August 27, 1908
January 22, 1973, age 64
Political party Democratic
Spouse Lady Bird Johnson
Profession Teacher, career politician
Religion Disciple of Christ
Baines Johnson (August 27, 1908 – January 22, 1973), often referred
to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States (1963–1969).
After serving a long career in the U.S. Congress, Johnson became the
37th Vice President; in 1963, he succeeded to the presidency following
President John F. Kennedy's assassination. He was a major leader of
the Democratic Party and as President was responsible for designing
his Great Society, comprising liberal legislation including civil rights
laws, Medicare (health care for the elderly), Medicaid (health care
for the poor), aid to education, and a major "War on Poverty".
Simultaneously, he escalated the Vietnam War, from 16,000 American soldiers
in 1963 to 550,000 in early 1968, of whom over 1,000 were killed every
He was elected President
in his own right in a landslide in 1964, but his popularity steadily
declined after 1966 and his reelection bid in 1968 collapsed as a result
of turmoil in his party. He withdrew from the race to concentrate on
peacemaking. Johnson was renowned for his domineering personality and
arm twisting of powerful politicians. His long-term legacy is hard to
judge, as conservatives rejected most of his Great Society and most
liberals rejected his Vietnam War policies.
Johnson was maternally descended from a pioneer Baptist clergyman, George
Washington Baines, who pastored some eight churches in Texas as well
as others in Arkansas and Louisiana. Baines was also the president of
Baylor University, then in Independence, Texas, in Washington County
during the American Civil War. George Baines was the grandfather of
Johnson's mother, Rebekah Baines Johnson.
Johnson was born
in Stonewall, on August 27, 1908, in a small farmhouse in a poor area
on the Pedernales River. His parents, Samuel Ealy Johnson, Jr. and the
former Rebekah Baines, had three girls and two boys: LBJ and his brother,
Sam Houston Johnson, and sisters Rebekah (1910-1978), Josefa (1912-1961),
and Lucia (1916-1997). The nearby small town of Johnson City, Texas
was named after LBJ's father's cousin, James Polk Johnson, whose forebears
had moved west from Georgia. In school, Johnson was an awkward, talkative
youth with a tendency to lie and was elected president of his eleventh-grade
class. He graduated from Johnson City High School in 1924. 
In 1926, Johnson
enrolled in Southwest Texas State Teachers' College (now Texas State
University-San Marcos). He worked his way through school, participated
in debate and campus politics, edited the school newspaper, and graduated
in 1931. The college years refined his remarkable skills of persuasion
and political organization. One year Johnson taught mostly Mexican children
at the Welhausen School in Cotulla, some ninety miles south of San Antonio
in La Salle County. When he returned to San Marcos in 1965, after having
signed the Higher Education Act, Johnson looked back:
"I shall never
forget the faces of the boys and the girls in that little Welhausen
Mexican School, and I remember even yet the pain of realizing and knowing
then that college was closed to practically every one of those children
because they were too poor. 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 American." 
After graduation, Johnson briefly taught public speaking at Genesee
Community College and debate in a Houston high school, then entered
politics. Johnson's father had served five terms in the Texas legislature
and was a close friend to one of Texas's rising political figures, Congressman
Sam Rayburn. In 1931, Johnson campaigned for Texas state Senator Welly
Hopkins in his run for Congress. Hopkins recommended him to Congressman
Richard M. Kleberg, who appointed Johnson as Kleberg's legislative secretary.
LBJ was elected speaker of the "Little Congress," a group
of Congressional aides, where he cultivated Congressmen, newspapermen
and lobbyists. Johnson's friends soon included aides to President Franklin
D. Roosevelt, as well as fellow Texans such as Vice President John Nance
Garner. He became a surrogate son to Sam Rayburn.
Governor James Allred of Texas & Johnson. In later campaigns, Johnson
edited out the picture of Governor Allred to assist his campaignJohnson
married Claudia Alta Taylor (already nicknamed "Lady Bird")
of Karnack, Texas on November 17, 1934 after having attended Georgetown
University Law School for several months. They had two daughters, Lynda
Bird, born in 1944, and Luci Baines Johnson, born in 1947. Johnson enjoyed
giving people and animals his own initials; his daughters' given names
are examples, as was his dog Little Beagle Johnson.
