Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B Johnson was born in Stonewall, Texas, on August 27, 1908. He grew up with
a brother, Sam, and three sisters, Rebekah, Josefa, and Lucia. Growing up, Johnson
participated in school events such as baseball, public speaking, and debate team.
Johnson was elected the President of his 11th grade class, and graduated from high
school the following year, in 1924. He later attended the Southwest Texas State
Teacher’s College (present-day Texas State University—San Marcos), and became a
teacher at the Welhausen School, 90 miles south of San Antonio. He then moved on
to teach public speaking at Sam Houston High School in Houston, TX. His experience
at the Welhausen School was transformative in that he came to realize how closed
off college was for many of his students, most of whom were of poor, Mexican descent.
Of his experience, he said, “And I think it was then that I made up my mind that
this nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any
Entrance into the political world
In 1930, Johnson helped campaign for Senator Welly Hopkins, and in return Hopkins
recommended Johnson to Congressman Richard Kleberg, and Kleberg hired Johnson as
his legislative secretary. Several years later, he married Claudia Alta Taylor (“Lady
Bird”), and together they had two daughters, Lynda Bird (1944) and Luci Baines (1947).
Johnson became head of the Texas National Youth Administration in 1935, and was
responsible for making education and job opportunities for Texan youth. Two years
later, he decided to run for Congress.
Election into Congress
In 1937, Johnson was elected to the House via a special election for the 10th congressional
district. While serving in Congress, he advocated for public housing, electricity
in rural areas, and elimination of government waste. In 1938, he was reelected to
a full term in Congress and served there until 1948. In 1948, he was elected to
the US Senate; two years later, he was elected Majority Whip of the Senate. 1954
marked his reelection to the US Senate for a second term; he was quickly elected
Majority Leader of the Senate. During this time, he served as Chairman of the Democratic
Presidential Election; Kennedy’s Assassination
In 1960, Johnson ran for Democratic nominee for presidential candidate. He lost
John Fitzgerald Kennedy; however, Kennedy knew he needed Johnson supporters
on his side as well, so Kennedy asked Johnson to be his Vice President running mate.
Johnson accepted and resigned from the Senate. Things quickly turned around for
Johnson on November 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas,
Texas. He was the first president to be sworn in by a woman, and the only president
to be sworn in on Texan ground. Johnson ran for election again in 1964 on the Democratic
ticket and won. He went on to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He also passed
the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) of 1965 to provide federal money
to public schools.
Johnson and Vietnam
Possibly the most publicized part of Johnson’s presidential career was his handling
of the Vietnam War. He had to be very careful with decisions on when and where to
attack and defend, so as to not involve neighboring countries. He believed that
pulling American troops out of Vietnam would bring the war onto American soil, something
he wanted to avoid at all costs. As the war grew increasingly worse and the death
toll increasingly higher, Johnson was barely able to leave his home without stumbling
upon a protest of some sort. Johnson knew whether he pushed for the war or against
the war, he would be angering a significant portion of the population.
At this site, you can listen to some of President Lyndon Johnson’s most important
speeches and peer into the Oval Office through secretly recorded conversations made
by Johnson during his presidency.
- November 24-29, 1963:
Selected Telephone Conversations Concerning the Special Commission to Investigate
the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (The Warren Commission)
- May 27, 1964:
Johnson’s Vietnam Anguish
- March 15, 1965: Johnson’s Address to a Joint Session
of Congress introducing the Voting Rights Act
- June 4, 1965:
Johnson’s Address on Civil Rights