Contact  |  About us

Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) dreamed of "A Great Society" for the American people. In his first years as president he won passage of one of the most far-reaching legislative agendas in the nation's history. Maintaining collective security, he carried on the rapidly growing struggle to restrain communist encroachment in South Vietnam.

Johnson was born on August 27, 1908, in central Texas, not far from Johnson City, which his family helped to settle. He lived the pain of rural poverty as he grew up, working his way through Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now known as Texas State University at San Marcos). He learned compassion for others when he taught poor students.

In 1937, Johnson campaigned successfully for the House of Representatives on a New Deal platform, effectively aided by his wife, the former Claudia "Lady Bird" Taylor, whom he had married in 1934.

During World War II Johnson served briefly in the Navy as a lieutenant commander, winning a Silver Star in the South Pacific. Following six terms in the House, Johnson was elected to the Senate in 1948. In 1953, he became the youngest Minority Leader in Senate history, and the following year, when the Democrats won control, Majority Leader. With canny ability, he gained passage of key Eisenhower measures.

LBJ swearing in

In the 1960 campaign, Johnson, as John F. Kennedy's running mate, was elected vice president. When Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Johnson was sworn in as president.

First he obtained enactment of the measures President Kennedy had been urging near the time of his death: a new civil rights bill and a tax cut. Next he urged the nation "...to build a great society, a place where the meaning of man's life matches the marvels of man's labor." In 1964, Johnson won the presidency with 61 percent of the vote and had the widest popular margin in American history — more than 15,000,000 votes.

The Great Society program became Johnson's agenda for Congress in January 1965:

  • aid to education,
  • attack on disease,
  • Medicare,
  • urban renewal,
  • beautification,
  • conservation,
  • development of depressed regions and a wide-scale fight against poverty,
  • control and prevention of crime and delinquency, and
  • removal of barriers to the right to vote.
  • Congress, at times augmenting or amending, rapidly enacted Johnson's recommendations. Millions of elderly people found succor through the 1965 Medicare amendment to the Social Security Act.

    Under Johnson's administration, NASA accomplished spectacular explorations of space in a program he had championed since its start. When three astronauts successfully orbited the moon in December 1968, Johnson congratulated them: "You've taken ... all of us, all over the world, into a new era. . . ."

    Nevertheless, two overriding crises had been gaining momentum since 1965.

    LBJ

    Despite the beginning of new antipoverty and anti-discrimination programs, unrest and rioting in black ghettos troubled the nation. President Johnson steadily exerted his influence against segregation and on behalf of law and order, but there was no early solution.

    The other crisis arose from Vietnam. Despite Johnson's efforts to end Communist aggression and achieve a settlement, fighting continued. Controversy at home over the war had become acute by the end of March 1968, when he limited the bombing of North Vietnam in order to initiate negotiations with that country. At the same time, he startled the world by withdrawing as a candidate for re-election so that he might devote his full efforts, unimpeded by politics, to the quest for peace.

    When Johnson left office, peace talks were under way; he did not live to see them succeed. LBJ died suddenly of a heart attack at his Texas ranch on January 22, 1973.

    For more information about President Johnson, visit The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum.

    ---- Selected Quotes ----

    Quotes by Lyndon B. Johnson.

    Regarding John F. Kennedy
    This is a sad time for all people. We have suffered a loss that cannot be weighed. For me, it is a deep, personal tragedy. I know the world shares the sorrow that Mrs. Kennedy and her family bear. I will do my best; that is all I can do. I ask for your help and God's.
    First statement after becoming president following Kennedy's assassination
    Regarding Civil Rights Movement
    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. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama. There is no Negro problem. There is no southern problem. There is no northern problem. There is only an American problem.
    Speech supporting the Voting Rights Act of 1965

    - - - Books You May Like Include: ----

    The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate by Robert A. Caro.
    The most riveting political biography of our time, Robert A. Caro’s life of Lyndon B. Johnson, continues. Master of the Senate takes Johnson’s story t...
    Thurgood Marshall: Justice For All by Roger Goldman, David Gallen.
    Thurgood Marshall represented the NAACP in Brown v. Board of Education, which resulted in the landmark decision of the Supreme Court against state-con...
    Nixonland: America's Second Civil War and the Divisive Legacy of Richard Nixon 1965-1972 by Rick Perlstein.
    Told with urgency and sharp political insight, "Nixonland" recaptures America's turbulent 1960s and early 1970s and reveals how Richard Nixon rose fro...
    Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus by Rick Perlstein.
    Not every presidential election is worth a book more than a quarter-century after the last ballot has been counted. The 1964 race was different, thoug...
    Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
    Doris Kearns Goodwin's classic life of Lyndon Johnson, who presided over the Great Society, the Vietnam War, and other defining moments the tumultuous...
    1960--LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies by David Pietrusza.
    It was the election that would ultimately give America “Camelot" and its tragic aftermath, a momentous contest when three giants who each would have a...
    Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam by H.R. McMaster.
    For years the popular myth surrounding the Vietnam War was that the Joint Chiefs of Staff knew what it would take to win but were consistently thwarte...
    The Walls of Jericho: Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Russell, and the Struggle for Civil Rights by Robert Mann.
    A powerful account of America at its best--Congress ratifying a national demand for civil rights for blacks. Robert Mann, a veteran Senate aid, recall...

    privacy policy