In 1935, he was
appointed head of the Texas National Youth Administration, which enabled
him to use the government to create educational and job opportunities
for young people. He resigned two years later to run for Congress. Johnson
was a notoriously tough boss throughout his career, often demanding
long workdays and work on weekends; he worked as hard as any of them.
In 1937, Johnson ran for Congress in a special election for the 10th
Congressional District of Texas to represent Austin, Texas and the surrounding
Hill Country. He ran on a New Deal platform and was effectively aided
by his wife, Lady Bird Johnson.
found Johnson to be a welcome ally and conduit for information, particularly
with regards to issues concerning internal politics in Texas (Operation
Texas) and the machinations of Vice President Garner and House Speaker
Sam Rayburn. Johnson was immediately appointed to the Naval Affairs
Committee. He worked for rural electrification and other improvements
for his district. Johnson steered the projects towards contractors which
he personally knew, such as the Brown Brothers, Herman and George, who
would finance much of Johnson's future career. (The Brown & Root
company would eventually be a subsidiary of Halliburton.) In 1941, he
ran for the U.S. Senate in a special election against the sitting governor,
radio personality W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel. Johnson was not
expected to win against the popular governor, but he ran a strong race
and was declared the winner in unofficial returns. He ultimately was
defeated by controversial official returns in an election marked by
massive fraud on the part of both campaigns.
After America entered the war in December 1941, Johnson, still in Congress,
became a commissioned officer in the Navy Reserves, then asked Undersecretary
of the Navy James Forrestal for a combat assignment . Instead
he was sent to inspect the shipyard facilities in Texas and on the West
Coast. In the spring of 1942, President Roosevelt needed his own reports
on what conditions were like in the Southwest Pacific. Roosevelt felt
information that flowed up the military chain of command needed to be
supplemented by a highly trusted political aide. From a suggestion by
Forrestal, President Roosevelt assigned Johnson to a three-man survey
team of the Southwest Pacific.
to General Douglas MacArthur in Australia. Johnson and two Army officers
went to the base of the 22nd Bomb Group, which was assigned the high
risk mission of bombing the Japanese air base at Lae on New Guinea.
A colonel took Johnson's original seat on the one bomber; it was shot
down and everyone died. Reports vary on what happened to the B-26 Marauder
Johnson was on. Some accounts say it was also attacked by Japanese fighter-planes
but survived, while others claim it turned back before reaching the
objective and never came under fire. MacArthur awarded LBJ the Silver
Star, the military's third-highest medal, for his actions.
back to Roosevelt, to the Navy leaders, and to Congress, that conditions
were deplorable and unacceptable. He argued the theatre urgently needed
a higher priority and a bigger share of war supplies. The warplanes
sent there, for example, were "far inferior" to Japanese planes,
and morale was bad. He told Forrestal that the Pacific Fleet had a "critical"
need for 6,800 additional experienced men. Johnson prepared a twelve-point
program to upgrade the effort in the region, stressing "greater
cooperation and coordination within the various commands and between
the different war theatres." Congress responded by making Johnson
chairman of a high-powered subcommittee of the Naval Affairs committee.
With a mission similar to that of the Truman Committee in the Senate,
he probed into the peacetime "business as usual" inefficiencies
that permeated the naval war and demanded admirals shape up and get
the job done. However, Johnson went too far when he proposed a bill
that would crack down on the draft exemptions of shipyard workers if
they were too often absent. Organized labor blocked the bill and denounced
Johnson. Johnson's mission thus had a significant impact in upgrading
the South Pacific theater and in helping along the entire naval war
effort. Johnson’s biographer concludes, "The mission was
a temporary exposure to danger calculated to satisfy Johnson's personal
and political wishes, but it also represented a genuine effort on his
part, however misplaced, to improve the lot of America's fighting men."
1948 contested election
In 1948, Johnson again ran for the Senate and won. This election was
highly controversial: a three-way Democratic Party primary saw Johnson
facing a well-known former governor, Coke Stevenson, and a third candidate.
Johnson drew crowds to fairgrounds with his rented helicopter dubbed
"The Flying Windmill". He raised money to flood the state
with campaign circulars, and won over conservatives by voting for the
Taft-Hartley act curbing unions and by criticizing unions on the stump.
Stevenson came in first, but lacked a majority, so a runoff was held.
Johnson campaigned even harder, while Stevenson's efforts were poor.
