Moyers At The Peace Corps, Part Two

James Rowe, an influential Washington lawyer, who was also an intimate of Lyndon Johnson’s and a former aide to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, called Shriver and said, “Sarge, I think I have good news for you. I don’t really understand how this has come about, but did you ever hear of a fellow named Bill Moyers?

Shriver tells Rowe he has never heard of Moyers.

This was all reported in Coates Redmon’s book, Come As You Are.

Rowe tells Sarge that this twenty-five-year old kid wants to work at the Peace Corps, and that he is the smartest person that Lyndon Johnson has ever had work for him, and is “one of the most gifted young legislative persons I’ve ever seen. I have no idea why in the world he wants to work in the Peace Corps. Frankly, I think it’s sort of crazy for him to want to do that. But he definitely does. He wants to meet you.”

Another version of that faithful meeting is in Gerard T. Rice’s book, The Bold Experiment. Rice writes that at the White House, Harris Wofford had heard a rumor that Moyers, the rising star of Vice-President’s staff, was eager to get involved with the Peace Corps. Wofford who was working then in the White House as a special assistant to Kennedy for Civil Rights, contacted Moyers and set up an interview with Shriver. Wofford then got an angry call from Kenny O’Donnell, “What the hell are you doing?’ he asks Wofford. “Moyers is the only man around the Vice-President who we can deal with that we like and trust, and we want to keep him right here.”

According to Rice, “White House aides regarded Moyers’s departure as an act of piracy and throughout the Kennedy years that Peace Corps had the reputation of enticing people away from other government organizations.”

By March 14, 1961, Moyers was named a special consultant to the Peace Corps. By 1963, he had become deputy-director of the Peace Corps, the youngest official to hold such a high-level position in the history of American governmental institutions.

During his confirmation hearings before the Senate in early February of 1963, Moyers was challenged by Senator Frank Lausche of Ohio. Lausche cited Moyers’s youth and lack of administrative experience, declaring that Moyers was “still wet behind the ears.”

This remark brought Senator Russell Long, Democrat from Louisiana, to his feet, saying that Lausche had just insulted the sovereign state of Louisiana, its people and himself, and that was because, Long explained, he, Long, had first been elected to the Senate when he was only twenty-nine. A third senator then asked, “Exactly how old are you, Mr. Moyers?”

Moyers replied, “Twenty-eight,” and then, in a fully audiable aside, added, “and a half.”

Laughter rippled through the Senate chamber. Moyers was installed in the executive suite of the Peace Corps within the week.

[End of Part Two]

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