The year was 1957 and the event that brought them together was the festival s Distinguished Guests Luncheon. The luncheon hall at the Carlton Hotel, the city's new luxurious downtown high-rise hotel, was packed with those excited about the special guests of honor.
According to Frank Bronaugh's “Texas Rose Festival Association: 50 Years,” George Pirtle, one of the festival s vice presidents, had the honors of introducing the two men.
Pirtle, a successful geologist and independent oilman, started by introducing the dashing entertainment star who would serve as the luncheon's master of ceremonies.
“We feel fortunate to have with us a man of this stature in the entertainment world,” began Pirtle.
It was a statement few, especially the swooning women present, would argue with.
The star was brought to town courtesy of General Electric, which had put in a huge air conditioning manufacturing plant south of town. He was the host of the General Electric Theater, a popular TV show that aired Sunday nights at 8 on CBS. By this time, the star had appeared in many movies and had a large following of adoring fans.
While in town that week, the star posed for pictures with Rose Queen Kay Howard and, to the delight of many, attended several festival events.
When the political star had his moment in the spotlight, he spoke on the nation's domestic and international problems. He complained that the U.S. was falling behind in the emerging space race and noted that Russia was the first to put a satellite in orbit.
He said America must do more to build up its missile system.
It was typical of the get-tough talk presented in a down-home Southern drawl that had many people excited about his political future.
On that day in Tyler, star politician Lyndon B. Johnson, a future president of the United States, crossed paths with star entertainer Ronald Reagan, a future president of the United States.
And now as the late great broadcaster Paul Harvey would say, you know the rest of the story.