The runoff count took a week as the two candidates see-sawed for the
lead. The state Democratic committee handled the count (not the state,
because it was a party primary), and it finally announced Johnson won
by 87 votes. There were many allegations of fraud on both sides. Thus
one writer alleges that Johnson's campaign manager, John Connally, was
connected with 202 ballots in Duval County that had curiously been cast
in alphabetical order. Robert A. Caro argued in his 1989 book that Johnson
had rigged the election in Duval County as well as rigging 10,000 ballots
in Bexar County alone.
However, the state
Democratic convention upheld Johnson. Stevenson went to court, but -
with timely help from his friend Abe Fortas - Johnson prevailed. Johnson
was elected Senator in November, and went to Washington tagged with
the sobriquet "Landslide Lyndon".
Once in the Senate, Johnson was known among his colleagues for his highly
successful "courtships" of older senators, especially Senator
Richard Russell, patrician leader of the Conservative coalition and
arguably the most powerful man in the Senate. Johnson proceeded to gain
Russell's favor in the same way as he had "courted" Speaker
Sam Rayburn and gained his crucial support in the House.
Johnson was appointed
to the Armed Services Committee, and later in 1950, he helped create
the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee. Johnson became its chairman
and conducted investigations of defense costs and efficiency. These
investigations tended to dig out old forgotten investigations and demand
actions that were already being taken by the Truman Administration,
although it can be said that the committee's investigations caused the
changes. However, Johnson's brilliant handling of the press, the efficiency
at which his committee issued new reports, and the fact that he ensured
every report was endorsed unanimously by the committee all brought him
headlines and national attention.
Johnson gives "The Treatment" to 90-year-old Rhode Island
Senator Theodore F. Green in 1957January 1953, he was chosen by his
fellow Democrats to be the minority leader. Thus, he became the youngest
man ever named to the post. One of his first actions was to eliminate
the seniority system in appointment to a committee, while retaining
it in terms of chairmanships. The senate majority leader, Robert A.
Taft of Ohio, died July 31, 1953. The Republicans elected William F.
Knowland of California as new senate majority leader. In 1954, Johnson
was re-elected to the Senate, and since the Democrats won the majority
in the Senate, Johnson became majority leader. Bill Knowland was elected
minority leader. LBJ's duties were to schedule legislation and help
pass measures favored by the Democrats. He, Rayburn and President Dwight
D. Eisenhower worked smoothly together in passing Eisenhower's domestic
and foreign agenda. As Majority Leader, Johnson was responsible for
passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first civil rights legislation
passed by the Senate since Reconstruction. In 1959, Knowland retired
from the Senate. Everett M. Dirksen of Illinois was elected minority
leader. Historians Caro and Dallek consider Lyndon Johnson the most
effective Senate majority leader in history. He was unusually proficient
at gathering information. One biographer suggests he was "the greatest
intelligence gatherer Washington has even known", discovering exactly
where every Senator stood, his philosophy and prejudices, his strengths
and weaknesses, and what it took to win him over. Central to Johnson's
control was "The Treatment", described by two journalists:
The Treatment could
last ten minutes or four hours. It came, enveloping its target, at the
LBJ Ranch swimming pool, in one of LBJ's offices, in the Senate cloakroom,
on the floor of the Senate itself-- wherever Johnson might find a fellow
Senator within his reach.
Its tone could be
supplication, accusation, cajolery, exuberance, scorn, tears, complaint,
the hint of threat. It was all of these together. It ran the gamut of
human emotions. Its velocity was breathtaking, and it was all in one
direction. Interjections from the target were rare. Johnson anticipated
them before they could be spoken. He moved in close, his face a scant
millimeter from his target, his eyes widening and narrowing, his eyebrows
rising and falling. From his pockets poured clippings, memos, statistics.
Mimicry, humor, and the genius of analogy made The Treatment an almost
hypnotic experience and rendered the target stunned and helpless.
 Vice Presidency
Main article: U.S. presidential election, 1960
Johnson's success in the Senate made him a possible Democratic presidential
candidate. He was Texas' "favorite son" candidate at the party's
national convention in 1956. In 1960, Johnson received 409 votes on
the first and only ballot at the Democratic convention which nominated
John F. Kennedy.
