Lyndon B. Johnson Biography
The 36th president of the United States was Lyndon Baines Johnson (August 27, 1908 – January 22, 1973), was an American politician who was in office from 1963 to 1969. He was frequently referred to by his initials, LBJ.
He was sworn in immediately after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and served as the 37th vice president under Kennedy from 1961 to 1963. Johnson, a Democrat from Texas, was also a legislator, senator, and majority leader in the Senate. He has the distinction of being one of the few presidents to have held every federally elected post.
Lyndon B. Johnson wiki
Born Name: Lyndon Baines Johnson
Date of Birth: August 27, 1908
Place of Birth: Gillespie County, Texas, U.S.
Died: January 22, 1973 (aged 64)
Place of Death: Gillespie County, Texas, U.S.
Resting place: Johnson Family Cemetery
Political party: Democratic
Spouse: Claudia “Lady Bird” Taylor
Parents: Samuel Ealy Johnson Jr.
Education: Southwest Texas State Teachers College (BS)
Georgetown University (no degree)
Before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1937, Johnson served as a high school teacher and a congressional aide.
He was born in a farmhouse near Stonewall, Texas, to a local political family. He won the Democratic Party’s primary in 1948 by a slim margin and in a contentious race for the Texas Senate seat.
In 1951, he was chosen to be the Senate Majority Whip. In 1953, he was elected Senate Democratic Leader; in 1954, he was elected Majority Leader.
In 1960 Johnson ran for the Democratic nomination for president. Ultimately, Senator Kennedy bested Johnson and his other rivals for the nomination, then surprised many by offering to make Johnson his vice presidential running mate. The Kennedy-Johnson ticket won in the 1960 presidential election.
Vice President Johnson assumed the presidency on November 22, 1963, after President Kennedy was assassinated. The following year, Johnson was elected to the presidency when he won in a landslide against Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, receiving 61.1% of the popular vote in the 1964 presidential election, the largest share won by any presidential candidate since the 1820 election.
Johnson’s domestic policy was aimed at expanding civil rights, public broadcasting, access to healthcare, aid to education and the arts, urban and rural development, and public services.
In 1964 Johnson coined the term the “Great Society” to describe these efforts. In addition, he sought to create better living conditions for low-income Americans by spearheading a campaign unofficially called the “War on Poverty”.
As part of these efforts, Johnson signed the Social Security Amendments of 1965, which resulted in the creation of Medicare and Medicaid.
Johnson followed his predecessor’s actions in bolstering NASA and made the Apollo Program a national priority. He enacted the Higher Education Act of 1965 which established federally insured student loans.
Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 which laid the groundwork for U.S. immigration policy today.
Johnson’s opinion on the issue of civil rights put him at odds with other white, southern Democrats. His civil rights legacy was shaped by signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
During his presidency, the American political landscape transformed significantly, as white southerners who were once staunch Democrats began moving to the Republican Party and black voters began moving to the Democratic Party.
Because of his domestic agenda, Johnson’s presidency marked the peak of modern liberalism in the United States in the 20th century.
Since Johnson was president during the Cold War, containing communism was a top priority in his foreign policy. The United States was already fighting in the Vietnam War, backing South Vietnam against the communist North, before he became president.
Congress enacted the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in the wake of a naval confrontation between the United States and North Vietnam in 1964, giving Johnson the authority to conduct a full-scale military involvement in South East Asia.
American military presence in Vietnam significantly increased, and both American and Vietnamese civilian casualties rose. Johnson also increased military activity in neighboring Laos to cut off the North Vietnamese government’s supply routes.
The communist Tet Offensive in 1968 ignited the anti-war movement, particularly among college students who were eligible for the military, and public opinion shifted against America’s participation in the conflict.
In Europe, Johnson’s government carried on his predecessors’ efforts to encourage and promote Western European political and economic unification.
At home, Johnson faced further troubles with race riots in major cities and increasing crime rates. His political opponents seized the opportunity and raised demands for “law and order” policies.
Johnson began his presidency with near-universal support, but his approval declined throughout his presidency as the public became frustrated with both the Vietnam War and domestic unrest.
Johnson initially sought to run for re-election; however, following disappointing results in the New Hampshire primary he withdrew his candidacy.
As a result of the war becoming a key electoral issue, Republican nominee Richard Nixon defeated Johnson’s vice president Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 presidential election.
Johnson returned to his Texas ranch after his presidency ended in 1969, wrote his memoirs, and otherwise kept a quiet profile until his death from a heart attack in 1973.
