Lyndon Baines Johnson (August 27, 1908 January 22, 1973), often referred
to as LBJ, was the thirty-sixth (1961 - 1963) Vice President and the thirty-seventh
(1963 - 1969) President of the United States, succeeding to the office
after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Lyndon Baines Johnson was born in Stonewall, Texas , on August 27 , 1908
. His parents owned a farm in a poor area and they could not provide their
son with many advantages. He attended public schools throughout his childhood
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 shortwhile 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 received his first degree in Freemasonry on October 30 , 1937
. After receiving the degree he found that his congressional duties took
so much time he was unable to pursue the masonic degrees.
In 1937 Lyndon campaigned successfully for the House of Representatives
on a New Deal platform, 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, but he was defeated.
During World War II he served briefly in the Navy as a lieutenant commander,
winning a Silver Star in the South Pacific. In 1948 , Lyndon again ran
for the Senate and this time won. He was then 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 , 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 due to the assassination
of President Kennedy on November 22 , 1963 . Over the decades, many books
and documentaries (including the 2003's The Men Who Killed Kennedy ) have
come forth with considerations that LBJ was a co-conspirator behind the
of John F. Kennedy .
In 1964 , upon Johnson's request, Congress passed a tax-reduction law
and the Economic Opportunity Act , which was in association with the War
on Poverty .
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.
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 aggression 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.
He had a distaste for the American war effort in Vietnam , which he had
inherited from John Kennedy. But 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 died 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 . Johnson
died on January 22 , 1973 from a massive heart attack.
Secretary of State
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)
Robert F. Kennedy (1961-1964)
Nicholas deB. Katzenbach (1964-1966)
Ramsey Clark (1967-1969)
John A. Gronouski (1963-1965)
Lawrence F. O'Brien (1965-1968)
W. Marvin Watson (1968-1969)
Secretary of the Interior
Stewart L. Udall
Secretary of Agriculture
Orville L. Freeman
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
Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
Anthony J. Celebrezze (1962-1965)
John W. Gardner (1965-1968)
Wilbur J. Cohen (1968-1969)
Supreme Court appointments
Abe Fortas - 1965
Thurgood Marshall - 1967
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: