Nightly News   |  April 10, 2014

Lewis: Obama ‘Would Not Be President’ Without Civil Rights Legislation

It’s been 50 years since the landmark Voting Rights Act became law, fulfilling Lyndon B. Johnson’s promise to Martin Luther King, Jr.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> today, president obama paid tribute to the legacy of one of his predecessors saying he himself lived out the promise of the civil rights act passed by lyndon johnson half a century ago. our chief white house correspondent chuck todd was there at the lbj presidential library in texas.

>> reporter: he came to power in the wake of a tragedy, and three days after becoming president, lyndon johnson made a promise about civil rights in a phone call to martin luther king .

>> i think one of the great tributes that we can pay in memory of president kennedy is to try to enact some of the great progresssive policies that he sought to initiate.

>> well, i'm going to support them all and you can count on that and i'm going to do my best to get other men to do likewise and have your help.

>> reporter: a half century later, a celebration to a promise kept.

>> he understood what it meant to be on the outside, and he believed that theirs was his, too. and making their lives better was what the hell the presidency was for.

>> reporter: with the presidential legacy haunted by vietnam, it eyed the civil rights act as an opportunity to payment a more flattering picture. daughter, linda johnson rob.

>> he would be proud of what we've done and say we have further to go and we all need to keep the eye on the prize.

>> reporter: the three-day celebration brought together presidents, past and present and civil rights heroes including congressman john louis who bears the scars.

>> president obama wouldn't be president if lyndon johnson didn't pass the act of '64 and the voting right of '65. he created the climate and made it possible for man of color to be elected president.

>> reporter: it's that legacy that lbj's family and friends hope some day trumps vietnam.

>>> and there is breaking political news tonight out of washington. nbc news has confirmed kathleen