At about 9.15pm on October 22, 1966, Air Force One touched down at Brisbane airport to a rapturous welcome from thousands of Queenslanders. Lyndon Baines Johnson was the first serving American president to travel to Australia, his visit at the invitation of prime minister Harold Holt symbolising the strengthening of ties between the two countries and Australia’s ongoing commitment to the war in Vietnam.
More than 175,000 people reportedly lined the president’s motorcade route to Lennons Hotel in the city. It was slow going as Johnson ( pictured ) stopped nine times to greet the crowd. More than two hours after touching down, LBJ at last reached the hotel, where Secret Service agents, bodyguards and police linked arms to manoeuvre him away from the crowd and into the lobby. Once inside, the unpredictable president went back outside to interact with the crowd, using the PA system in his limousine to thank them all. A Secret Service agent commented to one reporter: “I thought you Aussies were a dour, conservative lot.”
Some were less enthusiastic about the US president’s visit to Brisbane. The Sunday Mail reported an anti-Vietnam War rally staged in King George Square prior to the president’s arrival. The Courier-Mail reported that six demonstrators were later arrested near Lennons Hotel for disorderly conduct.
Queensland’s gift to the president and Texan cattle rancher, personally chosen by Queensland’s premier Frank Nicklin, was a 213cm stockwhip hand-made from kangaroo hide, a bridle and a pair of spurs. LBJ’s next stop was Townsville, where some 40,000 citizens turned out to welcome him.