Presley’s aide, Jerry Schilling, recalled:
‘Elvis called and asked me to pick him up at the airport at 3 am.’As per usual, Elvis was traveling with guns and his collection of police badges. At some point of his journey, he decided that a badge from the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs would be exactly what his collection is missing. Elvis, at this point, was already heavily addicted to prescription drugs. Moreover, he wanted to do more drugs.
After just one day in Los Angeles, Elvis asked Schilling to fly with him back to Washington. ‘He didn't say why, but I thought the badge might be part of the reason,’ Schilling said.
On the red-eye to Washington, Elvis scribbled a letter to President Nixon on a piece of American Airlines stationery.Here is the excerpt from the letter, ‘[...]The drug culture, the hippie elements, the SDS, Black Panthers, etc. do not consider me as their enemy or as they call it the establishment. [...] Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help the country out. I will be here for as long as it takes to get the credentials of a federal agent.[...]I am glad to help just so long as it is kept very private.’
All he wanted in return was a federal agent's badge.
Priscilla Presley wrote in her memoir:
‘The narc badge represented some kind of ultimate power to him. [...] With the federal narcotics badge, he believed he could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished.’
On a morning of December 21st 1970 Elvis, accompanied by his two bodyguards, walked up to the North-West gate of the White House, requesting a meeting with the president. His letter gets to the hands of Egil ‘Bud’ Krogh, the Head of the White House's anti drug initiatives and a fan of Mr. Presley.
Bud invites Elvis back to the office and after talking to him, he decides that the rock ‘n’ roll idol is sincere and wants to help his country. Presley’s request for meeting with the president was approved.Around noon, Elvis, his aid, and his bodyguard, Sonny West, arrived at the White House. The King was dressed in a purple velvet suit with a huge gold belt buckle. His famous amber sunglasses were also a part of the garment. Presley didn’t come with empty hands, he brought a very special gift (which was immediately confiscated). It was a Colt mounted in a display case that Elvis had plucked off the wall of his Los Angeles mansion. At 12:30 sharp, the group was accompanied to the Oval Office.
Krogh described the scene:
‘When he first walked into the Oval Office, he seemed a little awe-struck but he quickly warmed to the situation.’While the White House photographer Ollie Atkins snapped photographs, Nixon and Elvis shook hands. Then Elvis showed off his collection of police badges, and some photos of his family members to the President. Elvis also showed his cuff links to Nixon, who fairly admired them.Krogh recalled:
'Presley indicated that he thought the Beatles had been a real force for anti-American spirit. The President then indicated that those who use drugs are also those in the vanguard of anti-American protest. Elvis then stated, 'I'm just a poor boy from Tennessee. I've gotten a lot from my country. And I'd like to do something to repay for what I've gotten.’ He then stated that he was on the president’s side, and that he'd been studying the drug culture and Communist brainwashing. Finally Presley asked Krough if he could get a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs for his collection.'
Krogh said he could, and Nixon ordered it done.
Elvis seemed happy and surprised, as if he didn’t expect his plan to work. In a spontaneous gesture, he put his left arm around the President and hugged him.
'President hugging was not a common occurrence in the Oval Office. It caught the president – and me – off guard. The president recovered from his surprise and patted Elvis on the shoulder,’ Krough said.At Elvis' request, the meeting was kept a secret for years.
In 1974 Nixon resigned from the office, and in 1977 Elvis died of a drug overdose, with his Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge still on him.
Shortly after that, a Chicago newspaper reported that the National Archives was selling photos of the meeting. Within a week 8000 people requested copies, making the pictures the most requested photographs in Archives history (beating even the Constitution for the United States and the United States Bill of Rights).