Tip O'Neill, then
a representative from Kennedy's home state of Massachusetts, recalled
that Johnson approached him at the convention and said, "Tip, I'd
like to have you with me on the second ballot." O'Neill, understanding
the influence of the Kennedy name, replied, "Senator, there's not
going to be any second ballot."
During the convention,
Kennedy designated Johnson as his choice for Vice President. Some later
reports (such as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.'s) say that Kennedy offered
the position to Johnson as a courtesy and did not expect him to accept.
Others (such as W. Marvin Watson) say that the Kennedy campaign was
desperate to win the 1960 election against Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot
Lodge, Jr., and needed Johnson on the ticket to help carry Southern
While he ran for
vice president with John F. Kennedy, Johnson also sought a third term
in the U.S. Senate. His popularity was such that Texas law was changed
to permit him to run for two offices at the same time. Johnson was reelected
senator, with 1,306,605 votes (58 percent) to Republican John Tower's
927,653 (41.1 percent). Fellow Democrat William A. Blakley was appointed
to take Johnson's place as Senator, but Blakley lost a special election
in May 1961 to Tower.
After the election,
Johnson found himself powerless. Kennedy and his senior advisors rarely
consulted the Texan and prevented him from assuming the vital role that
Vice President Richard Nixon had played in energizing the state parties.
Kennedy appointed him to nominal jobs such as head of the President's
Committee on Equal Employment Opportunities, through which he worked
with African Americans and other minorities. Though Kennedy probably
intended this to remain a nominal position Taylor Branch in Pillar of
Fire contends that Johnson served to force the Kennedy administration's
actions for civil rights further and faster than Kennedy intended to
go. Branch notes the irony of Johnson, who the Kennedy family hoped
would appeal to conservative southern voters, being the advocate for
civil rights. In particular he notes Johnson's Memorial Day 1963 speech
at Gettysburg as being a catalyst that led to much more action than
otherwise would have occurred.
Johnson took on
numerous minor diplomatic missions, which gave him limited insights
into international issues. He was allowed to observe Cabinet and National
Security meetings. Kennedy did give Johnson control over all presidential
appointments involving Texas, and he was appointed chairman of the President's
Ad Hoc Committee for Science. When, in April 1961, the Soviets beat
the U.S. with the first manned spaceflight Kennedy tasked Johnson with
coming up with a 'scientific bonanza' that would prove world leadership.
Johnson knew that Project Apollo and an enlarged NASA were feasible,
so he steered the recommendation towards a program for landing an American
on the moon.
President John F. Kennedy
being sworn in aboard Air Force One by Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes,
following the assassination of John F. Kennedy; alongside Johnson is
Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of slain President John F. KennedyJohnson
was sworn in as President on Air Force One in Dallas at Love Field Airport
after the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. He
was sworn in by Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes, a very close friend of
his family, making him the first President sworn in by a woman.
To investigate Kennedy's
murder, Johnson created a special panel called the Warren Commission.
This panel, headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, conducted hearings
about the assassination and concluded that Oswald did indeed shoot the
President without conspiring with anyone. Not everyone agreed with the
Warren Commission, however, and numerous public and private investigations
continued for decades after Johnson left office.
The wave of national
grief and soul-searching following the assassination gave enormous momentum
to Johnson's promise to carry out Kennedy's programs. He retained the
senior Kennedy appointees, even his bitter foe Attorney General Robert
F. Kennedy, until the latter left to run for the Senate.
In the 1964 election, LBJ often appealed to the memory of JFK in his
electoral campaignMain article: U.S. presidential election, 1964
On September 7, 1964, Johnson's campaign managers for the 1964 presidential
election broadcast the "Daisy ad." It portrayed a little girl
picking petals from a daisy, counting up to ten. Then a baritone voice
took over, counted down from ten to zero and a nuclear bomb exploded.
The message was that Barry Goldwater meant nuclear death. Although it
was soon pulled off the air, it escalated into a continuously very heated
election. Johnson won by a sweeping landslide. Johnson won the presidency
with 61 percent of the vote and the then widest popular margin in the
20th century — more than 15 million votes (this was later surpassed
by Nixon's defeat of McGovern in 1972).
At the national
convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey a black activist group calling
itself the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) demanded all
the Mississippi seats, although it had not followed party rules and
had few voters. To appease the MFDP, Johnson sent in Hubert Humphrey,
Walter Reuther and the party's liberal leaders offered it two seats.
