The King wore a purple velvet suit, a massive gold belt buckle and came bearing a pistol, framed in a display case, when he visited the White House on Dec. 21, 1970, hoping to meet President Richard Nixon.
More than 45 years later, a new book by former White House Secret Service agent Clint Hill, about his years serving Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford, describes the memorable moment when Elvis Presley arrived at the northwest gate of the White House.
Hill, 84, thought he’d heard it all until he got a call that day from his administrative assistant.
“Clint, you’re never going to believe what just happened. Elvis Presley showed up at the northwest gate wanting to see the president.”
“I said, ‘Are you sure it’s Elvis?’ ” Hill recalls. The assistant told him the King of Rock and Roll had indeed stopped by and left a letter for the president written on American Airlines stationery.
For more on Clint Hill and an inside look at the five presidents he served, pick up a copy of this week’s PEOPLE
“He indicated because of his relationship with the young, he thought he could do a good job helping the United States government deal with the drug problem,” says Hill. “So he thought it would be a good idea if they would make him a special agent.”
The letter was taken to Nixon’s staff, who, Hill notes, “thought it might be a good idea [for Elvis] to meet the president, maybe a quick photo opportunity.”
They contacted Elvis at his hotel and he came to the Oval Office later that afternoon.
“He brought a gun in a framed box, which we looked at to make sure it was not any problem,” says Hill. “And he presented that to Nixon.”
In turn, the President gave him an honorary Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Agent badge.
“[Elvis] believed he had some authority, which he did not have,” says Hill. “He had no power of arrest or any legal authority whatsoever. [But] he went away happy.”