May 26, 1966. For the first time in U.S. history, Mexican-American leaders sit down with the President in the White House at a meeting devoted exclusively to their concerns, as LBJ had announced 5 days ago. The leaders included representatives from the American GI Forum, LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), PASO (Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations) and MAPA (Mexican-American Political Association).
Here’s an account of what happened, from the President’s Daily Diary:
“The President arrived and greeted all of the Mexican-American representatives — individual handshakes. Immediately sat down at the table with all the persons there sitting around. He began speaking about the need for representation in his Administration of Mexican-Americans and his desire for these reps helping the cause by making suggestions and/or submitting names of brilliant, smart persons whose capacities could greater carry out the Great Society aims. He said he had grown up among many Mexican-Americans, some of his close personal friends, from the time of his youth were Mexican-Americans; he stated his great personal admiration of these people as proven by his recent trip to Mexico; and he hoped that these discussions would bring about better understanding of the Mexican descendants born in the U.S. He wanted to hear complaints as well as airing of any problems these reps could bring forth and asked for each and every one of the reps to so speak.
“Mr. Hernandez began by saying his people were disappointed that EEO had no one representing their people — and the great need for this. That they had been promised and promised so much, but the Administration had not done anything about it. The President replied that one of his secretaries, Mrs. Boozer, sitting in on this discussion, was certainly a fine and able representative, she was as close to the President, as anyone could be, opened his mail everyday, certainly she would be able to be of any assistance or receive any of the mail from any of them without the slightest hesitation — Mr. Bert Corona said he nor anyone of the people there had any idea Mrs. Boozer was so close to our great President, that he would like to have a picture of Mrs. Boozer for publication purposes to let some of his people know this fact.
“Discussion ended about 1 hr later - when the President departed and left everyone to enjoy dinner and continue discussion w/members of his staff for another session to take place in late August at LBJ Ranch.”
Attendees included Alfred J. Hernandez (LULAC), Augustin Flores and Dr. Hector Garcia (American GI Forum), Bert Corona (MAPA), and Roy Elizondo (PASO), and Robert Orneles (Dept. of Defense Equal Opportunity Office in Texas). Also attending were staff members Joe Califano, Robert Kintner, Harry McPherson, Jake Jacobsen, and Marvin Watson.
Photos: Top, the 5/26 meeting; bottom, the oft-mentioned Yolanda Boozer, LBJ’s secretary, in 1967. LBJ Presidential Library images #A2518-10a, #6613-4, public domain.