1. Elvis runs away from his family.
On Dec. 19, 1970, Elvis’ wife, Priscilla, and his father, Vernon, confronted Elvis at Graceland about his lavish spending habits. Elvis had spent more than $100,000 on Christmas presents.
Angered by the confrontation, Elvis drove to the airport and caught the next available flight out of Memphis, which happened to be bound for Washington, D.C.
After he checked into his hotel, he changed his mind and decided he would rather head out to his home in L.A.
2. Elvis goes back to Washington, tries to get a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge.
A day after arriving in L.A., Elvis called Jerry Schilling, a member of his “Memphis Mafia,” to have him arrange a flight for the both of them to go back to Washington, D.C. Jerry didn’t know why he wanted to go back, but he suspected that getting a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs* badge was a motive.
*The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD) was the predecessor to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
3. Elvis gets advice from a senator.
On a red-eye flight to Washington, D.C., Elvis met then-California Senator George Murphy. Elvis expressed to George his desire to do something about the growing anti-American drug culture and that having a BNND badge would help him make a difference.
Elvis actually liked collecting badges; thanks to his level of fame, he regularly interacted with different police departments, for security purposes, whenever he traveled or performed. Because of this he received many honorary police department badges.
Elvis developed a habit of always traveling with his collection of police badges (as well as a few of his guns). According to Pricilla’s autobiography Elvis and Me, he expressed to her a strong desire to acquire a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, because he thought it would make him invincible, allowing him to travel anywhere with guns and drugs.
4. Elvis personally delivers a handwritten letter to the White House.
George suggested that Elvis write to Nixon offering to help. Before arriving in Washington, D.C., he handwrote a letter to Nixon, introducing himself and asking for the two to meet.
Elvis then hand-delivered the letter to the White House gate at 6:30 a.m. on the morning of Dec. 21, 1970.
5. Elvis’ letter is delivered to Egil Krogh, Nixon’s liaison to the BNND.
After dropping off the letter at the White House, Elvis headed over to the headquarters of the BNND and was able to get a meeting with Deputy Director John Finlator. Unfortunately for Elvis, though, Finlator denied his request for a badge.
Meanwhile at the White House, Elvis’ letter was delivered to Egil “Bud” Krogh*, who was a White House aide and liaison to the BNND.
Egil (a big Elvis fan) thought that a meeting between Elvis and Nixon was a great idea and persuaded his White House bosses to allow him to arrange it.
*Egil would later be imprisoned for his part in the Watergate scandal, after authorizing the break-in of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office.
6. Elvis gets his White House meeting.
Egil was able to arrange the meeting. Elvis — who came dressed in a purple velvet jumpsuit with matching cape and a heavy gold chain, and wearing his trademark sunglasses — arrived at the White House at noon, accompanied by Jerry and his bodyguard Sonny West.
7. Elvis shows off his collection of badges.
After taking a few photos, Elvis immediately began showing Nixon his badges from different police departments.
8. Elvis tells Nixon the Beatles are the real enemy.
Then, according to Egil’s official White House account of that day:
“Presley indicated that he thought the Beatles had been a real force for anti-
American spirit. He said that the Beatles came to this country, made their
money, and then returned to England where they promoted an anti-American
theme. The President nodded in agreement and expressed some surprise.
The President then indicated that those who use drugs are also those in the
vanguard of anti-American protest. Violence, drug usage, dissent, protest
all seem to merge in generally the same group of young people.”
Elvis then told Nixon, “I’m on your side.”
9. Nixon orders a badge for Elvis.
According to Egil, Elvis then asked for a BNND badge, to which Nixon replied, “Can we get him a badge?”
Egil said yes, and Nixon ordered it to be done.
Elvis then told Nixon how much he supported him, and hugged him (to everybody’s surprise).
Per Elvis’ request, the meeting was kept secret (he was planning to launch a comeback and felt it would not be good for his image). It remained a secret for over a year until a reporter broke the story.
10. Elvis brings Nixon a gun.
Before leaving, Elvis presented Nixon with World War II–era commemorative Colt .45* he had taken from his L.A. house and carried into the White House, much to the dismay of the Secret Service.
*The gun is on display at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda.
11. Elvis gets his badge!
The BNDD specially designed a badge* with Elvis’ name on it. He picked it up later that afternoon and then headed back to Graceland.
*It is now on on display in his home in Graceland.
12. Nixon writes a thank-you letter to Elvis.
On Dec. 31, Nixon sent Elvis a warm thank-you note with best wishes for his family and the new year.
The National Archives gets more requests for a copy of this photo of Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley posing in the Oval Office than for anything else in their archives — that includes the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.