Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1908 - 1973
White house portrait by Yoichi R. Okamoto (9 January 1969)
Born: 27 August 1908, Stonewall, Texas
Died: 22 January 1973, Stonewall, Texas
Johnson grew up in the Texas hill country, graduating from Johnson City High School in 1924, he had been active in public speaking, debate, and baseball. In 1926 he entered Southwest Texas State Teachers' College, worked to pay his way, participated in debate and campus politics, and edited The College Star, the campus newspaper, graduating in 1930. During school he taught mostly Mexican children at Cotulla, after graduating he taught at Pearsall High School and then taught public speaking at Sam Houston High School at Houston. He became active in politics and went to Washington City as an aide to a congressman, becoming speaker of the "Little Congress", a group of congressional aides, and began cultivating congressmen, newsmen, and lobbyists. He married Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor in 1934. He ran for Congress in the Texas 10th district in 1937, serving until 1949. In 1941 he ran for a Senate seat, apparently a very dirty election on both sides, but lost, then was commissioned in the Naval Reserve and asked for a combat assignment. Instead he was assigned to inspect shipyards in Texas and on the west coast, then Roosevelt sent him to the south Pacific to report on conditions in the fleet. With his reports to Roosevelt and his position in Congress he was able to get a much higher priority for equipment and supplies to the Pacific Fleet. MacArthur gave him a Silver Star, although he never actually saw combat.
In 1948 he ran another controversial Senate campaign in Texas, winning this time, in some precincts winning based on ballots cast "by" deceased voters. In the Senate he continued to perfect what came to be known as the "Johnson treatment", an overwhelming flood of cajolery, entreatment, and the occasional threat, normally delivered to other senators nose-to-nose. He became the minority leader in 1952, the Democrats won control of the Senate in 1954 and he became the majority leader, arguably the most influential ever based on his thorough knowledge of every Senator and his long hours courting their votes. He has responsible for passing the Civil Rights Act of 1957. It is not clear exactly why John Kennedy chose him for his running mate in 1960, but he handily won reelection to the Senate but had to resign when he was sworn in as vice president. He was largely frustrated by his lack of power in that office, but he was given charge of the government science programs and was instrumental in launching the space program, specifically the Apollo missions; he was president when Apollo 8 took the first men to the moon. After Kennedy's assassination, he combined his energy and lobbying skills with the Kennedy legacy to pass a wide range of civil rights laws, federal funding for education, the war on poverty, Medicare and Medicaid, and a drastic change in immigration policy. Unfortunately, it was also under Johnson that the first troops were sent to Viet Nam and mostly because of that war it was soon clear that his reelection was not possible. After a heart attack in 1955 he quit smoking but started again on the plane home to Texas on the day Nixon was sworn in. He wrote his memoirs, had another heart attack in April of 1972, and the third one killed him. He was found in bed by Secret Service agents, with a telephone in his hand.
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Lyndon B. Johnson quotes:
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- A man can take a little bourbon without getting drunk, but if you hold his mouth open and pour in a quart, he's going to get sick on it. permalink
- A President's hardest task is not to do what is right, but to know what is right. permalink
- A rioter with a Molotov cocktail in his hands is not fighting for civil rights any more than a Klansman with a sheet on his back and mask on his face. They are both more or less what the law declares them: lawbreakers, destroyers of constitutional rights permalink
- All that Hubert needs over there is a gal to answer the phone and a pencil with an eraser on it. permalink
- At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. permalink
Introducing Voting Rights Act in Congress (15 March 1965)
- Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There's nothing to do but stand there and take it. permalink
- Did you ever think that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else. permalink
- Education is not a problem. Education is an opportunity. permalink
- Every man has a right to a Saturday night bath. permalink
- For the individual, education is the path to achievement and fulfillment; for the nation, it is a path to a society that is not only free but civilized; and for the world, it is the path to peace — for it is education that places reason over force. permalink
- I am going to build the kind of nation that President Roosevelt hoped for, President Truman worked for and President Kennedy died for. permalink
- I believe the destiny of your generation - and your nation - is a rendezvous with excellence. permalink
- I believe, with abiding conviction, that this people - nurtured by their deep faith, tutored by their hard lessons, moved by their high aspirations - have the will to meet the trials that these times impose. permalink
- I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth, our finest young men, into battle. permalink
News conference (28 July 1965)
- I don't believe I'll ever get credit for anything I do in foreign affairs, no matter how successful it is, because I didn't go to Harvard. permalink
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