LYNDON B JOHNSON ================Johnson was born on Aug.
27, 1908, near Johnson City, Tex., theeldest son of Sam Ealy Johnson, Jr., and Rebekah Baines Johnson. Hisfather, a struggling farmer and cattle speculator in the hill countryof Texas, provided only an uncertain income for his family.
Politically active, Sam Johnson served five terms in the Texaslegislature. His mother had varied cultural interests and placed highvalue on education; she was fiercely ambitious for her children.Johnson attended public schools in Johnson City and received a B.S.Order now
degree from Southwest Texas State Teachers College in San Marcos. Hethen taught for a year in Houston before going to Washington in 1931 assecretary to a Democratic Texas congressman, Richard M. Kleberg.During the next 4 years Johnson developed a wide network of politicalcontacts in Washington, D.
C. On Nov. 17, 1934, he married ClaudiaAlta Taylor, known as “Lady Bird.” A warm, intelligent, ambitiouswoman, she was a great asset to Johnson’s career.
They had twodaughters, Lynda Byrd, born in 1944, and Luci Baines, born in 1947. In1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt entered the White House. Johnson greatlyadmired the president, who named him, at age 27, to head the NationalYouth Administration in Texas.
This job, which Johnson held from 1935to 1937, entailed helping young people obtain employment and schooling.It confirmed Johnson’s faith in the positive potential of governmentand won for him a group of supporters in Texas.In 1937, Johnson sought and won a Texas seat in Congress, where hechampioned public works, reclamation, and public power programs. Whenwar came to Europe he backed Roosevelt’s efforts to aid the Allies.
During World War II he served a brief tour of active duty with the U.S.Navy in the Pacific (1941-42) but returned to Capitol Hill whenRoosevelt recalled members of Congress from active duty. Johnsoncontinued to support Roosevelt’s military and foreign-policy programs.
During the 1940s, Johnson and his wife developed profitable businessventures, including a radio station, in Texas. In 1948 he ran for theU.S. Senate, winning the Democratic party primary by only 87 votes.
(This was his second try; in 1941 he had run for the Senate and lost toa conservative opponent.) The opposition accused him of fraud andtagged him “Landslide Lyndon.” Although challenged, unsuccessfully, inthe courts, he took office in 1949. Senator and Vice-President.
—————————Johnson moved quickly into the Senate hierarchy. In 1953 he wonthe job of Senate Democratic leader. The next year he was easilyre-elected as senator and returned to Washington as majority leader, apost he held for the next 6 years despite a serious heart attack in1955. The Texan proved to be a shrewd, skillful Senate leader.
Aconsistent opponent of civil rights legislation until 1957, hedeveloped excellent personal relationships with powerful conservativeSoutherners. A hard worker, he impressed colleagues with his attentionto the details of legislation and his willingness to compromise.In the late 1950s, Johnson began to think seriously of running forthe presidency in 1960. His record had been fairly conservative,however.
Many Democratic liberals resented his friendly associationwith the Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower; others consideredhim a tool of wealthy Southwestern gas and oil interests. Either tosoften this image as a conservative or in response to inner conviction,Johnson moved slightly to the left on some domestic issues, especiallyon civil rights laws, which he supported in 1957 and 1960. Althoughthese laws proved ineffective, Johnson had demonstrated that he was avery resourceful Senate leader.
To many northern Democrats, however, Johnson remained a sectionalcandidate. The presidential nomination of 1960 went to Senator John F.Kennedy of Massachusetts. Kennedy, a northern Roman Catholic, thenselected Johnson as his running mate to balance the Democratic ticket.
In November 1960 the Democrats defeated the Republican candidates,Richard M. Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge, by a narrow margin. Johnsonwas appointed by Kennedy to head the President’s Committee on EqualEmployment Opportunities, a post that enabled him to work on behalf ofblacks and other minorities. As vice-president, he also undertook somemissions abroad, which offered him some limited insights intointernational problems.
Presidency———-The assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963,elevated Johnson to the White House, where he quickly proved amasterful, reassuring leader in the realm of domestic affairs. In1964, Congress passed a tax-reduction law that promised to promoteeconomic growth and the Economic Opportunity Act, which launched theprogram called the War on Poverty. Johnson was especially skillful insecuring a strong Civil Rights Act in 1964. In the years to come itproved to be a vital source of legal authority against racial andsexual discrimination.
