February 1964 Elvis Gives Thomas USS Potomac for St. Jude Hospital
Elvis Presley gave away millions of dollars during his fairytale career, usually anonymously. But in 1964, when he handed over the keys to the Presidential yacht, once owned by President Franklin Rosevelt, Elvis showed up in person.
Just after lunchtime, Presley arrived in Long Beach, California to hand over the deed to the USS Potomac to Danny Thomas. Elvis had tried to give the yacht to the March of Dimes and the Coast Guard but both refused as the vessel was in need of major repairs.
The yacht was purchased by Col. Tom Parker, Elvis' manager, for $55,000. It was in such bad shape, Parker had the front of the yacht painted so it didn't look so bad in press pictures and on television. Elvis only saw the yacht that day. The Colonel had purchased the yacht for tax purposes and publicity for Elvis. And of course, arranged all the press that day.
Danny Thomas sold the yacht to a Beverly Hills attorney for $62,500. Kenneth “Red” Tressler wanted to put a crew on board the Potomac and have her sail around the world so that school-age children could see her.
In 1980, the Potomac was seized by the US Customs Service during a drug smuggling raid. She was then towed to Treasure Island in San Franciso where the former presidential yacht was sunk to the bottom of the bay.
As with many things Elvis Presley was involved with, this is not the end of the story for the USS Potomac. The Port of Oakland paid $15,000 for the vessel that lay sunken at the bottom of the bay. The Potomac was purchased "as is".
The US Navy brought her up and due to the Potomac Association, the ship was fully restored for $5 million dollars. It took the association over 12 years to raise the money and to restore the Potomac.
In 1995, the Potomac was opened to the public at Jack London Square in Oakland, California where people can board the ship and cruise around the bay.
First launched in 1936, the ship that was once called, "The Floating Whitehouse" is still operating. Her hours of operation are 11 am to 2 pm Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
The USS Potomac Today