Lyndon Baines Johnson served as the thirty-sixth president of the Unit
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Lyndon Baines Johnson served as the thirty-sixth president of the United States of
America. Events which marked the Johnson presidency were the funeral of President John
Fitzgerald Kennedy, the push for the Great Society, and most memorably, the Vietnam
conflict. Johnson was a man who possessed incredible power. In the early stages of his
presidency many domestic programs were initiated. The latter portion of his presidency
suffered due to his bad handling of the situation in Vietnam. Lyndon Baines Johnson
remains one of the most important political figures that shaped the last half of this century.
LBJ was born on August 27, 1908 near Johnson City, Texas. His parents were Sam Ealy
Johnson, Jr., and Rebekah Baines Johnson. Johnson’s father was a struggling farmer who
provided an unstable income for his family. LBJ probably inherited his political interest
from the elder Johnson who was politically active, serving five terms in the Texas
legislature. Johnson’s education was nothing extraordinary, graduating from a public a
high school and then attending Southwest Texas State Teachers College while the
depression was reeking havoc on the nation (Lyndon online).
Johnson taught in a grade school for a year before moving to Washington in 1931 as a
secretary to Richard M. Kledberg, a Democratic Texas congressman. Once in
Washington, Johnson began establishing many contacts. President Franklin D. Roosevelt
(FDR) appointed Johnson to head up the National Youth Administration in Texas from
1935 to 1937. This experience helped Johnson gain a Texas seat in the United States
Congress. He was a strong supporter of FDR, especially during the "lend and lease" policy
during World War II. LBJ even briefly served in the military during WWII before FDR
called all the congressmen back to Washington. LBJ’s success in the forties secured him
enough to win him a Texas seat in the United States Senate (Lyndon online).
By his side throughout his entire political career was his wife, Lady Bird. He wed Lady
Bird (Claudia Alta Taylor) on November 17, 1934. Johnson had two daughters with his
wife. Lady Bird gave birth to Lynda Bird in 1944. Three years later Luci Baines was born
in 1947 (Lyndon online). During the difficulties Johnson faced with the Vietnam conflict
he thought of his daughters to put the war in perspective. One morning he woke up at six
in the morning and started walking around. Lady Bird asked him why he was up at such an
early hour pacing about. LBJ responded, "Well what I am thinking about is what I would
think about a President that sent Luci and Lynda to Da Nang this morning" (Politics 21).
In an attempt to bring the war to a personal level, Johnson wanted to think about how he
would feel about a President who would do that before he signed a bill that ordered troops
into Da Nang (Politics 21).
Moving up to Senate Democratic leader in 1953, LBJ was making a name for himself. The
next year he became the Senate majority leader despite his somewhat conservative
tendencies. LBJ adamantly opposed civil rights legislation, which won him some
Republican friends. In 1949, Johnson said of proposed civil rights legislation, "If the law
can compel me to employ a Negro, it can compel that Negro to work for me. It might
even tell him how long and how hard he would have to work" (Civil 9). This Republican
characteristic prevented Johnson from obtaining the Democratic support he needed when
he was considering making a bid for the presidency in 1960. Although he did not run for
president, LBJ was asked to be John F. Kennedy’s (JFK) running mate in the 1960
presidential election (Lyndon online).
The selection of Johnson as vice president prompted many people to question the
legitimacy of the nomination. Quite a bit of speculation flew around during the JFK/LBJ
presidencies surrounding this matter. Pulitzer Prize winning historian Arthur Schlesinger
Jr. said, "Mr. Kennedy made the offer as a gesture of party harmony, ‘certain that there
was practically no chance that Johnson would accept’ (‘Yes’ 20)." Some have suggested
that Kennedy might have even been coerced or forced to offer LBJ the vice-presidency.
This led to even further questioning surrounding the assassination of JFK and the possible
Johnson involvement. On the night of November 21, 1963, the last evening before
Kennedy’s assassination, a party was held in Dallas at Clint Murchison’s home to honor
his friend, J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the FBI. Lyndon Johnson made an
unscheduled appearance at the party and was not well received. Embarrassed, Johnson
vented his anger to one of the
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Vietnam War films, Cultural depictions of John F. Kennedy, English-language films, Lyndon B. Johnson, Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, LBJ, JFK, LBJ: The Early Years, Lyndon B. Johnson in popular culture
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