Miller Center

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908 – 1973)

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Life in Brief: On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. The event thrust Lyndon Johnson into the presidency. A man widely considered to be one of the most expert and brilliant politicians of his time, Johnson would leave office a … more life in brief »

Essays about Lyndon B. Johnson

Facts about Lyndon B. Johnson

Term
:
36th President of the United States (1963 – 1969)
Born
:
August 27, 1908, Johnson City, Texas
Political Party
:
Democrat
Died
:
January 22, 1973
Nickname
:
“LBJ”
Education
:
Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Texas State University-San Marcos), graduated 1930; Georgetown Law School, attended 1934
Religion
:
Disciples of Christ
Marriage
:
November 17, 1934, to Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor (1912–2007)
Children
:
Lynda Bird (1944– ); Luci Baines (1947– )
Career
:
Teacher, Public Official
Buried
:
Near Johnson City, Texas
Writings

The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency, 1963–1969 (1971)

Lyndon B. Johnson Exhibits

‘Poverty, Religion, and Military Base Closures’

This clipping comes from a long conversation in which President Johnson and Speaker of the House John McCormack discussed the intransigence of the House Rules Committee and the controversy surrounding possible federal funding of parochial schools under the economic opportunity bill (which provided the legislative basis for the War on Poverty). The latter issue had emerged when Representative Hugh L. Carey of New York and other northeastern Catholic Democrats offered an amendment that would have authorized direct federal support for parochial schools under the bill's community action titles. The National Education Association, the largest of the two major teachers' unions, bitterly opposed any form of federal aid to religious schools. McCormack, a Massachusetts Democrat and a Catholic, had led an attempt to secure federal aid for parochial schools during the House fight over President Kennedy’s 1961 education bill. In doing so, he had been an ally of the same Catholic congressmen who had inserted the religious issue into the War on Poverty debate in 1964. As Speaker, however, he chose not to challenge the President on such an important piece of legislation. Earlier in the conversation, Johnson had reacted angrily to an attempt by Massachusetts Democrat (and Catholic) Tip O’Neill's to trade support of the poverty bill for a guarantee that the Boston Navy Yard would remain open. In this clip, the President returned to the subject of the navy yards and touched more sympathetically on the pressing economic issue of automation and unemployment in the industrial northeast.

‘Gulf of Tonkin, 1964: Perspectives from the Lyndon Johnson and National Military Command Center Tape’

In August 1964, Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution—or Southeast Asia Resolution, as it is officially known—the congressional decree that gave Johnson a broad mandate to wage war in Vietnam.

‘Gatecrashing the White House (Telephone)’

Future Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas, on a secret mission to Puerto Rico at President Johnson's behest, gives the President an update on the latest efforts to bring peace and stability to the Dominican Republic. Because the calls were coming in over an unencrypted line, Fortas and Johnson used a variety of ad hoc codes in an attempt to disguise at least to some degree the topics of their conversations. Part way through, the call is gatecrashed by some uninvited guests, and Fortas tries desperately to get their attention and get them off the line.

‘Vietnam and the Ghost of Ben Milam’

This excerpt from a lengthy conversation between President Johnson and Georgia Senator Richard Russell highlights the serious early concerns about Vietnam prevalent among Johnson and his close advisers. Russell, a longtime Johnson friend and mentor, expressed grave doubts about U.S. involvement, at one point commenting that "it isn't important a damn bit" in response to an LBJ query about the relevance of Vietnam for American interests. In this passage, Russell helped Johnson assess French proposals for regional neutralization in Southeast Asia (supported by Senator Mike Mansfield), as well as the significance of tensions between the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. Russell also took note of Johnson's reference to Texas hero Ben Milam. A soldier and trader from Kentucky, Ben Milam was a leader of the Texas independence movement in the 1830s. In December 1835, when some leaders of the rebel Texas forces wanted to delay a planned attack on a Mexican army camped at San Antonio until after the winter, Milam disagreed. Instead, he urged other members of the Texas volunteers to join him in a surprise attack: “Who will go with old Ben Milam into San Antonio?” The attack succeeded, but as Russell reminded Johnson later in the conversation, Milam was killed by a sniper’s bullet. With this reminder of Milam’s personal fate, Russell implicitly chided Johnson for his earlier bravado in discussing Mansfield’s support of neutralization.

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Featured video:

Speech Before Congress on Voting Rights (March 15, 1965)

Presidential Speech Archive

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Kent Germany

Professor Germany is an assistant professor of history and African American studies at the University of South Carolina. His writings include:

New Orleans After the Promises: Poverty, Citizenship, and the Search for the Great Society (University of Georgia Press, 2007)

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