Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson
37 Lyndon Johnson 3x4.jpg
Oval Office photo, 1964
36th President of the United States
In office
November 22, 1963 – January 20, 1969
Vice President
Preceded byJohn F. Kennedy
Succeeded byRichard Nixon
37th Vice President of the United States
In office
January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963
PresidentJohn F. Kennedy
Preceded byRichard Nixon
Succeeded byHubert Humphrey
United States Senator
from Texas
In office
January 3, 1949 – January 3, 1961
Preceded byW. Lee O'Daniel
Succeeded byWilliam A. Blakley
Other offices
Senate Majority Leader
In office
January 3, 1957 – January 3, 1961
DeputyMike Mansfield
Preceded byWilliam F. Knowland
Succeeded byMike Mansfield
In office
January 3, 1955 – November 7, 1956
DeputyEarle C. Clements
Preceded byWilliam F. Knowland
Succeeded byWilliam F. Knowland
Senate Minority Leader
In office
November 7, 1956 – January 3, 1957
DeputyEarle C. Clements
Preceded byWilliam F. Knowland
Succeeded byWilliam F. Knowland
In office
January 3, 1953 – January 3, 1955
DeputyEarle C. Clements
Preceded byStyles Bridges
Succeeded byWilliam F. Knowland
Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus
In office
January 3, 1953 – January 3, 1961
Preceded byErnest McFarland
Succeeded byMike Mansfield
Senate Majority Whip
In office
January 3, 1951 – January 3, 1953
LeaderErnest McFarland
Preceded byFrancis J. Myers
Succeeded byLeverett Saltonstall
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 10th district
In office
April 10, 1937 – January 3, 1949
Preceded byJames P. Buchanan
Succeeded byHomer Thornberry
Personal details
Born
Lyndon Baines Johnson

(1908-08-27)August 27, 1908
Stonewall, Texas, U.S.
DiedJanuary 22, 1973(1973-01-22) (aged 64)
Stonewall, Texas, U.S.
Resting placeJohnson Family Cemetery, Stonewall, Texas, U.S.[1]
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
(m. 1934)
Children
Parents
Education
Occupation
  • Politician
  • teacher
Civilian awardsPresidential Medal of Freedom (ribbon).svg Presidential Medal of Freedom (posthumously, 1980)
SignatureCursive signature in ink.
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service
  • 1940–1941 (Inactive)
  • 1941–1942 (Active)
  • 1942–1964 (Reserve)
RankUS Navy O5 infobox.svg Commander
UnitU.S. Naval Reserve
Battles/wars
Military awardsSilver Star ribbon.svg Silver Star

Lyndon Baines Johnson (/ˈlɪndən ˈbnz/; August 27, 1908 – January 22, 1973), often referred to by his initials LBJ, was an American politician who served as the 36th president of the United States from 1963 to 1969, and previously as 37th vice president from 1961 to 1963. He assumed the presidency following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A Democrat from Texas, Johnson was also a United States representative and later majority leader in the United States Senate. Johnson is one of only four people to have served, at various times, in all four federal elected positions.[b]

Born in a farmhouse in Stonewall, Texas, Johnson worked as a high school teacher and a congressional aide before winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1937. Johnson won election to the United States Senate from Texas in 1948 after narrowly winning the Democratic Party's nomination.[2] He was appointed to the position of Senate Majority Whip in 1951. He became the Senate leader of the Democrats in 1953. He became known for his domineering personality and the "Johnson treatment", his aggressive coercion of powerful politicians to advance legislation. Johnson ran for the Democratic nomination in the 1960 presidential election. Although unsuccessful, he became the running mate of the nominee Senator John F. Kennedy and they went on to win a close election. On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated and Johnson succeeded him as president. In the 1964 Presidential election, Johnson won in a landslide, defeating Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. With 61.1 percent of the popular vote, Johnson won the largest share of the popular vote of any candidate since 1820.

In domestic policy, Johnson's "Great Society" and "War on Poverty" programs led to legislation to expand civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, aid to education and the arts, urban and rural development, and public services. Assisted by a strong economy, the War on Poverty helped millions of Americans rise above the poverty line during his administration.[3] In foreign policy, Johnson escalated American involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted Johnson the power to use military force in Southeast Asia without having to ask for an official declaration of war. The number of American military personnel in Vietnam increased dramatically, from 16,000 advisors in non-combat roles in 1963 to 525,000 in 1967, many in combat roles. American casualties soared and the peace process stagnated. Growing unease with the war stimulated a large, angry anti-war movement based chiefly among draft-age students on university campuses.

Unlike the majority of southern politicians, he opposed racial segregation, signing civil rights bills to ban racial discrimination in public facilities, interstate commerce, the workplace and housing. The Voting Rights Act ended the mass disenfranchisement of African Americans in the South, and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 permitted greater immigration from regions other than Europe. Johnson's presidency marked the peak of modern liberalism in the United States.[4]

Johnson faced further troubles when summer riots began in major cities in 1965 and crime rates soared, as his political opponents raised demands for "law and order" policies. While Johnson began his presidency with widespread approval, support for him declined as the public became frustrated with both the war and social unrest. In 1968, he ended his bid for renomination after a disappointing result in the New Hampshire primary. He was succeeded by Richard Nixon in January 1969. Johnson returned to his Texas ranch, where he died of a heart attack four years later. Johnson is ranked favorably by many historians because of his domestic policies and the passage of many major laws that affected civil rights, gun control, wilderness preservation, and Social Security, although he has also drawn substantial criticism for his policies in the Vietnam War, and conservative criticism for the growth of the federal government and Great Society programs.[5][6]

Early life

Seven-year-old Johnson with his trademark cowboy hat, c. 1915.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was born on August 27, 1908, near Stonewall, Texas, in a small farmhouse on the Pedernales River.[7] He was the eldest of five children born to Samuel Ealy Johnson Jr. and Rebekah Baines.[8][9] Johnson had one brother, Sam Houston Johnson, and three sisters, Rebekah, Josefa, and Lucia.[10] The nearby small town of Johnson City, Texas, was named after LBJ's father's cousin, James Polk Johnson,[11][12] whose forebears had moved west from Georgia.[13] Johnson had English-Irish, German, and Ulster Scots ancestry.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17] Johnson's favorite Bible verse came from the King James Version of Isaiah 1:18. "Come now, and let us reason together ..."[18]

Johnson's boyhood home in Johnson City, Texas

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.[19][20] 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.[21]

In 1926, Johnson managed to enroll at SWTSTC (now Texas State University). He worked his way through school, participated in debate and campus politics, and edited the school newspaper, The College Star.[22] The college years refined his skills of persuasion and political organization. For nine months, from 1928 to 1929, Johnson paused his studies to teach Mexican–American children at the segregated Welhausen School in Cotulla, some 90 miles (140 km) south of San Antonio in La Salle County. The job helped him to save money to complete his education, and he graduated in 1930 with a Bachelor of Science degree in history and his certificate of qualification as a high school teacher.[23][24] He briefly taught at Pearsall High School before taking a position as teacher of public speaking at Sam Houston High School in Houston.[25]

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.[26]