Tuesday, September 9, 2008

#36 - Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-1969

Lyndon Baines Johnson came to the presidency as a result of the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was however a job that he had sought in 1960. As a result, Kennedy found it necessary to create a political compromise and pick Johnson as his running mate.

Johnson envisioned an America that lived in a Great Society. Johnson had been born into a family that struggled and it instilled in him a keen understanding of poverty in America. in 1937, Johnson entered public service when he was elected to the House of Representatives. Eleven years later he moved to the upper house, when he was elected to the United States Senate. In 1953, he became the youngest Minority Leader in history. A year later, he became Majority Leader when the Democrats took control of Congress.

When Johnson rose to the presidency in 1963, he spent the next year pushing through many of the efforts that had been started by President Kennedy. When he ran for a term of his own in 1964, he was elected by the largest margin of popular votes ever recorded, more than 15 million. After the election, Johnson advanced his ideas for the "Great Society." Johnson's domestic agenda was widely praised and many of the reforms helped Americans across the board. However, Johnson was vilified for his policies on Vietnam and as a result, he chose to not seek reelection in 1968. He returned to his ranch in Texas, where he died suddenly from a heart attack in January 1973.

The Facts
The Election of 1964
  • Johnson City, Texas is named for Johnson's family, who helped settle the area.
  • Prior to his career in politics, Johnson taught school.
  • Some historians (including two LBJ biographers) agree that Johnson was the most effective Senate Majority Leader in history.
  • Johnson challenged Texas state election law, allowing him to run for reelection to the Senate in addition to running as Vice President. He won both elections.
  • When Johnson was sworn in by family friend and judge Sarah Hughes, it marked the first time a President was sworn in by a woman. He is the only President to be sworn in on Texas soil.
  • In 1967, Johnson nominated the first black Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall
  • Johnson's State Funeral in 1973 was the last in Washington until the death of Ronald Reagan in 2004.
  • August 2008 marked the centennial of Johnson's birth. Events were held across Texas, several of them at the Johnson library.
  • Lyndon Johnson confided to Doris Kearns Goodwin that he feared dying alone. On the day of his death, Lady Bird had just left for a day trip to Austin, when the Secret Service were summoned to LBJ's bedroom, where he was dead on the floor.
  • Mentioned to me: Lyndon Johnson was a local distributor for the Muzak Corporation and had speakers draped around the Texas ranch to hear music wherever he was.


Anonymous said...

I read Robert Caro's biographies of LBJ, and especially in Master of the Senate, I could not help but appreciate some of his abilities, even though I still can't get over some home-grown biases against him. Read it, it will make you weep for the bland leadership, in both parties, currently occupying Capitol Hill.
It's 1200 pages long, so plan this for the dead of winter...
Philly Girl

Mary Witzl said...

I share some of Philly Girl's biases, but one thing is for certain, like Barry Goldwater: LBJ wasn't afraid of speaking his mind. (Did you know, by the way, that Hilary Clinton actually campaigned for Barry Goldwater, ages ago? Or so I've heard...)

Brave Astronaut said...

Philly Girl - Caro is the man when it comes to LBJ. But Doris has better stories.

Mary - You are correct about Hillary working for Goldwater - we all make mistakes.