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Political Fundraiser with Senator Albert Gore (1956)

Gordon Wilkison

Sound | 1956

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TAMI Tags
  •  Then-Senator Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson addresses the crowd 
  •  Johnson speaks to Senator Albert Gore’s experience with the atomic energy program 
  •  Gore begins his speech 
  •  On the subject of atomic weapons 
  •  Effects of nuclear fallout 
  •  Why do we need a larger bomb? 
  •  Gore criticizes the Eisenhower Administration 
 
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  • About the video
  • LBJ LBJ
  • The Driskill Hotel The Driskill Hotel
  • Gordon Wilkison Gordon Wilkison
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Presented by the Texas Democratic Campaign Committee, this political telecast captures a Democratic fundraising dinner at Austin’s Driskill Hotel on October 31, 1956. Attendees paid $25-a-plate, filling the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom. The event was also broadcast over 12 Texas television stations. Then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson addresses the audience first, expressing his thanks and concerns. He then introduces the guest of honor: Senator Albert Gore Sr. of Tennessee. Gore served in the United States Congress from 1939 to 1971, first in the House of Representatives and then in the Senate. (His son, Al Gore Jr., likewise represented Tennessee in Congress before becoming Vice President of the United States in 1992.) The primary focus of Gore’s speech is atomic energy and security. Describing the dangerous effects of nuclear fallout, he advocates for the end of atomic weapons testing and stresses Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson’s knowledge of the issue. The presidential election occurred less than a week after this event on November 6, with Stevenson losing to incumbent Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Thirty-sixth president of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, was born on a hill country farm near Stonewall, Texas on August 27, 1908, to Samuel Ealy Johnson, a former Texas legislator, and Rebekah Baines Johnson.  He attended Southwest Teachers College, now Texas-State University, graduating with a degree in history and social science in 1930. LBJ spent one year as principal and teacher in Cotulla, educating impoverished Hispanic elementary school students. LBJ became the secretary to Texas Congressman Richard M. Kleberg in 1931; the four year position helped him gain influential contacts in Washington. Johnson married Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor on November 17, 1934.
 
LBJ acted as Director of the National Youth Administration in Texas from 1935 to 1937. Johnson won his first legislative election in 1937 for the Tenth Congressional District, a position he held for eleven years. He was a firm supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal and in 1940 acted as Chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee. In 1948, following his service as a Lieutenant Naval Commander during World War II, LBJ ran as the Democratic nominee for Senate. In a cloud of controversy, he narrowly defeated former Texas Governor Coke Stevens and easily beat his Republican opponent in the general election.  Before winning his second senate term, LBJ was elected Majority Whip in 1951, became the youngest ever Minority Senate Leader in 1953, and was voted Majority Leader in 1954. Johnson unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960 but was selected to be Vice-President under John F. Kennedy. 
 
Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as Commander and Chief aboard Air Force One following President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, and won reelection in 1964. President Johnson passed landmark legislation with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Debate over military efforts in Vietnam intensified in late 1963 when the President stated that the United States would not withdraw from Southeast Asia. Escalation of the war against North Vietnam brought disapproval from Democrats, claiming the efforts were misguided, and from Republicans who criticized the administration for not executing sufficient military vigor. Antiwar protests, urban riots, and racial tension eroded Johnson’s political base by 1967, which further dissolved following the Tet Offensive in January 1968. On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced that we would not seek a second Presidential term.
 
After returning to Texas, Johnson oversaw the construction of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum on the University of Texas campus in Austin. Throughout his political career, LBJ was an influential figure in Texas affairs; his policies brought military bases, crop subsidies, government facilities, and federal jobs to the state. After suffering a massive heart attack, former President Johnson died at his ranch on January 22, 1973. In February of the same year, NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, in honor of one of the country’s most influential Texans. 
The Driskill Hotel was opened by cattle baron Jesse Lincoln Driskill in 1886 as a showpiece for the emerging capital city of Austin. A luxurious building with arched entryways and limestone features, the grand hotel was reminiscent of the palaces in New York, Chicago, and St. Louis. It quickly became the place to throw lavish Governor’s balls and host international dignitaries. Jesse Driskill was forced to sell the hotel in 1888 due to a severe drought that cost him his fortune. After years of being traded and sold, the Driskill’s fifth owner, Major George W. Littlefield, vowed the hotel would never close again and initiated a $60,000 renovation in 1895. 
 
President Lyndon Baines Johnson had his first date with his future wife, Lady Bird, in the downstairs dining room of the Driskill in 1934. This marked the beginning of the Johnsons’ lifelong love for the hotel. In the 1950s, the Johnsons rented suites at the Driskill to serve as the offices of their news station, KTBC. It was also the site of Lyndon’s campaign headquarters, where they awaited election results for both the vice-presidential and presidential elections, and the couple frequented their own presidential suite during his presidency.
 
After a planned rennovation falling through, the Driskill Hotel faced demolition in 1969. The Heritage Society of Austin strived to get the building recognized as a historic landmark and succeeded. A series of fundraising campaigns amounting to over $700,000 allowed for the hotel to reopen in 1972, and it has been in operation since that time. Known as one of the most haunted hotels in the country, ghostly spirits have been reported roaming the old hallways, including Jesse Driskill himself!
Gordon Wilkison began work as a cameraman at the local Austin television station KTBC (now FOX 7) during 1952, its first year of operation. At the time the station was owned by the Texas Broadcasting Company, which was owned by Senator Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson. This relationship would continue to shape Wilkison's career well into the next decades. During the Johnson administration, Wilkison covered the president's visits to Texas, preparing material for national and international news correspondents. 
 
A particularly notable moment in his career occurred on August 1, 1966, when Wilkison and KTBC reporter Neal Spelce risked their lives to capture footage of the Tower shooting at the University of Texas at Austin. 
 
Wilkison was also the General Manager of Photo Processors at the LBJ Broadcasting Corporation, which he later took over and renamed Cenetex Film Labs. In addition to his camera work and film processing, his work at the station also included direction of a number of television film productions.
 
Outside of KTBC, Wilkison shot, edited, and processed Longhorn football game footage for the University of Texas at Austin, a partnership that lasted nearly 30 years.    
 
Recognizing the historical value of film and news footage, Wilkison kept the material, later contributing hundreds of reels to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image's collection.