Elvis-Nixon is undoubtedly one of the strangest pairings in American history. On December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley had an unforgettable meeting with President Richard Nixon at the White House. This year marks the 40th anniversary of that extraordinary event. Picture this: a grinning Dick Nixon Bear in a gray suit shakes hands with a purple velvet-caped Elvis Bear. The President and the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll – a meeting that opened up a world of double profit possibilities!
Faye Flore, in her article for the Los Angeles Times, captured the essence of this iconic meeting at the heart of the nation’s capital. She shed new light on the often-told Elvis-Nixon tale, with insights from former Nixon aide Egil “Bud” Krogh and long-time Elvis friend Jerry Schilling. Both were witnesses to the historic meeting on that fateful day.
Flore beautifully recounts the events leading up to the meeting. It all began on December 19, 1970, when Elvis, after a confrontation with his wife and father over his spending habits, flew alone out of Memphis. Coincidentally, the flight was bound for Washington, where Joyce Bova, his main lady-on-the-side, resided. From Washington, Elvis decided to continue his journey to Los Angeles. However, a gun in his possession caused a minor hiccup at the airport. The airline steward initially denied him permission to bring the weapon on board, but upon realization, Elvis was allowed to keep it.
Once in Los Angeles, Elvis contacted his trusted friend, Schilling, who picked him up from the airport. The next day, with mysterious intentions, Elvis expressed his desire to return to Washington. Without questioning the King, Schilling accompanied him on the journey. On the plane, Elvis, who rarely wrote letters, penned a five-page missive to President Nixon. He expressed concern about the drug culture and divisive groups in the country and offered his assistance in any way to help the nation. Interestingly, Elvis asked Nixon three times in the letter to appoint him a “Federal Agent at Large.”
Upon arriving in Washington, Elvis embarked on a daring mission to personally deliver the letter to the White House. Schilling was skeptical, but Elvis was undeterred. They pulled up to the northwest gate, and Elvis handed the letter to a security guard. Schilling, aware of Elvis’s striking appearance in the dark, clarified the situation to the guard. The guard ensured the letter reached its intended recipient, and Elvis and Schilling retired to the Washington Hotel, where they eagerly awaited a response.
Throughout the night, Elvis’s letter made its way to various White House officials, until it reached Nixon’s chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman. Recognizing the potential benefits of having Elvis as an ally in the war against drugs, Haldeman approved the meeting. And so, on December 21, 1970, at 11:45 a.m., Elvis entered the White House wearing his signature purple velvet pants and cape, with two enormous gold chains peeking out from his unbuttoned shirt collar. At 12:30 p.m., Nixon walked into the Oval Office for what was scheduled to be a brief encounter. Little did anyone know that these two men would bond over shared experiences of humble beginnings, fame’s burdens, and a desire to make a difference.
Flore poignantly describes their interaction, as Elvis proudly presented photos of his wife and baby, along with an assortment of police and security badges he had collected over the years. The scheduled five minutes stretched into a more extended tête-à-tête. Finally, Elvis made his request, the very reason behind his pursuit of this meeting: a federal badge to add to his collection. Nixon hesitated, explaining that federal agents-at-large did not exist. Crestfallen, Elvis’s disappointment was palpable. But with a quick glance, Nixon gave in and said, “Get him the badge.” Overjoyed, Elvis embraced the president in a warm hug.
In a moment of reciprocity, Elvis presented Nixon with a commemorative Colt 45 pistol—a gesture that left the Secret Service on edge. Both men agreed to keep the meeting a secret. Nixon was struggling in the polls, and Elvis was on the path to his comeback. The world was not yet ready to comprehend their extraordinary connection. It wasn’t until over a year later that columnist Jack Anderson broke the news, revealing that “Elvis Presley, the swivel-hipped singer, had been issued a federal narcotics badge.”
Little did Elvis and Nixon know that their futures would be marred by personal and professional setbacks. For Nixon, it would lead to the Watergate scandal and his eventual resignation from the presidency. As for Elvis, his bizarre behavior would cause the dissolution of his marriage and ultimately contribute to his untimely demise.
The items exchanged during their unforgettable encounter can still be seen today, serving as a reminder of this historic moment. The commemorative gun now resides in the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California. And Elvis’s personalized badge, prepared by the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, is proudly displayed on the Wall of Gold at Graceland, his beloved home.
The Elvis-Nixon meeting was an unparalleled chapter in both men’s lives—a moment when the world’s most famous entertainer asked the world’s most powerful leader for a favor, and it was granted. This extraordinary encounter between the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and the President of the United States will forever be etched in history.
To learn more about Elvis’s incredible journey, visit All about Elvis.