Since his passing, there has been a significant ebb and flow in both academic and public appraisals of his legacy. Given his successes in domestic policy, historians and academics place Johnson in the top tier.
Many significant legislation were passed during his administration that had a significant impact on education, welfare, health care, and civil rights.
Johnson, on the other hand, has come under heavy fire for his foreign policy, namely for growing American engagement in the Vietnam War.
On August 27, 1908, Lyndon Baines Johnson was born in a modest farmhouse on the Pedernales River, close to Stonewall, Texas. He was the oldest of Samuel Ealy Johnson Jr. and Rebekah Baines’ five children.
Sam Houston Johnson was Johnson’s only sibling. She also had Lucia, Rebekah, and Josefa as sisters. Johnson City, Texas, which is close by, was named after James Polk Johnson, LBJ’s father’s cousin, whose ancestors migrated west from Georgia.
Johnson had English-Irish, German, and Ulster Scots ancestry. Through his mother, he was a great-grandson of pioneer Baptist clergyman George Washington Baines, who pastored eight churches in Texas, as well as others in Arkansas and Louisiana. Baines was also the president of Baylor University during the American Civil War.
Johnson’s grandfather, Samuel Ealy Johnson Sr., was raised as a Baptist and for a time was a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In his later years, the grandfather became a Christadelphian; Johnson’s father also joined the Christadelphian Church toward the end of his life.
Later, as a politician, Johnson was influenced in his positive attitude toward Jews by the religious beliefs that his family, especially his grandfather, had shared with him. Johnson’s favorite Bible verse came from the King James Version of Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together …”
Johnson grew up in poverty, with his father losing a great deal of money. Biographer Robert Caro described him as being raised “in a land without electricity, where the soil was so rocky that it was hard to earn a living from it.”
In school, Johnson was a talkative youth who was elected president of his 11th-grade class. He graduated in 1924 from Johnson City High School, where he participated in public speaking, debate, and baseball.
At the age of 15, Johnson was the youngest member of his class. Pressured by his parents to attend college, he enrolled at a “sub college” of Southwest Texas State Teachers College (SWTSTC) in the summer of 1924, where students from unaccredited high schools could take the 12th-grade courses needed for admission to college.
He left the school just weeks after his arrival and decided to move to southern California. He worked at his cousin’s legal practice and in various odd jobs before returning to Texas, where he worked as a day laborer.
Johnson was able to enroll at SWTSTC (now Texas State University) in 1926. He put in effort while attending classes, engaged in discussion and campus politics, and served as editor of The College Star, the school newspaper.
He developed his political organization and persuasive skills during his time in college.
Johnson put his studies on hold for nine months in 1928–1929 to work as a teacher for Mexican–American students at the segregated Welhausen School in Cotulla, a town in La Salle County about 90 miles (140 km) south of San Antonio.
He was able to complete his education thanks to the employment, and in 1930, he received both his certificate of qualification as a high school teacher and a Bachelor of Science in history.
Prior to accepting a position as a public speaking instructor at Sam Houston High School in Houston, he temporarily taught at Pearsall High School.
When he returned to San Marcos in 1965, after signing the Higher Education Act of 1965, Johnson reminisced:
I shall never forget the faces of the boys and the girls in that little Welhausen Mexican School, and I remember even yet the pain of realizing and knowing then that college was closed to practically every one of those children because they were too poor.
And I think it was then that I made up my mind that this nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American
Johnson was chosen to serve as Richard M. Kleberg’s legislative secretary after Kleberg won a special election to represent Texas in the US House of Representatives in 1931.
Johnson’s official entry into politics came with this. On the advice of his father and state senator Welly Hopkins, for whom Johnson had run a campaign in 1930, Johnson was appointed to the office.
Johnson was given responsibility for Kleberg’s daily responsibilities as a congressman because he had little interest in carrying them out.
Johnson backed Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal for the rest of his life after Roosevelt won the 1932 presidential election.
Johnson was elected speaker of the “Little Congress”, a group of Congressional aides, where he cultivated Congressmen, newspapermen, and lobbyists.
Johnson’s friends soon included aides to President Roosevelt as well as fellow Texans such as Vice President John Nance Garner and Congressman Sam Rayburn.
Johnson married Claudia Alta Taylor, also known as “Lady Bird”, of Karnack, Texas, on November 17, 1934. He met her after he had attended Georgetown University Law Center for several months.
Johnson later quit his Georgetown studies after the first semester in 1934. During their first date he asked her to marry him; many dates later, she finally agreed.