In 1964 the Republicans nominated Senator BarryM. Goldwater of Arizona as their presidential nominee. Goldwater wasan extreme conservative in domestic policy and an advocate of strongmilitary action to protect American interests in Vietnam. Johnson hadincreased the number of U.
S. military personnel there from 16,000 atthe time of Kennedy’s assassination to nearly 25,000 a year later.Contrasted to Goldwater, however, he seemed a model of restraint.Johnson, with Hubert H.
Humphrey as his running mate, ran a low-keycampaign and overwhelmed Goldwater in the election. The Arizonan wononly his home state and five others in the Deep South.Johnson’s triumph in 1964 gave him a mandate for the GreatSociety, as he called his domestic program. Congress responded bypassing the MEDICARE program, which provided health services to theelderly, approving federal aid to elementary and secondary education,supplementing the War on Poverty, and creating the Department ofHousing and Urban Development.
It also passed another important civilrights law — the Voting Rights Act of 1965.At this point Johnson began the rapid deepening of U.S.involvement in Vietnam; as early as February 1965, U.
S. planes beganto bomb North Vietnam. American troop strength in Vietnam increased tomore than 180,000 by the end of the year and to 500,000 by 1968. Manyinfluences led Johnson to such a policy .
Among them were personalfactors such as his temperamental activism, faith in U.S. militarypower, and staunch anti-communism. These qualities also led him tointervene militarily in the Dominican Republic — allegedly to stop aCommunist takeover — in April 1965.
Like many Americans who recalledthe “appeasement” of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Johnson thought theUnited States must be firm or incur a loss of credibility.While the nation became deeply involved in Vietnam, racial tensionsharpened at home, culminating in widespread urban race riots between1965 and 1968. The breakdown of the interracial civil rights movement,together with the imperfections of some of Johnson’s Great Societyprograms, resulted in Republican gains in the 1966 elections andeffectively thwarted Johnson’s hope s for further congressionalcooperation.It was the policy of military escalation in Vietnam, however, thatproved to be Johnson’s undoing as president.
It deflected attentionfrom domestic concerns, resulted in sharp inflation, and promptedrising criticism, especially among young, draft-aged people.Escalation also failed to win the war. The drawn-out struggle madeJohnson even more secretive, dogmatic, and hypersensitive to criticism.His usually sure political instincts were failing.
The New Hampshire presidential primary of 1968, in which theanti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy made a strong showing, revealed thedwindling of Johnson’s support. Some of Johnson’s closest advisors nowbegan to counsel a de-escalation policy in Vietnam. Confronted bymounting opposition, Johnson made two surprise announcements on Mar.31, 1968: he would stop the bombing in most of North Vietnam and seeka negotiated end to the war, and he would no t run for re-election.
Johnson’s influence thereafter remained strong enough to dictatethe nomination of Vice-President Humphrey, who had supported the war,as the Democratic presidential candidate for the 1968 election.Although Johnson stopped all bombing of the North on November 1, hefailed to make real concessions at the peace table, and the war draggedon. Humphrey lost in a close race with the Republican candidate,Richard M. Nixon.
Retirement.———–After stepping down from the presidency in January 1969, Johnsonreturned to his ranch in Texas. There he and his aides prepared hismemoirs, which were published in 1971 as The Vantage Point:Perspectives of the Presidency, 1963-1969. He also supervisedconstruction of the Johnson presidential library in Austin.
Johnsondied on Jan. 22, 1973, 5 days before the conclusion of the treaty bywhich the United States withdrew from Vietnam.Bibliography————Evans, Rowland, and Novak, Robert, Lyndon B. Johnson, The Exercise ofPower : A Political Biography (1966);Geyelin, Philip, Lyndon B.
Johnson and the World (1966);Goldman, Eric F., The Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson (1969);Johnson, Lady Bird, White House Diary (1970);Kearns, Doris, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream (1976);Schandler, Herbert, The Unmaking of a President: Lyndon Johnson andVietnam (1977);White, Theodore, The Making of the President–1964 (1965);Wicker, Tom, JFK and LBJ: The Influence of Personality Upon Politics(1968; repr. 1970).#