Lyndon B. Johnson
White House Portrait
|Term of Office:||November 22, 1963–January 20, 1969|
|Predecessor:||John F. Kennedy|
|Successor:||Richard M. Nixon|
|Date of Birth:||Thursday, August 27, 1908|
|Place of Birth:||Gillespie County, Texas|
|Date of Death:||Monday, January 22, 1973|
|Place of Death:||Johnson City, Texas|
|First Lady:||Lady Bird Johnson|
|Vice President:||Hubert H. Humphrey|
|Order:||37th Vice President|
|Term of Office:||January 20, 1961–November 22, 1963|
|Predecessor:||Richard M. Nixon|
|Successor:||Hubert H. Humphrey|
|President:||John F. Kennedy|
Lyndon Baines Johnson (August 27, 1908–January 22, 1973), often referred to as LBJ, was an American politician. After serving a long career in U.S. legislatures, Johnson became the Vice President under John F. Kennedy (1961–1963) and later ascended to the 36th Presidency (1963–1969) after Kennedy's assassination.
Johnson was born in Stonewall, Texas on August 27, 1908 in a small farmhouse in a poor area on the Pedernales River. His parents, Samuel Johnson and Rebekah Baines, had three more children: his sister Rebekah and his brothers Josefa, Sam Houston, and Lucia. Johnson attended public schools and graduated from Johnson City High School in 1924.
In 1927 Johnson enrolled in Southwest Texas State Teachers College. Even though he participated in debate and campus politics, edited the school newspaper, and spent a year away from his studies teaching school, Johnson somehow managed to graduate in only 312 days.
Soon after he graduated from college, Johnson taught public speaking and debate in a Houston high school. However, he soon quit his job teaching and went into the field of politics. Johnson's father had served five terms in the Texas legislature and was a close friend to one of Texas's rising political figures, Congressman Sam Rayburn. In 1931 Lyndon campaigned for Richard M. Kleberg and was later rewarded for his work in the campaign with an appointment to be the newly elected congressman's secretary.
As secretary, Lyndon became acquainted with people of influence, found out how they had reached their positions, and gained their respect for his abilities. Lyndon's friends soon included some of the men who worked around President Franklin D. Roosevelt, as well as fellow Texans such as Vice President John Nance Garner.
During his tenure as secretary, Johnson met Claudia Alta Taylor, a young woman who was also from Texas. After only a short period of dating, the two were married on November 17, 1934. The couple later had two daughters, Lynda Bird, born in 1944, and Luci Baines, born in 1947.
In 1935, Johnson became the head of the Texas National Youth Administration . His new post enabled him to use the powers of government to find educational and job opportunities for young people. The position in effect enabled him to build political pull with his constituents. He served as the head for two years, only resigning to run for Congress. Johnson was a notoriously tough boss with his employees.
In 1937, Johnson ran for Congress in a special election for the 10th Congressional District of Texas to represent Austin and the surrounding Hill Country. He ran on a New Deal platform and was effectively aided by his wife, Lady Bird Johnson.
President Franklin Roosevelt showed a personal interest in the young Texan from the time he entered Congress. Johnson was immediately appointed to the Naval Affairs Committee, a job that carried high importance for a freshman congressman. In 1941, Johnson ran for the U.S. Senate in a special election against the sitting governor of Texas, radio personality W. Lee "Pappy" O' Daniel. Johnson was defeated in a series of controversial late returns.
During World War II he served briefly in the Navy as a lieutenant commander, winning a Silver Star in the South Pacific. However, it should be noted that there are widespread questions over the circumstances in which he "won" this award. It has been speculated that it was largely for political purposes. On NPR in a narrative about medals and politicians, it was stated Johnson demanded the silver star from General Douglas MacArthur because he had been in an airplane that had been fired upon. In 1948, Lyndon again ran for the Senate and this time won. It also needs to be pointed out that his election to the Senate was controversial as well. Although he won the general election by an overwhelming vote, he won the primary by only 87 votes out of a million cast. The election was contested, but Johnson hired Abe Fortas to represent him in federal court. Through legal maneuvering, Fortas stopped the investigation. Once in the Senate, he was appointed to the Armed Services Committee, and later in 1950, he helped create the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee. Johnson eventually became its chairman and conducted a number of investigations of defense costs and efficiency. These investigations in result brought him national attention along with the respect of senior members of the Senate.