The wedding was officiated by Arthur R. McKinstry at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio. They had two daughters, Lynda Bird, born in 1944, and Luci Baines, born in 1947.
Johnson gave his children names with the LBJ initials; his dog was Little Beagle Johnson. His home was the LBJ Ranch; his initials were on his cufflinks, ashtrays, and clothes.
During his marriage, Lyndon Johnson had affairs with “numerous” women, in particular with Alice Marsh (née Glass) who assisted him politically.
He was named director of the Texas National Youth Administration in 1935, which gave him the power to use the power of the state to provide young people with chances for employment and education.
Two years later, in order to run for Congress, he resigned. Johnson, a notoriously demanding employer throughout his career, frequently required long workdays and weekend hours.
He was characterized as being driven by an extraordinary craving for power and control by friends, other politicians, and historians.
Johnson’s ambition was exceptional, according to Robert Caro, his biographer, in that it was free of even the tiniest excess of ideology, philosophy, ideas, or beliefs.
He served as U.S. House of Representatives from 1937 till 1949 and also as U.S. Senate from 1949 till 1961.
Johnson became a prospective Democratic presidential contender as a result of his performance in the Senate; he had been the “favorite son” candidate of the Texas delegation at the Party’s national convention in 1956, and he appeared to be in a strong position to run for the nomination in 1960.
Jim Rowe advised Johnson to start a campaign in the early months of 1959, but Johnson decided to wait because he believed that John Kennedy’s efforts would cause a rift that could later be exploited.
Eventually, Rowe joined the Humphrey campaign out of dissatisfaction, which Johnson believed benefited his own approach.
Candidacy for president
Due to Johnson’s tardy entry into the race in July 1960 and his unwillingness to leave Washington, the Kennedy campaign was able to gain a significant head start among Democratic state party officials.
Johnson misjudged Kennedy’s charming charm and intelligence in comparison to his reputation as the cruder and more shady “Landslide Lyndon.” Caro contends that Johnson’s hesitation was brought on by a crippling fear of failing.
Johnson attempted in vain to capitalize on Kennedy’s youth, poor health, and failure to take a position regarding Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism.
He had formed a “Stop Kennedy” coalition with Adlai Stevenson, Stuart Symington, and Hubert Humphrey, but it proved a failure.
Johnson had the backing of the party establishment and established Democrats, but this did not transfer to widespread support.
On the one ballot at the Democratic convention, Johnson earned 409 votes to Kennedy’s 806; as a result, Kennedy was chosen as the party’s nominee.
Tip In those days, Massachusetts was represented by O’Neill, who recalls Johnson approaching him at the convention and saying, “Tip, I know you have to support Kennedy at the start, but I’d like to have you with me on the second ballot.” Senator, there won’t be a second ballot, O’Neill retorted.
Kennedy’s Special Counsel Myer Feldman and Kennedy himself claim that it is hard to reconstruct exactly how Johnson was nominated for vice president in the end.
Despite the fact that most traditional Southern Democrats had favored Johnson, and Kennedy was aware of this, labor leaders were unified in their opposition to Johnson.
Johnson was referred to as “the arch-foe of labor” by AFL-CIO President George Meany, while Reuben Soderstrom of Illinois claimed Kennedy had “made chumps out of leaders of the American labor movement.”
After much back and forth with party leaders and others on the matter, Kennedy did offer Johnson the vice-presidential nomination at the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel at 10:15 am on July 14, the morning after he was nominated, and Johnson accepted.
From that point to the actual nomination that evening, the facts are in dispute in many respects. (Convention chairman LeRoy Collins’ declaration of a two-thirds majority in favor by voice vote is even disputed.)
Seymour Hersh stated that Robert F. Kennedy (known as Bobby) hated Johnson for his attacks on the Kennedy family, and later maintained that his brother offered the position to Johnson merely as a courtesy, expecting him to decline.
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. concurred with Robert Kennedy’s version of events, and put forth that John Kennedy would have preferred Stuart Symington as his running-mate, alleging that Johnson teamed with House Speaker Sam Rayburn and pressured Kennedy to favor Johnson. Robert Kennedy wanted his brother to choose labor leader Walter Reuther.
Biographer Robert Caro offered a different perspective; he wrote that the Kennedy campaign was desperate to win what was forecast to be a very close election against Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. Johnson was needed on the ticket to help carry Texas and the Southern states. Caro’s research showed that on July 14, John Kennedy started the process while Johnson was still asleep.
At 6:30 am, John Kennedy asked Robert Kennedy to prepare an estimate of upcoming electoral votes “including Texas”. Robert called Pierre Salinger and Kenneth O’Donnell to assist him.
Salinger realized the ramifications of counting Texas votes as their own and asked him whether he was considering a Kennedy–Johnson ticket, and Robert replied “yes”.
Caro contends that it was then that John Kennedy called Johnson to arrange a meeting; he also called Pennsylvania governor David L. Lawrence, a Johnson backer, to request that he nominate Johnson for vice president if Johnson were to accept the roles.
According to Caro, Kennedy and Johnson met and Johnson said that Kennedy would have trouble with Kennedy supporters who were anti-Johnson.
Kennedy returned to his suite to announce the Kennedy–Johnson ticket to his closest supporters, including northern political bosses.
O’Donnell was angry at what he considered a betrayal by Kennedy, who had previously cast Johnson as anti-labor and anti-liberal.
Afterward, Robert Kennedy visited labor leaders who were extremely unhappy with the choice of Johnson and, after seeing the depth of labor opposition to Johnson, Robert ran messages between the hotel suites of his brother and Johnson—apparently trying to undermine the proposed ticket without John Kennedy’s authorization.
Caro continues in his analysis that Robert Kennedy tried to get Johnson to agree to be the Democratic Party chairman rather than the vice president. Johnson refused to accept a change in plans unless it came directly from John Kennedy.
Despite his brother’s interference, John Kennedy was firm that Johnson was who he wanted as running mate; he met with staffers such as Larry O’Brien, his national campaign manager, to say that Johnson was to be vice president.
O’Brien recalled later that John Kennedy’s words were wholly unexpected, but that after a brief consideration of the electoral vote situation, he thought “it was a stroke of genius”.
When John and Robert Kennedy next saw their father Joe Kennedy, he told them that signing Johnson as running mate was the smartest thing they had ever done.
Another account of how Johnson’s nomination came about was told by Evelyn Lincoln, JFK’s secretary (both before and during his presidency).
She explained how the choice was made in a 1993 filmed interview, claiming she was the only one there at a private meeting between John and Robert Kennedy that took place in a suite at the Biltmore Hotel.
She claimed to have entered and exited the room as they spoke and overheard them state that Johnson had attempted to use evidence of his womanizing provided by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to blackmail JFK into giving him the vice presidential candidacy.
Additionally, she overheard them discussing potential strategies to avoid making the offer before deciding that JFK had no alternative.
Re-election to U.S. Senate
At the same time as his vice presidential run, Johnson also sought a third term in the U.S. Senate.
According to Robert Caro, “On November 8, 1960, Lyndon Johnson won an election for both the vice presidency of the United States, on the Kennedy–Johnson ticket, and for a third term as senator (he had Texas law changed to allow him to run for both offices).
When he won the vice presidency, he made arrangements to resign from the Senate, as he was required to do under federal law, as soon as it convened on January 3, 1961.”
In 1988, Lloyd Bentsen, the vice presidential running mate of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, and a senator from Texas, took advantage of “Lyndon’s law”, and was able to retain his seat in the Senate despite Dukakis’s loss to George H. W. Bush.
Johnson received 1,306,605 votes, or 58.6% of the total, against Republican John Tower’s 927,653 votes, or 41.1% of the total.
A fellow Democrat named William A. Blakley was chosen to succeed Johnson in the Senate, but Blakley fell short against Tower in a special election in May 1961.
From 1961 to 1963, he was vice president. From 1963 to 1969, he was president. From 1969 to 1973, he was post-president.
Death and funeral
On January 12, 1973, Johnson conducted an hour-long televised interview with journalist Walter Cronkite at his ranch during which he talked about his legacy, notably the civil rights struggle.
He told Cronkite that it was better for his heart “to smoke than to be nervous” while still smoking heavily at the time.
Ten days later, on January 22, 1973, about 3:39 p.m. Central Time, Johnson experienced his third and last heart attack in his bedroom.
He was still holding the phone receiver when the Secret Service agents arrived to the ranch, where they discovered him to be unconscious and not breathing.
Johnson was transported to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio using one of his aircraft, where cardiologist and Army colonel George McGranahan declared him dead when they arrived. At 64 years old, he was.
The news of Johnson’s death was dramatically communicated on CBS Evening News by Walter Cronkite, on live television, as he spoke with Tom Johnson, Lyndon B. Johnson’s press secretary.
Johnson was given a state funeral after resting in peace at his presidential library, and J. J. Pickle of Texas and Dean Rusk, a former secretary of state, spoke highly of him when he was laying in state at the Capitol.
