The Day Elvis Visited Nixon in the White House

Daniel Ganninger
December 7, 2021
Elvis shaking Nixon's hand in the White House.

Elvis, the “King of Rock and Roll,” was one interesting man. His life was scattered with numerous oddities and fascinating facts. One of the most amazing was his desire to meet with the President of the United States. The King had some important things to discuss.

To describe Elvis’s life as “interesting” would be an understatement. He had a pet monkey named Scatter, he dyed his hair black from his natural blonde (to appear edgier), his crew was known as the “Memphis Mafia” and had gold and diamond rings with the letters “TCB” scrolled on top (for “Taking care of Business”).

Elvis made 31 movies, two music documentaries and recorded over 600 songs, none of which he wrote. But he made 149 of these songs appear in the top 100, 114 in the top 40, 40 in the top 10, and 18 became number one hits. Despite a huge worldwide following, Elvis only performed five shows outside of the U.S., and all of those shows were in Canada. The only time he was in Great Britain was during a layover after a plane flight. And the list goes on, and on, and on.

Elvis struggled with drug addiction, and there is no doubt he took vast quantities of narcotics later in his career. His personal physician testified that Elvis had been prescribed, by him, over 5,000 narcotic capsules and pills in the seven months before he died in 1977. The autopsy later revealed that he had eight different barbiturates and narcotics in his body at the time of his death. The Chief Medical Examiner of Tennessee at the time signed that the cause of death was because of coronary problems.

Elvis was a fascinating entertainer, but the one factoid that may be the most interesting was when he had a famous meeting with Richard Nixon at the White House in 1972.

Elvis was in Los Angeles when he decided to have his aide accompany him on a red-eye flight to Washington. Elvis penned a letter on American Airlines stationery while in the air about possibly meeting with the President. He believed he could help the country and its problem with drugs and other social issues, but he wanted a federal narcotic agent’s badge in return. The ironic thing was, Elvis penned the letter while on drugs. Priscilla Presley wrote in her memoirs that Elvis wanted the badge so that he could carry any guns or drugs into any country (Elvis was an avid gun collector).

The 1st page of Elvis's letter to Nixon.
The 1st page of Elvis’s letter to Nixon. Here’s the rest.

Elvis dropped off his letter to the White House on December 21, 1970, and then went to the Washington Hotel where he registered under the name of Jon Burrows. He next went to the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and met with the deputy director but couldn’t convince him to approve a badge.

Egil “Bud” Krogh, a Nixon aide, had received the letter from Elvis and was a fan. He convinced his superiors that a meeting was a good idea and then called Elvis’s aide, Jerry Schilling, to set up a 12:30 pm meeting the same day to meet with the President.

Elvis arrived at the White House with his aide and his bodyguard at 11:45 am and gave up his personal Colt .45 pistol to the Secret Service before being allowed to enter. Elvis was wearing a purple velvet suit, sunglasses, and a large, gold belt buckle.

A White House photographer took pictures of the event, and Elvis showed Nixon his collection of police badges. He then convinced the President to name him as a Federal Agent at Large in the fight against drugs, and after a little convincing, Elvis got his badge from Nixon. It was more than a year later that the Washington Post broke the story about the clandestine meeting. Elvis had requested that the meeting be kept a secret. It was later reported that Elvis used his new badge to assist motorists after accidents or to pull them over for speeding.

Nixon examining the cuff links of Elvis
Nixon examining the cuff links of Elvis

The oddities in Elvis’ life many times overshadowed his works of charity, which there were many, but even after his death in 1977, Elvis continued to pack ’em in. Graceland receives over 600,000 visitors a year, and there are over 400 Official Elvis fan clubs in the world.