The country's most prestigious civil rights leaders, including Roy Wilkins,
Martin Luther King and Bayard Rustin, all accepted the solution (as
did all the states except Mississippi and Alabama), but the MFDP, coming
under control of Black Power radicals, rejected any compromise. It therefore
lost liberal support and the convention went smoothly for LBJ without
a searing battle over civil rights.  Johnson carried the South as
a whole in the election, but he lost the white voters to Goldwater in
the Deep South states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and
President Johnson signs the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964In response
to the civil rights movement, Johnson overcame southern resistance and
achieved passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which effectively
outlawed most forms of racial segregation. As he put down his pen, Johnson
is alleged to have told an aide: We have lost the South for a generation.
This statement was made not by Johnson, but by an opponent of the bill.
 In 1965, he achieved passage of a second civil rights bill, the
Voting Rights Act, that outlawed discrimination in voting, thus allowing
millions of southern blacks to vote for the first time.
In other actions
on the civil rights front, Johnson nominated civil rights attorney Thurgood
Marshall to the positions of Solicitor General and later Associate Justice
of the Supreme Court, making him the first African American to serve
in either capacity. After the murder of civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo,
Johnson went on television to announce the arrest of four Ku Klux Klansmen
implicated in her death. He angrily denounced the Klan as a "hooded
society of bigots", and warned them to "return to a decent
society before it's too late." He turned the themes of Christian
redemption to push for civil rights, thereby mobilizing support from
churches North and South. On June 4, 1965 at the Howard University
commencement address, he said that both the government and the nation
needed to help achieve goals: ...To shatter forever not only the barriers
of law and public practice, but the walls which bound the condition
of many by the color of his skin. To dissolve, as best we can, the antique
enmities of the heart which diminish the holder, divide the great democracy,
and do wrong--great wrong--to the children of God...'
The Great Society program became Johnson's agenda for Congress in January
1965: aid to education, attack on disease, Medicare, urban renewal,
beautification, conservation, development of depressed regions, a wide-scale
fight against poverty, control and prevention of crime, and removal
of obstacles to the right to vote. Congress, at times augmenting or
amending, rapidly enacted Johnson's recommendations.
Federal aid to education
Johnson had a lifelong commitment to the belief that education was the
cure for both ignorance and poverty, and was an essential component
of the American Dream, especially for minorities who endured poor facilities
and tight-fisted budgets from local taxes. He made education a top priority
of the Great Society, with an emphasis on helping poor children. After
the 1964 landslide brought in many new liberal Congressmen, he had the
votes for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965.
For the first time large amounts of federal money went to public schools.
In practice ESEA meant helping all public school districts, with more
money going to districts that had large propositions of students from
poor families (which included all the big cities). However, for the
first time private schools (most of them Catholic schools in the inner
cities) received services, such as library funding, comprising about
12% of the ESEA budget. As Dallek reports, researchers soon found that
poverty had more to do with family background and neighborhood conditions
than the quantity of education a child received. Early studies suggested
initial improvements for poor kids helped by ESEA reading and math programs,
but later assessments indicated that benefits faded quickly and left
students little better off than those not in the programs. Johnson’s
second major education program was the “Higher Education Act of
1965" which focused on funding for lower income students, including
grants, work-study money, and government loans. He set up the National
Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts,
to support humanists and artists (as the WPA once did). Although ESEA
solidified Johnson's support among K12 teachers' unions, neither the
Higher Education act nor the Endowments mollified the college professors
and students growing increasingly uneasy with his war in Vietnam.
War on Poverty
In 1964, upon Johnson's request, Congress passed a tax-reduction law
and the Economic Opportunity Act, which was in association with the
War on Poverty.
Medicare and Medicaid
Millions of elderly people were aided by the 1965 Medicare amendment
to the Social Security Act. Poor people received federal money for medical
care through the medicaid program. 
NASA made spectacular explorations in the space program Johnson had
championed since its start. When three astronauts successfully orbited
the moon in December 1968, Johnson congratulated them: "You've
taken … all of us, all over the world, into a new era …."
