President Richard Nixon greets Elvis Presley in the Oval Office, December 1970.
President Richard Nixon greets Elvis Presley in the Oval Office, December 1970. National Archives
Elvis' letter to Nixon, requesting a White House meeting.
Elvis' letter to Nixon, requesting a White House meeting. National Archives
The National Archives houses untold historical treasures: presidential papers, census records, and cultural icons like Mathew Brady's Civil War photos. But one of the most popular items in the archives is a 1970 photo of Elvis Presley and President Nixon.
The pair are shaking hands in the Oval Office, a conservative Nixon standing next to the king of rock 'n' roll, who is decked in velvet, a gold-plated belt and chains hanging down his chest.
Archivist John Powers tells the story. It all started with a letter Elvis penned to the president; his goal was to add a federal narcotics badge to his prized collection of police badges.
Elvis' Letter to Nixon
Dear Mr. President.
First, I would like to introduce myself. I am Elvis Presley and admire you and have great respect for your office. I talked to Vice President Agnew in Palm Springs three weeks ago and expressed my concern for our country. The drug culture, the hippie elements, the SDS, Black Panthers, etc. do NOT consider me as their enemy or as they call it The Establishment. I call it America and I love it. Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help The Country out. I have no concern or Motives other than helping the country out.
So I wish not to be given a title or an appointed position. I can and will do more good if I were made a Federal Agent at Large and I will help out by doing it my way through my communications with people of all ages. First and foremost, I am an entertainer, but all I need is the Federal credentials. I am on this plane with Senator George Murphy and we have been discussing the problems that our country is faced with.
Sir, I am staying at the Washington Hotel, Room 505-506-507. I have two men who work with me by the name of Jerry Schilling and Sonny West. I am registered under the name of Jon Burrows. I will be here for as long as it takes to get the credentials of a Federal Agent. I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can and will do the most good.
I am Glad to help just so long as it is kept very Private. You can have your staff or whomever call me anytime today, tonight, or tomorrow. I was nominated this coming year one of America's Ten Most Outstanding Young Men. That will be in January 18 in my home town of Memphis, Tennessee. I am sending you the short autobiography about myself so you can better understand this approach. I would love to meet you just to say hello if you're not too busy.
P. S. I believe that you, Sir, were one of the Top Ten Outstanding Men of America also.
I have a personal gift for you which I would like to present to you and you can accept it or I will keep it for you until you can take it.