Lyndon B. Johnson
36th President of the United States
Lyndon Johnson was born August 27, 1908 in Stonewall, Texas. He grew up in a working class family with three sisters and one brother. Johnson enrolled in the Texas State Teacher's college, and payed his way by working as a janitor. He graduated with a Bachelor's degree, then worked a principal and teacher at impoverished schools. Johnson was deeply affected by his students and work, and set out to be the voice of change. He became a representative in the House, and worked as the secretary to Congressman Kleberg for three years, learning the ins and outs of Congress. He the became speaker to the "Little Congress" in 1933, and Director of the National Youth Administration in 1935. Johnson then took the Senate, advancing his position in a short period of time from majority whip, to minority leader, to majority leader.
Dates in Office: Novemember 22, 1963 - January 20, 1969
Johnson served as John F. Kennedy's running mate for the democratic party against Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge. Kennedy won in a close race with a 303 to 219 electoral vote, and a popular vote of 49.7%. Johnson was sworn in as president on Air Force One upon the news of JFK's tragic assassination on Novemember 22, 1963. Johnson made it his mission to continue on with the passage of the former president's legislative agenda, and stressed this point in his 1964 election against Hubert Humphrey. His focus on civil rights won over the democratic party, minority parties, and even the republicans dettered by Humphrey ideology on cracking down on big crime. "Landslide Lydon" won over the electoral college 486 to 52, with a popular vote of 61%.
Johnson was remembered for being the president that presided longest over the stalling Vietnam war. He may have lost some popularity for being a wartime president, but he made great leaps and bounds in civil rights following Kennedy's legacy. Coming from a poverished background himself, Johnson understood the struggles of many Americans at the time, and worked hard to make the "Great Society" he envisioned, a democracy of freedom and justice for all, a reality. In order to do this Johnson oversaw a huge network of legislation advance through Congress. The most well known of these being the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, or natural origin. Other bills passed during his time in office include the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Midicaid, Federal Aid for Education, Food Stamps, Head Start, and numerous environmental, consumer rights, and education laws. He fought hard against the War on Poverty and cut the percentage of those who lived in poverty by half. PBS, national public radio, and advancements in the space program came about, and Johson appointed Thurgood Marshall as the first African American Supreme Court Justice.
Civil Rights Riots and Protests
Soon after Johnson became president, the largest and most costly rebellion of the Civil Rights era exploded in the Watts neighborhood of LA when a black motorist was unjustly arrested after being suspected of DUI. In the same year, 1965, Malcom X was assassinated. Followers of his continued to fight discrimination and segregation with violence, and groups like the Black Panthers were established. However, many African Americans remained strong in their beliefs of peaceful protest under the guidance of Martin Luther King Jr. Tragic events like Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965 occured despite the nonviolent intentions from the protestors, but great strides were made in civil rights during the 6os with the help of the Great Society legislation.
The Vietnam War
At first, the public supported the Vietnam War effort. However, the brutality of Vietnam was not known to them until later on. Young men were drafted to serve and taken from their home without choice. By 1969 500,000+ military positions were involved in the war. Of the men returning home, most had severe post traumatic stress disorder. America began to doubt the government, Johnson, and the reason why we were fighting what seemed like an impossible fight. Anti-war protests were common amoung the liberal youth of the decade, and created much tension between the people and the authority presiding over them. These protests gained huge support and preached about peace. The most famous of these would be Woodstock, the peaceful music festival in 1969 that featured 32 acts and an audience of over 400,000.
Life After Presidency
Near the end of his term, Johnson's popularity was at a low, and even his own party was meeting him with opposition. He decided not to run for reelection, and retired to his ranch in Johnson City, Texas in 1969. He published a collection of memoirs entitled "The Vantage Point" in 1971, and attended the dedication of the Lydon Baine Johsnon library at the University of Texas. He died on January 22,1973 from a heart attack after years of declining health, due to smoking and stress. In 1980, Johnson was posthumously awarded the presidential Medal of Freedom.
Fun Facts on LBJ
First member of Congress to volunteer for active duty (WWII)
Received the Silver Star for gallantry in action
Guided passage to the first space legislation
Nicknamed "Landslide Lydon"
Learned of peace negotiations in Vietnam the day before his death
Had a water fountain that dispensed Fresca soda installed in the Oval Office