; Lyndon Johnson; Macular degeneration; Magnificent; Phone calls; President; Questions; Special; Tapes; Terrific; Unaware; Wife

Subjects: Blind; LBJ Ranch House (Tex.); Oval Office (White House, Washington, D.C.); Politicians; Respect; Television; Washington (D.C.)

00:13:05 - Lyndon Johnson

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Partial Transcript: Well in fact there's a famous picture of him pointing his finger at you.

Segment Synopsis: Lamb recalls interesting encounters he had with Lyndon Johnson while working as a White House social aide.

Keywords: Administrative assistant; Approval; At fault; Baby; Best side; Blue room; Chuck Robb; Decisions; Excited; Finger; Floor; Grandson; Helicopter; Interesting; Introductions; Irritated; Issue; LBJ Presidential Library; Leaving; Left side; Liked; Live; Lost; Lynda Bird Johnson Robb; Lyndon Johnson; Military aides; Moving; Patrick Lyndon Nugent; Place; Pointing; President; Problem; Profile; Receiving line; Right side; Social aides; South lawn; Standing; TV cameras; Talking; Uninvolved; Unplanned; Vain; White House

Subjects: LBJ Ranch House (Tex.); Meeting; Oval Office (White House, Washington, D.C.); Photographers; Pictures; Politicians; Television; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Washington (D.C.); Wedding

00:17:27 - Lynda Bird Johnson Robb's wedding

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Partial Transcript: At--at that wedding you also escorted Mrs. Johnson, uh, down the--the stairs.

Segment Synopsis: Lamb articulates his role in the wedding of Lynda Bird Johnson Robb.

Keywords: Advice; Agreement; Anchor; Angry; Answer; Arthur Sylvester; Assignments; Assistance; Behind; Bess Abell; Bleachers; Bureau chiefs; CNN; Captain; Chuck Robb; Civilian clothes; Close; Colonel; Concerned; Coverage; Decision; Details; Directions; East Room; Escort; Evening; Exciting; Friends; Fun; Headline; Helen Thomas; Help; House; Instructions; Involved; Keep; Knew; Lady Bird Johnson; Lead; Lieutenant commander; Lieutenant junior grade; Limo; Living quarters; Liz Carpenter; Lynda Bird Johnson Robb; Lyndon Johnson; Marine barracks; Media; Name; Naval aide; Networks; News; Older; Parade; Phone calls; Phone number; Portrayal; Precise; Prepared; Press secretary; Questions; Reporters; Reporting; Sitting; Social aides; Stairs; Steak; Story; Suggestion; Talking; Trouble; U.S. Navy; UPI; Unaware; Unhappy; Unimportant; Unintimidated; Unofficial; Upset; Waving; White House; Wrong

Subjects: AP Newsfeatures (Firm); Article; Cameras; Character; Cooking; December; Explanation; Home; Johnson family; Marines; Meetings; Memo; Morning; Pentagon (Va.); Politicians; Strategy; Texas; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Walking; Washington (D.C.); Washington post; Wedding; Wire; Work; Writing

00:25:47 - White House social aides / Bess Abell as social secretary

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Partial Transcript: She always knew what she was doing.

Segment Synopsis: Lamb details some of the tendencies of White House social aides. Lamb describes Bess Abell as a social secretary, particularly how she was kind to the social aides.

Keywords: Apartment; Appreciative; Before; Bess Abell; Construction; Dining room; Dislike; Eating; Egos; Events; Favored; First family; Gone; House; In charge; Interesting; Interior designer; Iron butterfly; Knew; Lady Bird Johnson; Lies; Loved; Merry-Go-Round Farm; Mess hall; Never invited; Nice; Nickname; Non-regulation; Officer; Patch; President; Sent; Serious offense; Social aides; State dinner; Strivers; Tough job; Tyler Abell; U.S. Army; Uniform; Wall; Well-liked; White House; Wife

Subjects: Character; Food; Marriage; Officers' Club; People; Pictures; Politicians; Rumors; Texas; Vietnam; Washington (D.C.)

00:30:23 - Famous White House guests / Memories of Bess Abell

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Partial Transcript: You know, she had a tough job.

Segment Synopsis: Lamb recalls some of the more famous guests he encountered at the White House during his time spent as a social aide. Lamb shares his memories of Bess Abell as a social secretary.

