WASHINGTON -- Two years ago, President Johnson, at a White House meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., decided to ask Congress for a tough new bill outlawing discrimination in housing, the first such law ever proposed by a president.
Thursday, a "long and stormy trip" later, Johnson evoked the memory of slain civil rights leader in signing a historic open housing bill which "at long last" allows the Negro to seek housing outside the slum.
Johnson signed into law a civil rights bill containing a strong open housing provision which would knock down racial barriers in 80 per cent of the nation's housing by 1970.
The president signed the bill in an emotion-packed White House ceremony attended by scores of civil rights leaders, clergymen and congressmen and broadcast nationally on radio and television.
King's widow was invited to the ceremony but was unable to attend.
Recalling the 1966 meeting at which he made the decision to demand an opening housing law from Congress, Johnson said, "The proudest moments of my presidency have been times like this when I have signed into law the promise of a century."
Now, he said, Negroes "will no longer suffer the humiliation of being turned away because of race" in seeking a job, going to a restaurant or buying a home.
"With this bill, the voice of justice speaks again. I proclaim fair housing for all is now a part of the American way of life."
The measure carries federal penalties for crossing state lines or using interstate facilities such as telephones to incite riots, carrying firearms for use in riots or interfering with policemen or firemen during riots.
Initially, the bill, the first major civil rights legislation in three years, will affect only federally owned or financed housing. The open housing provisions will be broadened until they apply to most housing by 1970.