After only a few years in the Senate, Johnson was moving up in leadership power. In 1953, Lyndon was chosen by his fellow Democrats to be the minority leader. Thus, he became the youngest man ever named to the post by either major political party. In 1954, Johnson was re-elected to the Senate and since the Democrats won the majority in Senate, Johnson became majority leader. His duties were to schedule legislation and to help pass measures favored by the Democrats.
Johnson's success in the Senate led to his name being widely mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential candidate. He was Texas' "favorite son" candidate at the party's national convention in 1956. In 1960, Lyndon received 409 votes on the first and only ballot at the Democratic convention. However, the nomination eventually went to Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts. Later in 1960, Kennedy nominated Johnson for vice president slot on the ticket. In November 1960 the Kennedy/Johnson duo beat out Richard M. Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., by a narrow margin.
Upon swearing in, Kennedy appointed Johnson to head the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunities, which led him to work with blacks and other minorities. During his tenure as Vice President, Johnson also took on some international missions, which gave him limited insights into foreign problems.
Johnson was sworn-in as President on Air Force One in Dallas at Love Field Airport after the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Over the decades, many theories allege that Johnson was a co-conspirator behind the murder of John F. Kennedy. At the time of the assassination, President Kennedy had privately told confidante's, including President Kennedy's personal White House secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, that he was considering replacing Johnson as Vice President on the 1964 presidential election democratic ticket because Johnson was implicated in no less than four documented criminal investigations. Those four criminal investigations all disappeared after the assassination, after Johnson assumed the presidency.
In 1964, Johnson won the Presidency in his own right with 61 percent of the vote and had the widest popular margin in American history—more than 15,000,000 votes. However, 1964 was also the year that Johnson supported the racist Democratic delegates from Mississippi and denied the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party seats at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. To appease the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) chaired by Dr. Aaron Henry with the intent of seating a passionate and charismatic leader of the Mississippi Freedom Movement, Fannie Lou Hamer, the Democrats at the convention offered the MFDP an unsatisfactory compromise and the MFDP rejected it rather than appear concilatory in the eyes of their "comrades".
The Great Society program became Johnson's agenda for Congress in January 1965: aid to education, attack on disease, Medicare, urban renewal, beautification, conservation, development of depressed regions, a wide-scale fight against poverty, control and prevention of crime and delinquency, removal of obstacles to the right to vote. Congress, at times augmenting or amending, rapidly enacted Johnson's recommendations. Millions of elderly people found succor through the 1965 Medicare amendment to the Social Security Act.
Under Johnson, the country made spectacular explorations of space in a program he had championed since its start. When three astronauts successfully orbited the moon in December 1968, Johnson congratulated them: "You've taken … all of us, all over the world, into a new era…."
Nevertheless, two overriding crises had been gaining momentum since 1965. Despite the beginning of new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination programs, unrest and rioting in black ghettos troubled the Nation. President Johnson steadily exerted his influence against segregation and on behalf of law and order, but there was no early solution.
The other crisis arose from Vietnam. Despite Johnson's efforts to end Communist insurgency and achieve a settlement, fighting continued. Controversy over the war had become acute by the end of March 1968, when he limited the bombing of North Vietnam in order to initiate negotiations. At the same time, he startled the world by withdrawing as a candidate for re-election so that he might devote his full efforts, unimpeded by politics, to the quest for peace.