Keywords: Accommodating; Agreed; Angry; Archive; Attractive; Barbara Walters; Bess Abell; Better seat; Breath; C-SPAN; Cathy Douglas; Caught; Closer; Controversy; Demanded; Dessert; Direct; Disciplinarian; Don Hewitt; Early; East Room; Ego-centric people; Entertainment; Fun; Future; Image; Insulted; Involved; Joan Crawford; Later; Left; Lesson; Let in; Met; Obnoxious; Origins; Personable; Plate; Preserved; Printed; Rare; Seated; Small-town; Social aides; Social secretary; U.S. Air Force; Uniform; Upset; Well-dressed; White House; William O. Douglas

Subjects: Afternoon; Celebrities; Character; Charm; Chewing gum; Confidence; History; Indiana; Man; Newspapers; People; Personality; Privilege; Respect; Résumés (Employment); Today show (Television program); Washington (D.C.); Young

00:34:56 - Anti-Vietnam War protests

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Partial Transcript: One thing I didn't ask about was, uh--'cause the Vietnam War is going now...

Segment Synopsis: Lamb considers the impact of anti-Vietnam War protests on the day-to-day functioning of the White House and the Pentagon. Lamb also comments upon the rather biased depiction of the anti-war protesters in the media at the time.

Keywords: ABC; Boisterous; Burning; C-SPAN; CBS; Camera; Civilian clothes; Coverage; Different; Event; Ground; Impression; Inside; Laying; Media; No impact; Placards; Reporter; Robert McNamara; Situation room; Social aides; Standing; TV station; Untrue; Weekends; White House

Subjects: Connecticut; Demonstrations; Hysteria; Military; National Mall & Memorial Parks (Agency : U.S.); Pentagon (Va.); Protection; Rifles; Students; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Walking; Washington (D.C.)

00:37:36 - Nixon White House vs. Johnson White House

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Partial Transcript: How different was the atmosphere in--around the Nixon White House than around the Johnson?

Segment Synopsis: Lamb compares his experiences of working in the Johnson White House to his time spent working under the Nixon administration.

Keywords: Assistants; Condescending; Different; Difficult; Fabulous; Family; Feeling; Hated; Important; Intense; Interesting; Interface; Involved; John F. Kennedy; Johnson administration; Killed; Leader; Lyndon Johnson; Nixon administration; Not important; Office; Pleasant; Political; Richard Nixon; Servant; Social aides; Still friends; Strange; Suspicious; Treatment; Troops; White House; White House Office of Telecommunications Policy; White House curator; Withdrawal

Subjects: Paranoid; People; Politicians; Professional; Staff; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Washington (D.C.); Work

00:40:41 - Memories of being a social aide / Work for Nixon campaign

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Partial Transcript: Well, is there something that I should have asked you about your years with working for Bess that I didn't ask you there?

Segment Synopsis: Lamb reflects upon some of his most vivid memories of being a White House social aide. Lamb discusses his brief work for the Nixon presidential campaign in 1968.

Keywords: 1968 presidential campaign; Accepted; Agreement; Bathroom; Boss; Campaign; Celebrity; Chief justice; Citizens for Nixon-Agnew; Close friend; Contact; Creepy; Decent; Democrat; Dwight Chapin; Earl Warren; Election-eve party; Empty; Everett Dirksen; Fall of the house of Usher; Fascinating; Following; Freshman senator; Fun; Funding; Funny; Headquarters; Height; Hired; Howard Baker; Hubert Humphrey; Informal; Interesting; Intrigued; Introduced; Invited; Job; Job prospects; Lamar Alexander; Lawyer; Lights; Loyal; Lyndon Johnson; Non-affiliated; Non-paid; Not hired; Office; Overheard; Pay; Phone call; Pleasant; Prison; Receiving line; Released; Reluctant; Return; Richard Nixon; Robert McNamara; Salary; Short; Shut down; Social aides; Step-son; Supreme Court; Sworn in; TV station; Thurgood Marshall; U.S. Navy; Unimportant; Unsuccessful; Valet; Wall; White House; William O. Douglas; Window

Subjects: Age; Budget; Campaign buttons; Capitol Hill (Washington, D.C.); Conversation; Experience; Historic; Indiana; Interviews; Management; Memories; Metaphor; New York (N.Y.); People; Perjury; Politicians; Poor; Posters; Publicity; Rooms; Time; Travel; University of Maryland; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Washington (D.C.); Willard Hotel (Washington, D.C.); Wisconsin; Work

00:47:29 - Documenting his life story / Bill Clinton's second inauguration

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Partial Transcript: So Brian, when are you gonna do your full oral history?

Segment Synopsis: Lamb briefly talks of his previous efforts to document his life. Lamb recalls when he and the interviewer attended President Bill Clinton's second inauguration in 1997.

