(Repost of 2013 essay)
Lyndon B. Johnson (March 1964)
(Photo: Arnold Newman, White House Press Office)
All I have I would have given gladly not to be standing here today.
Lyndon B. Johnson, in his first address as President to a joint session of Congress (November 27, 1963)
The 36th President, Lyndon B. Johnson, was born on August 27, 1908, in a small farmhouse near Stonewall, Texas on the Pedernales River. Coincidentally, it is also the date on which LBJ accepted the 1964 Democratic nomination for President. (Senator Hubert H. Humphrey was his Vice Presidential nominee.)
In some respects, history and time have been kinder to Lyndon B. Johnson than his tortured Presidency –and certainly the critics of his day—would have possibly suggested. A power broker extraordinaire during his days in Congress, especially during his twelve years in the Senate, Lyndon B. Johnson challenged John F. Kennedy for the Democratic nomination in the 1960 primaries, and then accepted Kennedy’s offer to become his Vice Presidential running mate. Johnson was credited with helping Kennedy win Southern votes and ultimately the election.
On November 22, 1963, history and America changed with Kennedy’s assassination. Johnson became President, taking the oath of office aboard Air Force One with Jacqueline Kennedy, the dead President’s widow standing beside him.
Driven by a rousing sense of social justice, born out of his youth and upbringing in hardscrabble Texas and Depression-era experiences, he had become one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s most loyal New Dealers. First in a federal job, then in Congress and later as “Master of the Senate.” As President, Johnson set the country on a quest for what he called the “Great Society,” looking for ways to end the great economic injustice and bitter racial disparity that existed in America in 1963. But his vision for a “Great Society” was counterbalanced, and ultimately overshadowed by his doomed course in pursuing the war in Vietnam.
In the midst of the war, recently released White House tapes reveal Johnson confided–
I can’t win and I can’t get out.
•Johnson was the first Congressman to enlist for duty after Pearl Harbor.
•Johnson was the fourth president to come into office upon the death of a president by assassination. (The others were Andrew Johnson after Lincoln, Chester A. Arthur after Garfield, and Theodore Roosevelt after McKinley.)
•Johnson appointed the first black Supreme Curt Justice, Thurgood Marshall.
The Johnson Library and Museum is in Austin, Texas. Lyndon B. Johnson died at the age of 67 on January 22, 1973. His New York Times obituary.
Read more about Lyndon B. Johnson, his presidency and the Vietnam War and civil rights movement in Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents and Don’t Know Much About® History.
Don’t Know Much About History (Revised, Expanded and Updated Edition)
Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents
(September 18, 2012-Hyperion Books)