As Martin Luther King and other black leaders broke with Johnson on
the Vietnam issue, major riots in black ghettos caused a series of "long
hot summers." They started with a violent disturbance in Harlem
in 1964 and the Watts district of Los Angeles in 1965, and extended
to 1970. The biggest wave came in April, 1968, when over 100 cities
simultaneously had riots after King's assassination. City after city
burst into flames. Newark burned in 1966, where 6 days of rioting left
26 dead, 1500 injured and the inner city a burned out shell. In Detroit
in 1967, Governor George Romney sent in 7400 national guard troops to
quell fire bombings, looting, and attacks on white-owned businesses
and on police. Johnson finally sent in federal troops with tanks and
machine guns. Detroit continued to burn for three more days until finally
40 lay dead, 2250 were injured, 4000 were arrested and property damage
ranged into the hundreds of millions; much of inner Detroit was never
rebuilt. The great cities had been Democratic strongholds--now one after
another they exploded in flame. Johnson called for even more billions
to be spent in the cities and another federal civil rights law regarding
housing. But his political capital had been spent, his Great Society
was in its death throes. Johnson's popularity plummeted as a massive
white political backlash took shape, reinforcing the sense Johnson had
lost control of the streets of major cities as well as his party. 
against Johnson: 1966-67
Johnson's problems began to mount in 1966. By year's end the Democratic
governor of Missouri warned that Johnson would lose the state by 100,000
votes, despite a half-million margin in 1964. "Frustration over
Vietnam; too much federal spending and . . . taxation; no great public
support for your Great Society programs; and . . . public disenchantment
with the civil rights programs" had eroded the President's standing,
the governor reported. There were bright spots, however. In January
1967 Johnson boasted that wages were the highest in history, unemployment
was at a thirteen-year low, and corporate profits and farm incomes were
greater than ever; however a 4.5% jump in consumer prices was worrisome,
as well as the rise in interest rates. Johnson asked for a temporary
6% surcharge in income taxes to cover the mounting deficit caused by
increased spending. Johnson's approval ratings stayed below 50 percent;
by January 1967 the number of his strong supporters had plunged to 16%
from 25% four months before. He ran about even with Republican George
Romney in trial matchups that spring. Asked to explain why he was unpopular,
Johnson responded, "I am a dominating personality, and when I get
things done I don't always please all the people." Johnson also
blamed the press, saying they showed "complete irresponsibility
and lie and misstate facts and have no one to be answerable to."
He also blamed "the preachers, liberals and professors." who
had turned against him. In the congressional elections of 1966 the
Republicans gained 47 seats, reinvigorating the Conservative coalition
and making it impossible for Johnson to pass any additional Great Society
President Johnson increasingly focused on the American military effort
in Vietnam. He firmly believed his containment policy required America
to make a serious effort to stop all Communist expansion. At Kennedy's
death, there were 16,000 American military advisors in Vietnam. Johnson
expanded their numbers and roles following the Gulf of Tonkin Incident
(less than three weeks after the Republican Convention of 1964, which
had nominated Barry Goldwater for President).
LBJ visits Shriners
Hospital in Portland, Oregon, in September 1964By 1968 there were 550,000
American soldiers inside Vietnam; in 1967 and 1968 they were being killed
at the rate of over 1000 a month.
closely watched the public opinion polls. His goal was not to adjust
his policies to follow opinion, but rather to adjust opinion to support
his policies. Until the Tet Offensive of 1968, he systematically downplayed
the war: few speeches, no rallies or parades or advertising campaigns.
He feared that publicity would charge up the hawks who wanted victory,
and weaken both his containment policy and his higher priorities in
domestic issues. Jacobs and Shapiro conclude, "Although Johnson
held a core of support for his position, the president was unable to
move Americans who held hawkish and dovish positions." Polls showed
that beginning in 1965, the public was consistently 40-50% hawkish and
10-25% dovish. Johnson's aides told him, "Both hawks and doves
[are frustrated with the war] ... and take it out on you."
It was domestic
issues that were driving his polls down steadily from spring 1966 onward.
Analysts report that "Vietnam had no independent impact on President
Johnson's popularity at all after other effects, including a general
overall downward trend in popularity, had been taken into account."
