Lyndon B. Johnson - Thirty-Sixth President of the United States

Lyndon Johnson
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Lyndon B. Johnson's Childhood and Education

Born on August 27, 1908, in Texas, Johnson grew up the son of a politician. He worked throughout his youth to earn money for the family. His mother taught him to read at an early age. He went to local public schools, graduating from high school in 1924. He spent three years traveling around and working at odd jobs before going to the Southwest Texas State Teachers College. He graduated in 1930 and attended Georgetown University to study law from 1934-35.

Family Ties

Johnson was the son of Samuel Ealy Johnson, Jr., a politician, farmer, and broker, and Rebekah Baines, a journalist who graduated from Baylor University. He had three sisters and one brother. On November 17, 1934, Johnson married Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor. As First Lady, she was a huge proponent of the beautification program to try and improve the way America looked. She was also quite a savvy businesswoman. She was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford and the Congressional Gold Medal by President Ronald Reagan. Together they had two daughters: Lynda Bird Johnson and Luci Baines Johnson.

Lyndon B. Johnson's Career Before the Presidency

Johnson began as a teacher but quickly moved into politics. He was the Director of National Youth Administration in Texas (1935-37) and then elected as a U.S. Representative where he served from 1937-49. While a congressman, he joined the navy to fight in World War II. He was awarded the Silver Star. In 1949, Johnson was elected to the U.S. Senate, becoming the Democratic Majority Leader in 1955. He served until 1951 when he became Vice-President under John F. Kennedy.

Becoming President

On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Johnson took over as president. The next year he was nominated to run for the Democratic Party for the presidency with Hubert Humphrey as his vice-president. He was opposed by Barry Goldwater. Johnson refused to debate Goldwater. Johnson easily won with 61% of the popular vote and 486 of the electoral votes.

Events and Accomplishments of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Presidency

Johnson created the Great Society programs, which included antipoverty programs, civil rights legislation, the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, the passage of some environmental protection acts, and the creation of laws to help protect consumers.

Three important pieces of Civil Rights legislation were as follows: 1. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which did not allow discrimination in employment or in the use of public facilities. 2. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed discriminatory practices that kept blacks from voting. 3. The Civil Rights Act of 1968, which outlawed discrimination for housing. Also during Johnson's administration, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

The Vietnam War escalated during Johnson's administration. Troop levels which started with 3,500 in 1965 reached 550,000 by 1968. America was divided in support of the war. America in the end did not have a chance of winning. In 1968, Johnson announced he would not run for reelection in order to spend time to get peace in Vietnam. However, peace would not be achieved until President Nixon's administration.

Post-Presidential Period

Johnson retired on January 20, 1969 to his ranch in Texas. He did not return to politics. He died on January 22, 1973 of a heart attack.

Historical Significance

Johnson escalated the war in Vietnam and eventually had to turn to peace when the U.S. was unable to achieve victory. He is also remembered for his Great Society policies where Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed among other programs.