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In this age of digital communications, it's hard to conceive of your long-distance phone call winding up in the Oval Office. Back in 1965, that's just what happened to a Denver couple, who inadvertently ended up talking with the 36th President of the United States. It happened during a highly confidential conversation between President Johnson and Abe Fortas on the night of May 14, 1965, about what became known as the Dominican Intervention. Fortas, a trusted legal advisor acting as a special negotiator, was calling from Puerto Rico to update the President on the situation in the Dominican Republic. During the conversation, a call from Denver to Washington was suddenly patched onto the same line.
Since the release of the conversation on January 12, 2001, Library archivists learned that the couple was Cecil and Walter Messner of Denver calling their friend, Jim, in Washington, D.C. Cecil had apparently just retired and returned to Denver after nearly 25 years as a switchboard operator at the White House. The Messners' niece, Audrey McKay of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, identified the couple after reading about the newly released conversation in the Denver Post.
At the time, it was customary for members of the White House staff to patch calls through the White House switchboard to save on long-distance charges. The Messners got more than they had bargained for when they patched their call through to their friend in the nation's capital.