Been doing a little research on LBJ lately, and the photo of him yelling kept popping up. I was curious about getting a copy of it, so I talked to the folks in the know, the fine staff at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas. The real story, as it turns out, it actually better than the rumor.
From the folks at the LBJ Archives:
The photo has frequently -- and incorrectly -- been described as Johnson shouting back at a heckler. What it actually depicts is Johnson yelling at pilots of nearby planes to cut their engines so that Kennedy could speak.
Also, the photo sometimes appears online with Lady Bird Johnson cropped out, putting the focus squarely on LBJ's legendary temper.
There is some debate as to whether the pilots' actions were intentional. The Johnson biography on the U.S. Senate web site describes it this way:
(Johnson) also pressed for a joint appearance of the Democratic candidates somewhere in Texas. They arranged the meeting at the airport in Amarillo, where campaign advance men stopped all air traffic during the brief ceremonies so that the candidates could address the crowd. But they had not counted on the Republican-leaning airline pilots, who deliberately ran the engines of their planes in order to drown out the speakers. At the close of the ruined appearance, a photographer snapped a concerned Kennedy placing his hands on Johnson's shoulder, trying to calm his angry, gesticulating running mate.
Kennedy made light of the noise during his speech, quipping "That is Dick coming in" (Richard Nixon was also campaigning inTexas that day) and "They can't stop the truth anyway. I don't care how much that engine warms up."
The picture was taken by Richard Pipes, a photographer for the Amarillo Globe-News, who described the scene as "a noisy mess.""
Not that LBJ couldn't be uncouth at times, but it's always interesting to get the truth behind things.
Sure would like me a poster of this image, though.