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Pat Brown, Jerry Brown, & Richard Nixon’s “Last” Press Conference

Richard Nixon at his "Last" Press Conference on November 7, 1962

In this telephone call at 11:20 AM on November 9, 1962, Kennedy spoke with newly re-elected California Governor Pat Brown (Democrat). It was only a few days after the mid-term elections. Kennedy congratulated Brown on his victory in a hard fought, and often nasty, election battle against Richard Nixon (Republican).{{1}}

Two days earlier, Nixon, had called a press conference and lashed out at the reporters, saying “you don’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”

Part way through the recording, Pat Brown asks JFK to say hello to his son, Jerry, who himself later became governor of California. Jerry Brown had taken a leave of absence of his studies at Yale University in order to help on his father’s campaign. At the time of the call, the Browns were in Sacramento.

This recordings includes several points at which the Dictabelt needle skips, probably from creases and damage to the original belt. That makes it hard to reconstruct the flow of the conversation because of the repetition of passages and garbled audio. And it’s clear when listening to it that some dialog has been lost.

JFK [needle skips] do it in ’60. Hell, I’d gotten them all in shape, so that--[needle skips] Huh?
Pat Brown Well, let me just tell you this--
JFK I’ll tell you this, you reduced him to the nut house.
Pat Brown Listen, but you gave me instructions, and I follow your orders [needle skips].
JFK [chuckling] I understand. But God, that last farewell speech of his . . .
Pat Brown Wasn’t that terrible?
JFK Well, no but it shows. . . [needle skips] . . . What’s going to happen [needle skips] way out there.
Pat Brown I don’t see how he can ever recover. [needle skips] The leaders--
JFK Yeah.
Pat Brown [Goodwin] Knight walked out on him. Shell told me [needle skips]. This is a peculiar fellow. [needle skips] I really think he’s psychotic. He’s an able man, but he’s nuts.
JFK Yeah.
Pat Brown Like a lot of these paranoics, they’re . . . But [needle skips] good job.
JFK What did [Thomas] Kuchel win by?
Pat Brown Kuchel won by about [needle skips] [seven hundred] thousand. The Cuban thing really helped him. [needle skips] flew back, why it really helped him. But we have a legislature [needle skips] out here now, 53, two-thirds majority and two-thirds in the Senate. So, California [needle skips] I’ll tell you that. We have our responsibilities that I [needle skips] too.
But I’d like to make it kind of a model of your [needle skips] legislative program I’d like to move ahead. Why don’t you come out here and spend a couple of days during the--
JFK Well, I was thinking of coming out in December. I’ve got to go out to Los Alamos [needle skips] December, but I’ll give you a call.
Pat Brown Would you just do one thing for me?
JFK Yeah.
Pat Brown Would you say hello to my son Jerry [Edmund Gerald Brown, Jr.] who came back from Yale Law School and really put me over at San Francisco?
JFK Oh, good. Fine.
Pat Brown [needle skips] say hello to him. This is my son Jerry.
Jerry Brown Hello, Mr. President?
JFK Jerry, how are you?
Jerry Brown Fine.
JFK I was up there campaigning in November [needle skips] those fellow Elis of yours. [laughs]
Jerry Brown They’re the undergraduates [needle skips].
JFK [laughing] I see. Good.
Jerry Brown [needle skips] He sure did.
JFK I told them that, God, [needle skips] I could only [needle skips] by less that the [needle skips].
Jerry Brown Well, you’ll take California by ten times as much as you did [needle skips] before.
JFK Well, we’ll try. Well, listen, good luck [needle skips] take care.
Jerry Brown [needle skips] very much. Here's my--
JFK Bye, Jerry.
Pat Brown Well, I’ll look forward to seeing you.
JFK Are you going down to Palm Springs? [needle skips] Oh, fine. How long are you going to stay down?
Pat Brown I’m going to bring my staff down [needle skips] stay down for a week. Do a little plotting and we’ll see [needle skips]. But I feel wonderful, and . . .
JFK I should think you would.
Pat Brown Well, they [Republicans] haven’t anything out here now.
JFK Yeah, yeah.
Pat Brown But, of course now we’ll start fighting amongst ourselves when you get a bit of troubles.
JFK Yeah, yeah.
Pat Brown But . . .
JFK Well, you're going to get that now and for all.
Pat Brown I think so. We’ll do that and then we’ll move on to the [needle skips, with words clearly missing] this Cuban thing. [needle skips] After that [needle skips] following week.
JFK Yeah.
Pat Brown And much more fallout here.
JFK Yeah.
Pat Brown It didn’t make any [needle skips] at all.
JFK Yeah, I thought it might’ve--
Pat Brown --afraid of it too. He got on television, you know, and told--he said--he really cracked them on that. [needle skips] paid political broadcast [needle skips] he accused of making politics out of Cuba.
JFK Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Pat Brown We did very badly in San Diego. We lost both of those counties by a hundred thousand votes. [needle skips] county by a hundred thousand [needle skips] [San] Francisco, my home town, by 73. So I did all [needle skips] do in Massachusetts.
JFK Very good, Pat. I’ll see you soon.
Pat Brown Well, I certainly appreciate it.
JFK Thanks a lot, Pat.
Pat Brown Goodbye.

Dictabelt 6A, President’s Office Files, Presidential Recordings Collection, John F. Kennedy Library. Transcript by David Coleman (a version will appear in The Presidential Recordings: John F. Kennedy volume 5 (New York: W.W. Norton, forthcoming 2013).

[[1]]The Kennedy Library finding aid dates this call, along with others in a series of post-election congratulatory calls with William Guy, John Connally, John Reynolds, and Edward Kennedy, as taking place on November 7. But in reviewing the White House telephone logs, I found that they took place two days later, on November 9. The telephone logs also provide the time of each call.[[1]]

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