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The President of the United States Meets the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Preparation

This exhibit looks behind the scenes at Elvis Presley’s December 21, 1970, visit to Richard Nixon’s White House through the examination of White House memos, documents, firsthand accounts, and photographs. This exhibit was curated by White House Historical Association historian Lina Mann.

Elvis Presley’s letter to President Nixon soon made its way through the West Wing. Over the course of the next several hours, White House staff prepared, meeting with Presley, informing the president, and planning Nixon’s schedule. In addition to meeting with White House staff, Presley also met with staff at the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and requested a badge from BNDD Deputy Director John Finlator, who ultimately denied the request. The singer collected law enforcement badges and ultimately sought a BNDD badge. His previous requests for a badge had been denied, but he hoped President Nixon could help him obtain one. According to his friend Jerry Schilling’s memoir, Me and a Guy named Elvis, Presley had a deep respect for law enforcement because they helped protect him during concerts and other events. He began collecting honorary badges from police departments. However, following a significant security threat in Las Vegas, Presley sought credentials that would allow him more protection. In particular, he sought a badge that would allow him to travel with the guns he felt were required for his personal safety. His wife Priscilla Presley also shed some light on this in her memoir, Elvis and Me: “The narc badge represented some kind of ultimate power to him. With the federal narcotics badge, he [believed he] could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished."