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Essay/Term paper: Lyndon b johnson

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Humanities

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Johnson was born on Aug. 27, 1908, near Johnson City, Tex., the

eldest son of Sam Ealy Johnson, Jr., and Rebekah Baines Johnson. His

father, a struggling farmer and cattle speculator in the hill country

of Texas, provided only an uncertain income for his family.

Politically active, Sam Johnson served five terms in the Texas

legislature. His mother had varied cultural interests and placed high

value on education; she was fiercely ambitious for her children.

Johnson attended public schools in Johnson City and received a B.S.

degree from Southwest Texas State Teachers College in San Marcos. He

then taught for a year in Houston before going to Washington in 1931 as

secretary to a Democratic Texas congressman, Richard M. Kleberg.

During the next 4 years Johnson developed a wide network of political

contacts in Washington, D.C. On Nov. 17, 1934, he married Claudia

Alta Taylor, known as "Lady Bird." A warm, intelligent, ambitious

woman, she was a great asset to Johnson's career. They had two

daughters, Lynda Byrd, born in 1944, and Luci Baines, born in 1947. In

1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt entered the White House. Johnson greatly

admired the president, who named him, at age 27, to head the National

Youth Administration in Texas. This job, which Johnson held from 1935

to 1937, entailed helping young people obtain employment and schooling.

It confirmed Johnson's faith in the positive potential of government

and won for him a group of supporters in Texas.

In 1937, Johnson sought and won a Texas seat in Congress, where he

championed public works, reclamation, and public power programs. When

war came to Europe he backed Roosevelt's efforts to aid the Allies.

During World War II he served a brief tour of active duty with the U.S.

Navy in the Pacific (1941-42) but returned to Capitol Hill when

Roosevelt recalled members of Congress from active duty. Johnson

continued to support Roosevelt's military and foreign-policy programs.

During the 1940s, Johnson and his wife developed profitable business

ventures, including a radio station, in Texas. In 1948 he ran for the

U.S. Senate, winning the Democratic party primary by only 87 votes.

(This was his second try; in 1941 he had run for the Senate and lost to

a conservative opponent.) The opposition accused him of fraud and

tagged him "Landslide Lyndon." Although challenged, unsuccessfully, in

the courts, he took office in 1949.

Senator and Vice-President.


Johnson moved quickly into the Senate hierarchy. In 1953 he won

the job of Senate Democratic leader. The next year he was easily

re-elected as senator and returned to Washington as majority leader, a

post he held for the next 6 years despite a serious heart attack in

1955. The Texan proved to be a shrewd, skillful Senate leader. A

consistent opponent of civil rights legislation until 1957, he

developed excellent personal relationships with powerful conservative

Southerners. A hard worker, he impressed colleagues with his attention

to the details of legislation and his willingness to compromise.

In the late 1950s, Johnson began to think seriously of running for

the presidency in 1960. His record had been fairly conservative,

however. Many Democratic liberals resented his friendly association

with the Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower; others considered

him a tool of wealthy Southwestern gas and oil interests. Either to

soften this image as a conservative or in response to inner conviction,

Johnson moved slightly to the left on some domestic issues, especially

on civil rights laws, which he supported in 1957 and 1960. Although

these laws proved ineffective, Johnson had demonstrated that he was a

very resourceful Senate leader.

To many northern Democrats, however, Johnson remained a sectional

candidate. The presidential nomination of 1960 went to Senator John F.

Kennedy of Massachusetts. Kennedy, a northern Roman Catholic, then

selected Johnson as his running mate to balance the Democratic ticket.

In November 1960 the Democrats defeated the Republican candidates,

Richard M. Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge, by a narrow margin. Johnson

was appointed by Kennedy to head the President's Committee on Equal

Employment Opportunities, a post that enabled him to work on behalf of

blacks and other minorities. As vice-president, he also undertook some

missions abroad, which offered him some limited insights into

international problems.



The assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963,

elevated Johnson to the White House, where he quickly proved a

masterful, reassuring leader in the realm of domestic affairs. In

1964, Congress passed a tax-reduction law that promised to promote

economic growth and the Economic Opportunity Act, which launched the

program called the War on Poverty. Johnson was especially skillful in

securing a strong Civil Rights Act in 1964. In the years to come it

proved to be a vital source of legal authority against racial and

sexual discrimination. In 1964 the Republicans nominated Senator Barry

M. Goldwater of Arizona as their presidential nominee. Goldwater was

an extreme conservative in domestic policy and an advocate of strong

military action to protect American interests in Vietnam. Johnson had

increased the number of U.S. military personnel there from 16,000 at

the time of Kennedy's assassination to nearly 25,000 a year later.

Contrasted to Goldwater, however, he seemed a model of restraint.

Johnson, with Hubert H. Humphrey as his running mate, ran a low-key

campaign and overwhelmed Goldwater in the election. The Arizonan won

only his home state and five others in the Deep South.

Johnson's triumph in 1964 gave him a mandate for the Great

Society, as he called his domestic program. Congress responded by

passing the MEDICARE program, which provided health services to the

elderly, approving federal aid to elementary and secondary education,

supplementing the War on Poverty, and creating the Department of

Housing and Urban Development. It also passed another important civil

rights law -- the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

At this point Johnson began the rapid deepening of U.S.

involvement in Vietnam; as early as February 1965, U.S. planes began

to bomb North Vietnam. American troop strength in Vietnam increased to

more than 180,000 by the end of the year and to 500,000 by 1968. Many

influences led Johnson to such a policy . Among them were personal

factors such as his temperamental activism, faith in U.S. military

power, and staunch anti-communism. These qualities also led him to

intervene militarily in the Dominican Republic -- allegedly to stop a

Communist takeover -- in April 1965. Like many Americans who recalled

the "appeasement" of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Johnson thought the

United States must be firm or incur a loss of credibility.

While the nation became deeply involved in Vietnam, racial tension

sharpened at home, culminating in widespread urban race riots between

1965 and 1968. The breakdown of the interracial civil rights movement,

together with the imperfections of some of Johnson's Great Society

programs, resulted in Republican gains in the 1966 elections and

effectively thwarted Johnson's hope s for further congressional


It was the policy of military escalation in Vietnam, however, that

proved to be Johnson's undoing as president. It deflected attention

from domestic concerns, resulted in sharp inflation, and prompted

rising criticism, especially among young, draft-aged people.

Escalation also failed to win the war. The drawn-out struggle made

Johnson even more secretive, dogmatic, and hypersensitive to criticism.

His usually sure political instincts were failing.

The New Hampshire presidential primary of 1968, in which the

anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy made a strong showing, revealed the

dwindling of Johnson's support. Some of Johnson's closest advisors now

began to counsel a de-escalation policy in Vietnam. Confronted by

mounting opposition, Johnson made two surprise announcements on Mar.

31, 1968: he would stop the bombing in most of North Vietnam and seek

a negotiated end to the war, and he would no t run for re-election.

Johnson's influence thereafter remained strong enough to dictate

the nomination of Vice-President Humphrey, who had supported the war,

as the Democratic presidential candidate for the 1968 election.

Although Johnson stopped all bombing of the North on November 1, he

failed to make real concessions at the peace table, and the war dragged

on. Humphrey lost in a close race with the Republican candidate,

Richard M. Nixon.



After stepping down from the presidency in January 1969, Johnson

returned to his ranch in Texas. There he and his aides prepared his

memoirs, which were published in 1971 as The Vantage Point:

Perspectives of the Presidency, 1963-1969. He also supervised

construction of the Johnson presidential library in Austin. Johnson

died on Jan. 22, 1973, 5 days before the conclusion of the treaty by

which the United States withdrew from Vietnam.



Evans, Rowland, and Novak, Robert, Lyndon B. Johnson, The Exercise of

Power : A Political Biography (1966);

Geyelin, Philip, Lyndon B. Johnson and the World (1966);

Goldman, Eric F., The Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson (1969);

Johnson, Lady Bird, White House Diary (1970);

Kearns, Doris, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream (1976);

Schandler, Herbert, The Unmaking of a President: Lyndon Johnson and

Vietnam (1977);

White, Theodore, The Making of the President--1964 (1965);

Wicker, Tom, JFK and LBJ: The Influence of Personality Upon Politics

(1968; repr. 1970).#

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