Bill Moyers, First Associate Director for Public Affairs

The turning in the road for Bill Moyers came when he took a summer internship in the office of Lyndon Johnson, then Democratic leader of the Senate. The inside glimpse into national politics that this experience gave him—as well as the relationship Moyers formed with the man who became president—set in motion a chain of events which brought him finally to the Peace Corps. If he hadn’t come to Washington in that summer of 1954, Moyers would probably become a professor of ethics at Baylor University.

“I was all signed up at Baylor when an offer came from Mr. Johnson to join his staff as a special assistant working for the Majority Leader in his relations with the Senate,” Moyers said. “To me, the offer was irresistible.”

The young special assistant became Johnson’s executive assistant during the Senator’s 1960 campaign for the Vice Presidency. In this capacity, he lived in the Johnson’s home for the better part of a year acting, among other assignments, in liaison with the presidential campaign of candidate John Kennedy.

Born in Hugo, Okla., Moyers was raised in Marshall, Texas, where he quickly established himself as one of the brightest students that the state of Texas has ever produced. Still in high school, he went to work as a reporter for the Marshall News Messenger. He spent his first two college years at North Texas State in Denton, where he was twice elected president of his class and twice named to college’s outstanding student.

After his fateful summer in Washington, he accepted an offer to work in Mrs. Johnson’s Austin radio and television stations, KTBC-AM and KTBC-TV, while enrolled as a junior at the University of Texas. Despite a killing schedule of full-time work and study which allowed him a scant six hours of sleep a night, Moyers graduated in 1956 with the Cabot Award, which is given annually to the journalism student with the highest four-year scholastic average.

Bill Moyers

He was also given a Rotary International Fellowship for study abroad, and this took him the following winter to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland where he concentrated on the ecclesiastical history of Western Europe. He completed this experience by touring all the countries whose history he had been investigating.

On his return to Texas, Moyers enrolled at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. At the same time he became director of information for the Seminary, which is the largest Baptist training institution the world. Two years later, he received his Bachelor of Divinity degree was preparing to teach at Baylor when Washington called with Senator Johnson on the line. Moyers has since been awarded an honorary LL.D. degree from the University of Corpus Christi.

Ideas about American youth in service overseas were in the air generally when President Kennedy proposed the creation of the Peace Corps as a plank in his campaign platform. Senator Johnson –who started his political career as Texas Director of the National Youth Administration—was convinced of the value of what was then called “Youth Corps.” He discussed the notion with candidate Kennedy made the first concrete proposals about a Peace Corps. Moyers determined to join the new agency. The Vice President understandably loath to release his assistant, was finally persuaded to do so. And at the age of 27, Moyers was named to head the Peace Corps’ Public Affairs office.

 

Nobody was more
dedicatedly against
the Peace Corps when
it was first announced
then your correspond-
ent….There are still
certain things about
its burgeoning tht
might stand questions.
…But largely wherever
I have been in the world
Over the last six
months—and my worst
enemy can’t
accuse me of
immobility—all I’ve
heard is praise for the
Peace Corps’ solid,
helpful work and
generally fine
projection of the best
American image….”
–Columnist Robert C.
Ruark in the New York
World-Telegram
And sun.

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