The President’s Daily Diary shows that the meeting lasted under twenty minutes but Nixon and Cash continued their relationship through correspondence. Less than two weeks later, George Deacon, Sales Manager at Columbia Records, sent the President the latest Cash album with a note stating, “Enclosed you will find the new Johnny Cash album which you recently requested. Johnny would like to hear your comments on his latest effort.”
Fifty years ago, President Nixon and country music star Johnny Cash met in the Oval Office to discuss prison reform. Earlier that day, July 26, 1972, Cash joined two former inmates to testify before a Senate subcommittee on national penitentiaries. During his testimony, Cash shared personal experiences of his interactions with prisoners and stated, “People have got to care in order for prison reform to come about.”
A later dated September 8, 1972, reveals that Mr. and Mrs. Cash were invited to a reception at the Nixon’s California home “La Casa Pacifica” that August. While they were unable to attend, the President hoped to host them another time.
The politician and entertainer were first introduced two years earlier through their mutual acquaintance Billy Graham. On April 17, 1970, Cash performed a concert in the East Room of the White House, along with his wife June Carter Cash. They were invited by the Nixons as part of the “Evening at the White House” concert series.
After the concert, the President and First Lady gave the Cashes a White House tour that included the private living quarters. Cash recalled the visit in his memoirs:
After the performance he and Pat Nixon were the souls of hospitality. For almost two hours they gave us a tour around the whole White House, including their private living quarters —no other president has done that with me— and pointed out all the things they thought we’d find interesting.
While President Nixon extended the first White House invitation to Johnny Cash, he would continue to meet with U.S. Presidents for the remainder of his life. He returned to meet with Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan. President Clinton awarded him with the Kennedy Center Honors and George W. Bush presented him with a National Medal of the Arts in 2001.