Lyndon B. Johnson was the 36th President of the United States. He served from 1963-1969. He was born on August 27, 1908 in Stonewall, Texas. His family was not wealthy and he worked his way through `school, then Southwest Texas State Teachers College.
In 1934, Johnson married Claudia “Lady Bird” Taylor. Their courtship was very brief. In fact, Johnson had proposed to Lady Bird on their first date. She was known for her efforts to “beautify” America, especially the American highways.
Johnson was elected to the House of Representatives and stood on a New Deal platform. Johnson served in the Navy as lieutenant commander. He won a Silver Star in the South Pacific. He served six terms in the House.
He moved to the Senate in 1948. He eventually became the Minority Leader of the Senate. (He was the youngest Minority Leader in Senate history). Johnson then became Majority Leader of the Senate when the Democrate gained control of the Senate. He was a masterful politician, known for his abilities to force deals.
Johnson was selected by John Kennedy running mate in 1960. After Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Johnson was sworn in as President.
Johnson brought with him his own style to the White House. In fact, the “Johnson Treatment” as it was known, resulted when Johnson, who was a tall and big man, used both as a means of physical intimidation. He was also known to use vulgarity as a way to deliberately move or subordinate people to his will. He was a strong man.
Johnson also had a pair of cowboy boots that he took with him wherever he would go from 1961 until his death. He even took the boots with him on a visit to South Vietnam in 1966. Just shows that you could never take the Texas upbringing out of Johnson.
Johnson took over Kennedy’s work. He first worked on a new civil rights bill as well as a tax cut that Kennedy had been working on and used his political skills to get both passed, something even Kennedy might not have gotten done. Johnson ran for President in 1964 against Barry Goldwater and won with 61 percent of the vote and had a very large popular margin with more than 15,000,000 votes.
Johnson’s main agenda as President was “The Great Society” program. This included aid for education, a focus on disease, Medicare, a need for urban renewal, conservation, aid to depressed regions, fighting poverty, controlling crime and preventing it, and removing voting obstacles.
Johnson was known as being a deal maker. That is how he accomplished so much in his “Great Society” program. He worked on environmental protection laws, initiated food stamps programs, public radio and television, and worked on consumer protections. Johnson was driven by trying to help the poor.
During Johnson’s administration, there were great explorations in space. Johnson said, “You’ve taken….all of us, all over the world, into a new era…” when three astronauts went around the moon.
Johnson also had to deal with the increasing racial tension. There was much unrest and rioting in poor black ghettos including riots on Watts and in Detroit. Johnson used his position to fight against segregation but it was difficult and there was no easy solution.
Even though Johnson wanted to end Communist aggression, fighting continued in Vietnam. There was much controversy over the war. Johnson had limited the bombing of North Vietnam so that negotiations could start. In fact, Johnson went so far as to withdraw his name as a candidate so that he could totally devote his full attention to the situation, and not be seen as playing politics.
Johnson was a very pragmatic in passing domestic legislation. He was a master at reaching out and working with congressional leaders. There was a one time when he called one congressman at four o’clock in the morning to get the congressman over to his side. He was said to have said, “Sorry to be calling you so early in the morning”. The Congressman replied, “Oh, that’s all right. I was just lying here hoping you would call.”
When Johnson left office, the peace talks had started. Johnson however, did not live to see peace in Vietnam as he had died of a heart attack at his ranch in Texas on January 22, 1973.