Richard Nixon Once Gave Elvis Presley a Very Surprising Gift After He Called the Beatles ‘Anti-American’

Before Elvis Presley became the King of Rock and Roll, his childhood dream was to be a police officer. To an extent, Presley lived out that dream over the course of his career, befriending law enforcement officers and even collecting badges from various police departments.

Still, there there was one particular law enforcement badge that, according to his ex-wife Priscilla Presley, he especially wanted. And surprisingly enough, President Richard Nixon was the one who ultimately gave it to him.

President Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley
President Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley | National Archives

Presley harbored a lifelong love for law enforcement

Presley had an obvious musical talent from a young age. But before he released his first single, “That’s All Right (Mama),” at the age of 19, he actually wanted to work in a police department. His affiliation with and love for law enforcement officials would continue throughout his career.

According to Westword, Presley befriended members of the Denver Police Department during the 1970s after employing some local officers as part of his personal security team. He was so close to the former Denver Police Captain Jerry Kennedy that he personally bought him a Lincoln Mark IV. The former Deputy Chief of the Denver Police, Robert Cantwell, revealed in his book The Elvis I Knew that he even made the King an honorary captain at the department during their lengthy friendship (CPR).

Elvis Australia notes that Presley collected a number of police badges as he became friends with various detectives and other law enforcement officials over the years. His collection included badges from California, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, Ohio, Mississippi, and even England. As a gag – and possibly to fulfill a bit of his childhood dream – he would occasionally pull drivers over and give them a talking-to about speeding, flashing his badge all the while.

Elvis Presley with police and security in 1956
Elvis Presley with police and security in 1956 | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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The rock and roll legend told Nixon he believed the Beatles were ‘anti-American’

The King’s love of law and order might have seemed strange to some, given that his own performances were often controversial. But in a 1970 letter to President Richard Nixon, Presley made it clear that he wanted to be “on his side” against counter-cultural groups.

The Guardian notes that Presley expressed a “deep respect for [Nixon’s] office” in his introductory letter before lambasting what he referred to as “the drug culture” and “the hippie elements.” He also expressed concerns about the growing influence of the Black Panthers.

After Presley’s letter, Nixon himself invited the crooner to meet him at the White House. And sure enough, the two shared a now-infamous meeting – and a famous handshake – just before Christmas the same year, on Dec. 21, 1970.

A presidential memorandum about the meeting noted that Presley was frustrated by none other than the Beatles themselves, and said as much to Nixon.

“Presley indicated that he thought the Beatles had been a real force for anti-American spirit,” the official memorandum read. “He said that the Beatles came to this country, made their money, and then returned to England, where they promoted an anti-American theme.”

Evidently, that wasn’t what Nixon was expecting to hear from the king of rock and roll. “The President nodded in agreement and expressed some surprise,” the meeting notes revealed after Presley shared his views.

Elvis and Priscilla Presley
Elvis and Priscilla Presley | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Nixon gave Presley a Bureau of Narcotics badge

During their meeting in the Oval Office, Nixon and Presley also seemed to be in agreement about the harms of drugs – which may have come as a surprise to some, given Presley’s own extensive history with substance abuse.

“The President then indicated that those who use drugs are also in the vanguard of anti-American protests,” the memorandum about Presley and Nixon’s meeting noted. Presley wholeheartedly agreed, even requesting that he be made a federal drug enforcement agent. He pledged to attempt to wield his influence over youth culture in order to discourage drug use.

But Presley might have had at least one ulterior motive for sharing his anti-drug views: receiving a much-coveted Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge to add to his collection.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, quoting from Priscilla’s 1985 memoir, Elvis and Me, Presley hoped for the unconventional gift before he ever met with Nixon.

“The narc badge represented some kind of ultimate power to him,” she claimed. “With the federal narcotics badge, he [believed he] could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished.”

During their one-on-one meeting, Nixon agreed to the singer’s request. Presley was reportedly ecstatic to receive the badge, and even spontaneously hugged Nixon in response.

For his part, Presley brought his own offbeat gift to the Oval Office – a Colt .45 pistol – but it was confiscated by the Secret Service before Nixon could get his hands on it.