Art by Rodney Pike
We’ve documented Richard Nixon’s distaste for marijuana in the past. We’ve also documented Louis Armstrong’s affinity for marijuana. Now, the unlikely combo has combined to form one of the greatest marijuana myths we’ve heard in quite some time.
According to an excerpt from Nixon’s Secrets, this legendary tale went down in 1958 when Nixon was America’s Vice President and Louis Armstrong was a “Goodwill Ambassador” for the U.S. State Department.
Upon his return from an International tour, Armstrong landed in New York’s Idlewild Airport. The jazz singer had a cool three pounds of pot stored in his suitcase.
While waiting to go through customs security, out popped Richard Nixon, who then did a very Richard Nixon thing.
Nixon, seeing an opportunity for a wire-photo with Armstrong, went up to the jazz man. “Satchmo, what are you doing here?” a surprised Nixon asked.
Armstrong then coolly responded:
“Well, Pops, (Armstrong called everyone Pops) I just came back from my goodwill ambassador’s tour of Asia and they told me I had to stand in this line for customs.”
Then (again, according to this excerpt from Nixon’s Secrets), Nixon did Armstrong a favor–unknowingly so–of carrying Armstrong’s contraband through customs security (which Nixon could obviously bypass).
Without hesitation, Nixon grabbed both of Satchmo’s suitcases. “Ambassadors don’t have to go through customs and the Vice President of the United States will gladly carry your bags for you,” Nixon said. Whereupon The Vice President “muled” three pounds of pot through United States Customs without ever knowing it.
When Nixon was told what happened by Charles McWhorter, who served as a traveling aide to Nixon (who heard the tale from one of the jazz musicians traveling with Satchmo), a startled Nixon exclaimed, “Louie smokes marijuana?”
There you have it: Richard Nixon did, in fact, do something cool while in office. It just wasn’t intentional.