Fifty years ago, on December 21, 1970 the King of Rock 'n' Roll met the President of the United States.
Graceland will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the famous Elvis and Nixon meeting at the White House, with the unveiling today of a pop-up exhibit from the Graceland Archives “Dear Mr. President… Elvis and Nixon.” Among the artifacts displayed are the five-page handwritten letter from Elvis to Nixon, the outfit Elvis wore to the Oval Office, the Presidential cufflinks given to him as a gift from the President and the badge presented to him.
Elvis was an enthusiastic collector of police badges and the owner of dozens from departments and agencies from all over the United States. But there was one badge that he really wanted: a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. So, in December of 1970 he flew from Memphis to Washington, D.C. with his friend Jerry Schilling to hand deliver a letter he wrote while on the plane, to President Nixon at the White House. In the letter he offered his services in the war on drugs—as a “Federal Agent at Large.”
His arrival at the White House gates on December 21, 1970 proved effective. Following some confusion from the Secret Service and White House staff, after a few hours he had the meeting with President Nixon, gifted him with a Colt .45 pistol and asked for the badge he so wanted to own. Nixon obliged, they had their photograph taken, and the next day Elvis returned to Graceland.
"After Elvis, the biggest star in the world, asked me to proofread his letter to President Nixon, the leader of the free world, we ended up in the Oval Office of the White House,” stated Schilling. “Now Elvis’ letter is displayed at the National Archives in Washington DC along with such documents as The Declaration of Independence and The Bill of Rights. It was an honor to be part of this true American story."
The official photo of this unusual event has since become the most requested in the history of the National Archives.