On This Day: President Johnson sworn in – with a hand missal

Exactly 55 years ago today, November 22, 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson was inaugurated as the 36th President of the United States. Did you know that the oath was upon a Catholic hand missal? This would have been a pre-Vatican II missal in 1963 – the Catholic bishops of the world were in Rome at the time in the second session of the council, but they had not yet approved the liturgy constitution which set in motion the liturgical reform.

President John F. Kennedy was shot at 12:30 pm in Dallas. Johnson was with him at the hospital when he was advised by Secret Service agents to return to Washington in case he too was an assassination target. Kennedy died at 1:20 and Johnson left immediately. On the plane with him was the body of the deceased president, and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy. The swearing-in of LBJ took place on the Air Force One plane before it took off. Twenty-seven people squeezed into the sixteen-foot square stateroom of the plane for it.

Instead of the usual Bible, they found a Catholic missal on a side table in JFK’s bedroom on the plane. The new president chose Judge Sarah Hughes to swear him in – the first time a woman administered the presidential oath.


  1. Neat fact! Those St Joseph missals must have been very popular, as I find them at rummage sales all the time. I might even have that exact one, though my Fr Stedman missal is my favorite to actually use.

    1. The Continuous St Joseph Missal is just before my time; my parents had one they definitely used in 1959-60. I was an odd kid who loved my brown St Joseph Sunday Missal and Hymnal (~1965-6) and followed Mass very closely in it until the First Sunday in Advent in 1969, when we were introduced to the Monthly Missalette, fully revised liturgy, and wireless microphones. 🙂

  2. I still have the St. Joseph Missal I received as a Confirmation gift in 1960. It is interesting to look in it for dozen or more reasons, and you can see how different – and yet how similar – the liturgy is today compared with then. Also interesting is the English translation provided for the liturgy compared with what we have today.

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