Keywords: Accept; Accompany; After; Approach; Banal; Barbara Walters; Bill Clinton; C-SPAN; Capitol; Car; Chairman; Choice; Coverage; Date; Difficult; Exciting; Fun; Guests; Historical commentary; Joint Committee on Inauguration; Lunch; Media; Memoir; Mixture; Pay; Politics; Portico; Receive; Reminder; Restaurant; Richard Norton Smith; Second inauguration; Senators; Sitting; Studio; Talking; Unimpressed; White House

Subjects: Character; Explanation; Inauguration Day; Interviews; Life; Limousines; Oral history; Storytelling; Television; Time; Woman; Writing

00:51:22 - Upcoming book on Bess Abell / Chuck and Lynda Robb

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Partial Transcript: I think we're getting very close to finishing the book.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer briefly discusses his upcoming biography on Bess Abell. Lamb details the relationship between Chuck and Lynda Bird Johnson Robb.

Keywords: Bess Abell; Book; Bridge; Camera; Chuck Robb; Close; Dating; Dinner; Direction; Fate; Film; Finishing; Friends; Future; George Hamilton; Good senator; Governor; Illustrations; Interview; Lasting; Lieutenant governor; Living quarters; Lynda Bird Johnson Robb; Media; Morning shows; Politics; Predictions; Process; Relationship; Senator; Significant; Social aide; Started; Talking; Terrific; Tough questions; Video; White House

Subjects: Career; Friend; Marriage; Paper; Politicians; Social; Training; United States. Department of Defense; Washington (D.C.); Writing

00:55:02 - Experiences during the Vietnam War / Washington D.C. in the 1960s and 1970s

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Partial Transcript: Uh, just another story, has nothing to do with anything except that, uh, I got drafted in 1969.

Segment Synopsis: Lamb and the interviewer both share their experiences of serving in the military during the Vietnam War. Washington, D.C. in the 1960s and 1970s is compared to what the city was like in the late 2010s.

Keywords: Address; Boot camp; Borrow; Briefing; Broken bones; Campaigning; Chinese laundry; Civilian clothes; Classroom; Combat troops; Compelling; Congress; Different time; Drafted; Equipment; Familiar; Fun; General Westmoreland; Generation; Glad; Graduate student; Great; Hallway; Handling; Hospital; Human experience; Interesting; Invited; Learning experience; Military branches; Navy base; Need; Night school; Non-combatant; Obligation; Opposed; Reception; Released; Return; Richard Nixon; Sam Ervin; Senate; Sent back; Service; Small town; Social aide; Strange; Street; Supply clerk; Surrounded; Teaching assistant; U.S. Army; Unexpected; Uniform; Unsophisticated; Unusual; Vietnamization; WWII; War room; White House

Subjects: Capitol Hill (Washington, D.C.); Civil war; College graduates; Comparisons; Draftees; Education; Experience; Federal government; Library of Congress; Maps; Marines; Military; Pacific ocean; Pearl Harbor (Hawaii); Pentagon (Va.); Population; Saturday; Summer; Time; United States; University of Maryland; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Walking; Washington (D.C.); Watergate (Washington, D.C.); Work; World War, 1939-1945

01:00:29 - Trip to Vietnam during the war / Draft and the Vietnam War

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Partial Transcript: When I worked for Peter Dominick--

Segment Synopsis: Lamb recalls a trip he took to Vietnam during the Vietnam War with Senator Melvin Laird. Lamb and the interviewer weigh the pros and cons of the draft lottery system present in the U.S. during a portion of the Vietnam War.

Keywords: Angry; Anti-war; Attitude; Aware; Awkward; Before; Best thing; Blue collar; Bodies; Book; Boot camp; CSPAN; Captains; Chain of command; Classes; Close; Convertible; Decision; Desperate; Different; Disliked; Draft dodgers; Draft lottery; Drill inspector; Dropped; Equal; Exams; Exciting; First mortgage; Former; Friends; G.I. Bill; Glad; Graduate deferments; History department; Hometown; John Chafee; Learn; Liked; Lose; Master's degree; Melvin Laird; Military branches; Moratorium; Nervous; Newspaper clipping; No excuse; Opening; Paul Nitze; Peter Dominick; PhD; Photograph; Pleasant; Press secretary; Public servant; Requirements; Richard Nixon; Secretary of the Navy; Selection; Senator; Service; Shocking; Spiro Agnew; Teaching assistants; Vice president; Wrong

Subjects: Age; Baltimore (Md.); Beach; Black; Career; Continuity; Convertible; Draft; Experience; Fort Hamilton (New York, N.Y.); Good; Hawaii; Korean War, 1950-1954; Military; Money; Nephews; New York (N.Y.); People; Persona; Professors; Protection; Queens (New York, N.Y.); Responsibility; Travel; Unique; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Washington (D.C.); Washington Monument (Washington, D.C.); Women; World; Young