Though the American financial community was pleased by President Johnson’s continuation of John F. Kennedy’s pro-business policies, it was briefly stunned by two judicial decisions in April. On the sixth the Supreme Court of the United States nullified the merger of two Lexington, Kentucky, banks on the grounds that any combination of companies that were “major competitive factors” in the same market violated the Sherman Antitrust Act. The merged bank would have held more than 50 percent of the assets of all banks in Kentucky’s Fayette County.
The next day a federal grand jury indicted eight major steel companies for having conspired to fix prices in the late 1950s. Two years earlier President Kennedy had blocked an industrywide attempt to raise prices and had initiated the litigation against the steel companies. The indictment led economists to question whether the inflation that had followed the Korean War had resulted from natural forces in a free market or from a criminal conspiracy.
With the stock market at an all-time high in April and leading economic indicators almost unanimously favor- able, the business community largely disregarded these setbacks and retained the momentum of one of the longest periods of economic growth in the nation’s history.
April 5: After several weeks of battling kidney and liver disease, Gen. Douglas MacArthur died in a Washington hospital at the age of eighty-four. The charismatic general was one of the most decorated military figures in U.S. history, holding the rank of senior five-star officer at the time of his death. MacArthur had been demonstrating his renowned tenacity in fighting off a series of illnesses for several years; after three major operations in the last month of his life, he was still entertaining bedside visitors with old war stories before falling into a peaceful coma two days before his death. MacArthur’s final struggle seemed to bear out the prediction he had made before Congress in his farewell speech of 1951: “Old soldiers never die—they just fade away.”
April 14: Sidney Poitier won an Academy Award for his performance in Lilies of the Field , becoming the first black American to win the Oscar for Best Actor.