I know today is Friday, February 28th, but we’re going to talk about something that happened on February 29th, because we won’t get another chance until 2024!
It was on a Leap Day in 1968 that the President of the United States got stuck in an elevator.
Presidents like to be the first to do things, but probably nobody wanted to be the first to accomplish this.
Lyndon Johnson was president at the time, and he was on his way to the Pentagon to meet with his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara.
The Secretary had an elevator that ran straight to his office from the Pentagon’s underground parking garage, so he and Johnson and their entourage got in and headed up.
Around the second floor the elevator just kind of stopped – with the president, the Secretary of Defense, and 11 others inside.
Fortunately it was just a mechanical issue, and crews were able to pry the elevator doors open and get the president out.
But the Secret Service, as you’d expect, was trying to prepare for every contingency during that long twelve minutes – like, what if an enemy had rigged the elevator and were trying to pump gas in there to incapacitate the president? Or what if it was the start of a coup attempt?
The president’s day went on without any further incident, but it’s said that McNamara, the Defense Secretary, wanted to make sure Johnson knew who was (and who wasn’t) responsible.
There’s a memo at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, telling the president that the General Services Administration, and not the Defense Department, was responsible for the elevators at the Pentagon.
They just wanted to make sure he knew, right?
Another fun fact about President Lyndon Johnson: he had three TV’s in the Oval Office, so he could watch all three of the big TV networks at the same time.
That inspired Elvis Presley to have three TVs installed at his home in Memphis, Graceland.
I mention that because this weekend at Graceland is the third annual Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Weekend.
I can’t help falling in love with the idea of a whole weekend full of the greatest Elvis acts of our time coming together at The King’s home to, as they do, take care of business.
LBJ Stuck In An Elevator (Atlas Obscura)
Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Weekend at Graceland (Memphis Travel)