10 Things to Know About Lyndon Johnson

Interesting and Important Facts About Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon B Johnson was born on August 27, 1908, in Texas. He took over the presidency upon John F. Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963, and was then elected in his own right in 1964. Here are ten key facts that are important to understanding the life and presidency of Lyndon Johnson.

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Son of a Politician

Lyndon Baines Johnson
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Lyndon Baines Johnson was the son of Sam Ealy Johnson, Jr., a member of the Texas legislature for eleven years. Despite being in politics, the family was not wealthy, and Johnson worked throughout his youth to help support the family. Johnson's Mother, Rebekah Baines Johnson, had graduated from Baylor University and was a journalist.

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His Wife, Savvy First Lady: "Lady Bird" Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson
Robert Knudsen/Wikimedia Commons

Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor was highly intelligent and successful. She earned two bachelors degrees from the University of Texas in 1933 and 1934 successively. She had an excellent head for business and owned an Austin, Texas radio and television station. As First Lady, she took as her project working to beautify America.

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Silver Star Awarded

While serving as a US Representative, he joined the navy to fight in World War II. He was an observer on a bombing mission where the plane's generator went out and they had to turn around. Some accounts said there was enemy contact while others said there was none. Despite this, he was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in battle.

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Youngest Democratic Majority Leader

In 1937, Johnson was elected as a representative. In 1949, he wan a seat in the US Senate. By 1955, at the age of forty-six, he became the youngest Democratic majority leader up to that time. He held a lot of power in Congress due to his participation on the appropriations, finance, and armed services committees. He served in the Senate until 1961 when he became Vice President.

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Succeeded JFK to the Presidency

John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Johnson took over as president, taking the oath of office on Air Force One. He finished the term and then ran again in 1964, defeating Barry Goldwater in the process with 61 percent of the popular vote.

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Plans for a Great Society

Johnson called his package of programs that he wanted put through the "Great Society." They were designed to help the poor and provide additional protections. They included Medicare and Medicaid programs, environmental protection acts, civil rights acts, and consumer protection acts.

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Advances in Civil Rights

During Johnson's time in office, three major civil rights acts were passed:

  • Civil Rights Act of 1964 - Made discrimination for employment illegal along with the segregation of public facilities.
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965 - Literacy tests and other voter suppression actions were made illegal.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1968 - Discrimination in terms of housing was made illegal.

In 1964, the poll tax was outlawed with the passage of the 24th Amendment.

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Strong Arming Congress

Johnson was known as a master politician. Once he became president, he initially found some difficulty in getting acts he wanted passed, pushed through. However, he used his personal political power to persuade, or some say strong arm, many laws he wished passed through Congress.

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Vietnam War Escalation

When Johnson became president, no official military action was being taken in Vietnam. However, as his terms progressed, more and more troops were sent to the region. By 1968, 550,000 American troops were embroiled in the Vietnam Conflict.

At home, Americans were divided over the war. As time went by, it became obvious that America was not going to win due not only to the guerrilla fighting they faced but also because America did not want to escalate the war further than it had to.

When Johnson decided not to run for reelection in 1968, he stated that he was going to try to get peace with the Vietnamese. However, this would not happen until Richard Nixon's presidency.

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"The Vantage Point" Written in Retirement

After retiring, Johnson did not work in politics again. He spent some time writing his memoirs, The Vantage Point. This book provides a look and some say self justification for many of the actions he took while he was president.