Top 10 Facts About LBJ, President of the US

Photo portrait of LBJ standing in the Oval Office.

Arnold Newman, White House Press Office (WHPO) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

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. Learn 10 key facts that are important to understanding the life and presidency of Lyndon Johnson.

01
of 10

Son of a Politician

Black and white photo of LBJ speaking into multiple microphones.
Lyndon Baines Johnson speaks from his desk on his first Thanksgiving Day broadcast.

Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Lyndon Baines Johnson was the son of Sam Ealy Johnson, Jr., a member of the Texas legislature for 11 years. Despite being in politics, the family was not wealthy. Johnson worked throughout his youth to help support the family. Johnson's mother, Rebekah Baines Johnson, graduated from Baylor University and worked as a journalist.

02
of 10

Lady Bird Johnson, Savvy First Lady

Color photo of Lady Bird Johnson in the White House backyard.

Robert Knudsen, White House Press Office (WHPO) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor was highly intelligent and successful. She earned two bachelor's 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. She chose to beautify America as her First Lady project.

03
of 10

Silver Star

Young Lieutenant Commander Lyndon Johnson, a member of the House of Representatives, in his naval attire.

Corbis / Getty Images

While serving as a U.S. Representative, Johnson 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 reported there was enemy contact, while others said there was none. His most thorough biographer, Robert Caro, accepts the account of the attack based on statements from the crew. Johnson was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in battle.

04
of 10

Youngest Democratic Majority Leader

LBJ, then-minority leader, shaking hands with then-Vice President Nixon and Senator Knowland, black and white photo.

Bettman / Getty Images

In 1937, Johnson was elected as a representative. In 1949, he won a seat in the U.S. Senate. By 1955, at the age of 46, he became the youngest Democratic majority leader up to that time. He held a lot of power in Congress due to his participation in the appropriations, finance, and armed services committees. He served in the Senate until 1961 when he became Vice President of the United States.

05
of 10

Succeeded JFK to the Presidency

LBJ and JFK at the latter's 1961 inauguration, color photo.

tom nebbia / Corbis Historical / Getty Images

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 with 61 percent of the popular vote.

06
of 10

Plans for a Great Society

LBJ and Lady Bird waving from the back of the "Great Society Special."

Bettman / Getty Images

Johnson called the package of programs he wanted to put through the "Great Society." These programs 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.

07
of 10

Advances in Civil Rights

Martin Luther King, Jr. watching President Lyndon Johnson on TV.

Frank Dandridge / Getty Images

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.

08
of 10

Strong-Arming Congress

President Lyndon B. Johnson discusses Vietnam with Congress and advisers.

Corbis Historical / Getty Images

Johnson was known as a master politician. Once he became president, he initially found some difficulty in getting the acts he wanted to pass pushed through. However, he used his personal political power to persuade — some say strong-arm — many members of Congress to see things as he did.

09
of 10

Vietnam War Escalation

LBJ confers the Medal of Honor on a U.S. Marine.

Bettman / Getty Images

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.

10
of 10

'The Vantage Point'

The Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum in Texas on a sunny day.

Don Klumpp / Getty Images

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

Sources

  • Caro, Robert A. "The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson." Vol. IV, Paperback, Reprint edition, Vintage, 7 May 2013.
  • Caro, Robert A. "The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson." Volume 1, Paperback, Vintage, 17 February 1990.
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns. "Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream: The Most Revealing Portrait of a President and Presidential Power Ever Written." Paperback, Reprint edition, A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin's Griffin, 26 March 2019.
  • Peters, Charles. "Lyndon B. Johnson: The American Presidents Series: The 36th President, 1963–1969." Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (Editor), Sean Wilentz (Editor), Hardcover, First edition, Times Books, 8 June 2010.