Exactly 39 years ago today, a young man dressed in a black velvet jacket, adorned in gold chains and an oversized gold belt buckle presented himself at the northwest gate of the White House.
Elvis Presley, the most popular singer of his time, handed the White House security agents a handwritten letter addressed to the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, requesting a meeting with him. His five-page letter, written on American Airlines stationery, also indicated his desire to become a federal agent in the war on drugs and said, "P.S. . . I have a personal gift for you which I would like to present to you and I hope that you can accept it. . . " The gift was a World War II-era Colt 45 pistol.
The letter set of a chain of events that eventually led to a meeting -- within hours -- between the "king of rock 'n' roll" and the "leader of the free world." Security prevented Presley from presenting the President with the gun, but Nixon's aides accepted it on his behalf, complete with some bullets.
At the meeting, pictures and detailed notes were taken. The photograph of Presley and Nixon, major figures in American culture and politics at the time, is still one of the most requested photographs from the National Archives' holdings of 15 million images.
The famous meeting will be the highlight of a special event at the National Archives on Wednesday, January 6, 2010. Two eyewitnesses: Egil "Bud" Krogh, who was an Assistant to the Counsel to the President, and Jerry Schilling, a music industry professional and long-time friend of Presley will describe the encounter. The discussion, which is free and open to the public, will be moderated by Timothy Naftali, Director of the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, and introduced by David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States.
The program commemorates the 75th anniversary of Presley's birth on January 8; the next day is the 97th anniversary of Nixon's birth.
The program will be held at 7 p.m. in the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. Admission is free. The McGowan Theater will open 30 minutes before the start of the program. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. The public should use the Special Events Entrance to the National Archives, 7th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW.