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Judgment Days

"An important examination of a critical moment in American history — a battle for our nation's soul. Kotz has given us valuable historical perspectives at a time when it is imperative that we renew the fight for a more perfect union." — Former President Jimmy Carter

"Kotz's detailed and gripping account takes readers into the bloody trenches of the Civil Rights movement . . . A fascinating portrait of two leaders working at a time when the low skullduggery of politics really was infused with the highest moral values." — Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Kotz does a brilliant job telling the stories of these two very different, very charismatic characters and analyzing the forces that drew them together, then drove them apart." — Kirkus Reviews

About the Book

The year 2005 marks the fortieth anniversary of one of the most important periods in the history of the American civil rights movement. The enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was the defining event in a sweeping social revolution, and it succeeded in large part because of the uneasy alliance between Martin Luther King, Jr., and Lyndon Baines Johnson. In Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Laws That Changed America (Houghton Mifflin, January), the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nick Kotz gives us the first definitive account of the relationship between these two great leaders.

Utilizing previously sealed FBI files, recorded phone conversations, presidential papers, and more than 200 interviews with those who were there — from Lady Bird Johnson to former FBI officials and civil rights leaders — Kotz examines the complex, almost Shakespearean relationship between the two leaders, their tormented personal lives and struggles to advance the cause of civil rights, and the eventual poisoning of their relationship by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who baited each man into participating in the other's political downfall. Some of the explosive new stories Kotz uncovers include:
    • FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's consuming racism and personal hatred of King, which spurred a relentless campaign to destroy the civil rights leader. In one incredible tactic, Hoover directed that an anonymous poison-pen letter be sent to King with the objective of persuading him to commit suicide;

    • Johnson's use — in a massive secret and illegal operation equal to Watergate — of the FBI to defeat the Mississippi Freedom delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention and to spy on members of the U.S. Senate who opposed his policy on the Vietnam War;

    • The inside account — revealed through previously secret White House documents — of how President Johnson authorized J. Edgar Hoover to leak information about Martin Luther King's personal life, with the intention of destroying King as a public figure;

    • The private side of King, who shared his rollicking personality and lust for life with only a few of his closest friends, and his political radicalization in the last two years of his life, after concluding that the conventional American political system would never yield justice to the dispossessed and minorities.
Dramatic, compelling, and heart-rending, Judgment Days challenges our perceptions of these two complex men and will transform our understanding of the Johnson presidency and the civil rights movement. It is sure to become required reading for anyone seeking to understand this turbulent chapter in American history and the ripples that are still visible today.

More Explosive New Stories from Nick Kotz's Judgment Days

• President Johnson's behind-the-scenes maneuvering — captured in recorded telephone conversations — to win congressional approval of the historic 1964, 1965, and 1968 Civil Rights Acts, which together changed the face of America.

• How Johnson, from the day he took office following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, set out to fulfill his long-held but secret ambition — to equal or exceed the achievements of his hero, President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

• Lyndon Johnson's and Martin Luther King's quiet collaboration to build political pressure for a voting rights law.

• Johnson's success in persuading segregationist southern senators to accede in his groundbreaking appointments of racial minorities to his cabinet, the Federal Reserve Board, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

• How Johnson manipulated and ordered FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to take assignments Hoover deplored, including the thwarting of a murderous rampage by the Ku Klux Klan.

Johnson's final public appearance, three weeks before his death in 1973, in which he came out of a sickbed and into a fierce ice storm to deliver a final passionate plea for civil rights. The civil rights legislation was his proudest accomplishment as president.

How Johnson and King each spent his final embattled days — deserted by supporters, depressed at failures. Johnson's decision to renounce a bid for reelection and King's assassination came just four days apart — March 31 and April 3, 1968. Their lives and careers were entwined to the end.

About the Author

As a reporter for the Des Moines Register and the Washington Post, and as a freelance writer, Nick Kotz has won many of journalism's most important honors, including the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Washington correspondence, the Raymond Clapper Memorial Award, and the first Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Award. His study of American military leadership won the National Magazine Award for public service. His book Wild Blue Yonder: Money, Politics, and the B-1 Bomber won the Olive Branch Award. Judgment Days is his fifth book examining American history and public policy.

As a distinguished adjunct professor at the American University School of Communications, Kotz was honored as the university's outstanding adjunct professor. His teaching includes a semester as senior journalist in residence at Duke University.

A magna cum laude graduate of Dartmouth College, Kotz did graduate studies in international relations at the London School of Economics. After college, he served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is married to Mary Lynn Kotz, a journalist and author; their son, Jack Mitchell Kotz, is a photographer.

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