President Johnson had a distaste for the American war effort in Vietnam, which he had inherited from John Kennedy. Though he would often privately curse the war, referring to it as his "bitch mistress," at the same time Johnson believed that America could not afford to look weak in the eyes of the world, and so he escalated the war effort continuously from 1965–1968, which resulted in thousands of American deaths and perhaps 60 times that number of deaths of Vietnamese (estimates range from 500,000 to 4,000,000). At the same time, Johnson was afraid that too much focus on Vietnam would distract attention from his Great Society programs, so the levels of military escalation, while significant, were never significant enough to make any real headway in the war. This approach was very unpopular with both The Pentagon and America's South Vietnamese allies. Against his wishes, Johnson's presidency was soon dominated by the Vietnam War. As more and more American soldiers and civilians were killed in Vietnam, Johnson's popularity declined, particularly in the face of student protests ("Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?").
In March 1968, in an address to the nation, Johnson announced that he would not seek renomination for the presidency, citing the growing division within the country over the war. The Democratic nomination eventually went to Johnson's Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who was later defeated in the 1968 election by Richard M. Nixon. After leaving the presidency in 1969, Johnson went home to his ranch in Johnson City, Texas. In 1971, he published his memoirs, The Vantage Point. That year, the LBJ Presidential Library opened on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin.
Johnson died on January 22, 1973 from a heart attack at his ranch. Two days later, he was the last president in the 20th century to be given a full presidential state funeral, since the next one to be given one, Ronald Reagan, happened in the 21st century. The final services honoring LBJ on January 25, like those honoring Reagan on June 11, 2004, spanned the country in one day, beginning in the morning in Washington with the national funeral service at the National City Christian Church, where he worshipped often when in Washington, and ending that afternoon when he was buried at his ranch in his beloved hill country of Texas.
|President||Lyndon B. Johnson||1963–1969|
|Vice President||Hubert H. Humphrey||1965–1969|
|Secretary of State||Dean Rusk||1961–1969|
|Secretary of the Treasury||C. Douglas Dillon||1961–1965|
|Henry H. Fowler||1965–1968|
|Joseph W. Barr||1968–1969|
|Secretary of Defense||Robert S. McNamara||1961–1968|
|Clark M. Clifford||1968–1969|
|Attorney General||Robert F. Kennedy||1961–1964|
|Nicholas deB. Katzenbach||1964–1966|
|Postmaster General||John A. Gronouski||1963–1965|
|Lawrence F. O'Brien||1965–1968|
|W. Marvin Watson||1968–1969|
|Secretary of the Interior||Stewart L. Udall||1961–1969|
|Secretary of Agriculture||Orville L. Freeman||1961–1969|
|Secretary of Commerce||Luther H. Hodges||1961–1965|
|John T. Connor||1965–1967|
|Alexander B. Trowbridge||1967–1968|
|Cyrus R. Smith||1968–1969|
|Secretary of Labor||W. Willard Wirtz||1962–1969|
|Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare||Anthony J. Celebrezze||1962–1965|
|John W. Gardner||1965–1968|
|Wilbur J. Cohen||1968–1969|
Supreme Court appointments
Johnson appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:
Johnson career documentary
Johnson is the subject of an extensive multi-volume biography: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro. So far three volumes have appeared:
- U.S. presidential election, 1960
- U.S. presidential election, 1964
- U.S. presidential election, 1968
- History of the United States (1945–1964)
- History of the United States (1964–1980)
- Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas
- Lyndon B. Johnson, article on educatetheusa.com.
- Johnson, Lyndon Baines, article in the New Book of Knowledge .
- Robert N. Winter-Berger The Washington Payoff: a lobbyist's own story of corruption in government (1972)
- Robert A. Caro Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (2002}
- Inaugural Address
- Lyndon Johnson Biography
- Handbook of Texas entry
- White House Tapes: Eavesdropping on LBJ, NPR Weekend Edition audio archives
- Lyndon B. Johnson Library
John F. Kennedy
|President of the United States
|Vice President of the United States
John F. Kennedy
|Democratic Party Presidential candidate
Hubert H. Humphrey
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