The last worship services were held on January 25. The National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C., where he frequently attended services as president, served as the location for the funeral.
President Richard Nixon presided over the service, which was attended by foreign leaders, including Eisaku Sat, the former Japanese prime minister who had served under Johnson’s administration.
Eulogies were given by George Davis, the church’s pastor, and W. Marvin Watson, former postmaster general. Nixon did not speak, though he attended, as is customary for presidents during state funerals.
Still, the eulogists turned to him and lauded him for his tributes, as Rusk had the day before. Nixon had mentioned Johnson’s death in a speech he gave the day after Johnson died, announcing the peace agreement to end the Vietnam War.
Johnson was buried in his family’s private cemetery a few yards from the house in which he was born. Eulogies were given by former Texas governor Connally and Billy Graham, the minister who officiated at the burial rites.
The state funeral, the last for a president until Richard Nixon’s in 1994, was part of an unexpectedly busy week in Washington, as the Military District of Washington (MDW) dealt with its second major task in less than a week, beginning with Richard Nixon’s second inauguration, which followed Nixon’s landslide victory in the 1972 election.
Given that Johnson passed away just two days after the inauguration, the state funeral was significantly impacted by the inauguration.
In order to accommodate a full state funeral, the MDW and the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee canceled the remaining inauguration festivities. Many of the military personnel who took part in the inauguration also attended the funeral.
Additionally, because of inauguration-related construction on the East Front steps, Johnson’s coffin had to walk the entire length of the Capitol, entering through the Senate wing when it was brought into the Rotunda to lie in state and leaving through the House wing stairs.
Personality and public image
According to biographer Randall Woods, Johnson posed in many different roles. Depending on the circumstances, he could be:
“Johnson the Son of the Tenant Farmer, Johnson the Great Compromiser, Johnson the All-Knowing, Johnson the Humble, Johnson the Warrior, Johnson the Dove, Johnson the Romantic, Johnson the Hard-Headed Pragmatist, Johnson the Preserver of Traditions, Johnson the Crusader for Social Justice, Johnson the Magnanimous, Johnson the Vindictive or Johnson the Uncouth, LBJ the Hick, Lyndon the Satyr, and Johnson the Usurper”.
Other historians have noted how he played additional roles, as Kent Germany reports:
“the big daddy, the southerner-westerner-Texan, the American dreamer, the politician, the father’s son, the rising star, the flawed giant, the Periclean paradox (domestic dreams undone by war), the very human, the tragedy, the pathbreaker, the ascender, and the master.”
Johnson was frequently regarded as an outrageously ambitious, restless, and commanding figure who was ruthlessly successful in passing legislation.
He did not take breaks throughout his 18 to 20 hour workdays and did not engage in any leisure activities. According to author Robert Dallek, “there was no more powerful majority leader in American history.”Dallek claimed that Johnson had biographies on every senator, understood their goals, aspirations, and preferences, and used this information to his advantage when trying to get votes.
Another Johnson biographer noted, “He could get up every day and learn what their fears, their desires, their wishes, their wants were and he could then manipulate, dominate, persuade and cajole them.” As president, Johnson vetoed 30 bills; no other president in history vetoed so many bills and never had a single one overridden by Congress. At 6 feet 3.5 inches (1.918 m) tall, Johnson had his particular brand of persuasion, known as “The Johnson Treatment”.
A contemporary writes, “It was an incredible blend of badgering, cajolery, reminders of past favors, promises of future favors, predictions of gloom if something doesn’t happen.
When that man started to work on you, all of a sudden, you just felt that you were standing under a waterfall and the stuff was pouring on you.”
Johnson’s cowboy hat and boots reflected his Texas roots and genuine love of the rural hill country. From 250 acres (100 ha) of land that he was given by an aunt in 1951, he created a 2,700-acre (1,100 ha) working ranch with 400 head of registered Hereford cattle.
The National Park Service keeps a herd of Hereford cattle descended from Johnson’s registered herd and maintains the ranch property.
According to Johnson’s biographer Randall Woods, the Social Gospel principles he was exposed to as a young boy enabled him to turn social issues into moral ones.
This clarifies his long-standing dedication to social justice, which is shown in the Great Society and his support for racial equality.
His foreign-policy approach to a form of Christian internationalism and nation-building was specifically motivated by the Social Gospel.
For instance, he quoted extensively from the Methodist Church’s Social Creed, which was published in 1940, adding, “It would be extremely difficult for me to produce a more accurate depiction of the American ideal.