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U.S. President Lyndon Johnson speaks from the West Portico of Memorial Auditorium at Ohio University on May 7, 1964.

U.S. President Lyndon Johnson speaks from the West Portico of Memorial Auditorium at Ohio University on May 7, 1964.

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Archives

A large crowd gathers to hear U.S. President Lyndon Johnson.

A large crowd gathers to hear U.S. President Lyndon Johnson.

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Archives

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Conference on LBJ's War on Poverty brings high profile journalist and renowned historian to Athens

Sid Davis, one of Ohio University's highest profile alums, is scheduled to speak during the opening of "A Region Reflects," a two-day conference designed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s May 7, 1964 announcement at Memorial Auditorium to end the War on Poverty.

As a former White House correspondent and network executive, Davis covered LBJ's War on Poverty campaign, witnessed Kennedy's assassination, and was on Air Force One when Johnson was sworn into office. Davis will speak on Thursday, April 3 in the Baker University Center Theater from 6 to 8 p.m.

Davis also will talk about his career as a White House reporter during an informal program scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to noon on Friday, April 4 in the lobby of Schoonover Center. As a Westinghouse Broadcasting Co. correspondent, Davis followed Johnson on his journey through Appalachia, flying to Athens by helicopter to cover Johnson's May 7, 1964 speech in Athens.

Davis worked for more than 40 years as a journalist and covered nine presidents. He eventually became Washington Bureau Chief and vice president of NBC News. He also served for seven years as program director of the “Voice of America,” directing its worldwide broadcasts in 46 languages.

Renowned historian Ron Eller also is scheduled to speak early Friday at 9:30 a.m. to open the second day of the conference in McCracken Hall Rooms 214 A/B. Eller will speak about the history of social injustice in the Appalachian Region, and will be followed by parallel panel sessions on different aspects of the War on Poverty, including health, economic development, environmental issues, innovation, education and cultural heritage.

Eller is the leading authority on contemporary Appalachia, having written a provocative and critically-acclaimed book about the nation’s Appalachian Region, of which Southeastern Ohio is included. His book, “Uneven Ground Appalachia Since 1945,” also will be available for purchase outside McCracken Hall Rooms 214 A/B on Friday.

“We are very honored to mark the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty speech at Ohio University’s Athens campus with this conference,” said President Roderick J. McDavis. “Johnson’s historic speech had a lasting impact for American society, and his call to action is no less relevant today. It is my hope that the conversations that this conference inspires will reignite passions upon which our community is founded – access and opportunity, service and inclusivity, and equality for all.”

Besides discussions with Davis and Eller, the two-day event also includes a bus tour of the region. The tour takes guests to an area near Athens that was designated as a “pocket of poverty” by the Appalachian Regional Commission and includes portions of Athens, Hocking and Perry counties.

The tour will visit the remnants of mining towns within the three-county region, including Corning, Rendville, Shawnee and New Straitsville.

All events are free and open to the public, but registration is encouraged by visiting http://lbjsoutheastohio.com.