The photograph is jarring. Taken at the White House on December 21, 1970, it shows President Richard Nixon, who was summoning America’s “silent majority” in his fight against counterculture. And then there’s Elvis Presley, the hip-swiveling music icon, visiting the Oval Office in a purple velvet suit with a massive gold belt buckle. The backstory is that Presley wanted to add a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs to his collection, and Nixon welcomed the singer’s offer of help quieting “the hippies.” Elvis said that he wanted to help restore respect for the flag and told Nixon that he was “on your side.”
An unlikely alliance:
- Elvis brought Nixon a gift -- a Colt .45 pistol in a display case -- that the Secret Service confiscated.
- Elvis' former wife Priscilla Presley wrote in her 1985 memoir that Elvis believed “the narc badge” would allow him to “enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished.”
- Presley died of an overdose of prescription drugs (including codeine, Valium, morphine and Demerol) in 1977. Nixon resigned in 1974, charged with obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress.
Frequently Asked Questions
When did Elvis Presley meet President Richard Nixon, and why did the meeting take place?
Elvis Presley met President Richard Nixon on December 21, 1970. The meeting was initiated by Elvis, who wrote a letter to Nixon expressing his concern about the drug culture, the hippie movement, and the counterculture. He requested to meet the President and offered his services as a Federal Agent-at-Large for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Elvis believed his influence on young people could help combat these issues.
What did Elvis Presley bring as a gift to President Nixon during their meeting?
During their iconic meeting, Elvis Presley presented President Nixon with a gift of a Colt .45 pistol. The gun was a World War II commemorative piece from Presley's personal collection. It was a symbol of Presley's respect for the President and his desire to be taken seriously in his quest to help the country.
How did Elvis Presley manage to secure a meeting with President Nixon?
Elvis Presley secured the meeting with President Nixon by showing up unannounced at the White House gates with a handwritten letter. In the letter, he expressed his desire to meet the President and his willingness to help the country. His celebrity status and the intriguing nature of his request caught the attention of Nixon's staff, leading to the arrangement of a same-day meeting.
What were the outcomes of the meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon?
The meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon resulted in a few immediate outcomes. While Elvis did not officially become a Federal Agent-at-Large, he was given a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge, which he had requested. The meeting also produced an iconic photograph that has become one of the most requested images from the National Archives. However, there is no evidence that Elvis actively engaged in any law enforcement activities following the meeting.
Why is the photograph of Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon so famous, and where can it be found?
The photograph of Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon shaking hands in the Oval Office is famous because it captures an unexpected and surreal moment between two of the most iconic figures of the 20th century. The image represents a unique intersection of pop culture and politics. It can be found at the National Archives and is widely circulated online. The photograph's popularity is a testament to the enduring fascination with both Presley and Nixon.