Around the World with LBJ: My Wild Ride as Air Force One Pilot, White House Aide, and Personal Confidant

Around the World with LBJ: My Wild Ride as Air Force One Pilot, White House Aide, and Personal Confidant

Around the World with LBJ: My Wild Ride as Air Force One Pilot, White House Aide, and Personal Confidant

Around the World with LBJ: My Wild Ride as Air Force One Pilot, White House Aide, and Personal Confidant

Synopsis

When Lyndon Baines Johnson wanted to go somewhere, there was no stopping him. This dynamic president called for Air Force One as others summon a taxi--at a moment's notice, whatever the hour or the weather. And the man who made sure that LBJ got his ride was General James U. Cross, the president's hand-picked pilot, top military assistant, and personal confidante. The only Air Force One pilot to have a position, simultaneously, in the White House, General Cross is also the only member of LBJ's inner circle who has not publicly offered his recollections of the president. In this book, he goes on the record, creating a fascinating, behind-the-scenes portrait of America's complex, often contradictory, always larger-than-life thirty-sixth president. General Cross tells an engrossing story. In addition to piloting Air Force One around the globe, he served President Johnson in multiple capacities, including directing the Military Office in the White House; managing a secret two-million-dollar presidential emergency fund; supervising the presidential retreat at Camp David, the president's entire transportation fleet, and the presidential bomb shelters; running the White House Mess; hiring White House social aides, including the president's future son-in-law, Charles Robb; and writing condolence letters to the families of soldiers killed in Vietnam. This wide-ranging, around-the-clock access to President Johnson allowed Cross to witness events and share moments that add color and depth to our understanding of America's arguably most demanding and unpredictable president.

Excerpt

Lyndon Johnson rode air force one with total confidence. He was the ultimate back-seat pilot, ordering last-minute trips to sometimes secret destinations, including a circumnavigation of the globe that allowed the flight crew mere catnaps. No president before or since has given Air Force One quite the same impetuous workouts.

And I was his enabler.

My Secret Service code name was Sawdust. I figure I got that name because I was a country boy from the sawmill and piney woods country of southern Alabama who never lost his backwoods drawl. But it just as easily could have applied to what was left of me after some of those uncomfortable times when Mr. Johnson took me to the woodshed with his legendary temper fully loaded and cocked. Lyndon Johnson only chewed on those he respected. If he didn’t like you, he ignored you or gave you the silent treatment. He must have liked me a lot. in fact, he became a father figure to me after my own father died when I was thirty-seven.

I was President Johnson’s Air Force One pilot. I bucked the inviolate military chain of command to fly where and when he wanted. Protocol, rules, and red tape couldn’t stop us. We did it his way, obstacles be damned. He wasn’t always the most pleasant personality to be around, but he was the best co-pilot in adventure anyone could ever have had.

Flying was just the half of it. I was the only Air Force One pilot in history to have one foot in the cockpit and the other in the White House inner circle. I flew the plane and joined the political ground crew, too, as . . .

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