He often privately
cursed the Vietnam War, and in a conversation with Robert McNamara,
Johnson assailed "the bunch of commies" running the New York
Times for their articles against the war effort. Johnson believed
that America could not afford to lose and risk appearing weak in the
eyes of the world. In a discussion about the war with former President
Dwight Eisenhower, Johnson said he was "trying to win it just as
fast as I can in every way that I know how" and later stated that
he needed "all the help I can get."  Johnson escalated
the war effort continuously from 1964 to 1968 and the number of American
deaths rose. In two weeks in May 1968 alone American deaths numbered
1,800 with total casualties at 18,000. Alluding to the Domino Theory,
he said, "If we allow Vietnam to fall, tomorrow we’ll be
fighting in Hawaii, and next week in San Francisco." When reporters
repeatedly pressed Johnson in late 1967 on why he was so committed to
the war, Johnson exposed an old war wound to them and said, That is
Walt Whitman Rostow
showing President a model of the Khe Sanh area in February 1968After
the Tet offensive of January 1968, his presidency was dominated by the
Vietnam War more than ever. As casualties mounted and success seemed
further away than ever, Johnson's popularity plummeted. College students
and others protested, burned draft cards, and chanted, "Hey, hey,
LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" Johnson could scarcely
travel anywhere without facing protests, and was not allowed by the
Secret Service to attend the 1968 Democratic National Convention, where
hundreds of thousands of hippies, yippies, Black Panthers and other
opponents of Johnson's policy both in Vietnam and in the ghettoes converged
to protest. Thus by 1968, the public was polarized, with the "hawks"
rejecting Johnson's refusal to win the war, and the "doves"
rejecting his continuation of containment. Support for Johnson's middle
position continued to shrink until he finally rejected containment and
sought a peace settlement. By late summer, however, he realized that
Nixon was closer to his position than Humphrey.
Main article: U.S. presidential election, 1968
Entering the 1968 election campaign, initially, no prominent Democratic
candidate was prepared to run against a sitting President of his own
party. Only Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota challenged Johnson
as an anti-war candidate in the New Hampshire primary, hoping to pressure
the Democrats to oppose the war. On March 12, McCarthy won 42% of the
primary vote to Johnson's 49%, an amazingly strong showing for such
a challenger. Four days after this, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy of New York
entered the race. Internal polling by Johnson's campaign in Wisconsin,
the next state to hold a primary election, showed the President trailing
badly. Johnson did not leave the White House to campaign.
meets with candidate Richard Nixon in July 1968Johnson had lost control
of the Democratic party, which was splitting into four factions, each
of which despised the other three. The first comprised Johnson (and
Humphrey), labor unions, and local party bosses (led by Chicago Mayor
Richard J. Daley). The second group comprised students and intellectuals
who were vociferously against the war, and rallied behind McCarthy.
The third group comprised Catholics and blacks; they rallied behind
Robert Kennedy. The fourth group were traditional white Southerners,
who rallied behind George C. Wallace and his third party. Vietnam was
one of many issues that splintered the party and Johnson could see no
way to unite the party long enough for him to win reelection. On the
other hand, he could avoid defeat in November by withdrawing from the
race, keeping control of the party machinery by giving the nomination
to Humphrey, and assure his place in history by ending the war before
Then, at the end
of a March 31 speech, he shocked the nation when he announced he would
not run for re-election: "I shall not seek, and I will not accept
the nomination of my party for another term as your President"
Text and audio of speech. He did rally the party bosses and union to
give Humphrey the nomination. In what was termed the October surprise,
Johnson announced to the nation on October 31, 1968, that he had ordered
a complete cessation of "all air, naval and artillery bombardment
of North Vietnam", effective November 1, should the Hanoi Government
be willing to negotiate and citing progress with the Paris peace talks.
LBJ was not disqualified
from running for a second term under the provisions of the 22nd Amendment,
because he had served less than 24 months of JFK's term; however, he
opted simply not to run. Many people believe he sacrificed his political
career to further the cause of global peace.
After leaving the
presidency in 1969, Johnson went home to his ranch in Johnson City,
Texas. In 1971, he published his memoirs, The Vantage Point. That year,
the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum opened on the campus of
The University of Texas at Austin. It is the most visited presidential
library in the nation with over a quarter million visitors per year.
He donated his Texas ranch in his will to the public to form the National
Historical Park, with the proviso that the ranch "remain a working
ranch and not become a sterile relic of the past".
Johnson died at 4:33 p.m. on January 22, 1973 from a third heart attack
at his ranch, at age 64. His health was ruined by years of heavy smoking
and stress, and the former President had severe heart disease. He was
found in his bed, reaching for his phone.
Johnson was honored
with a state funeral in which Texas Congressman J.J. Pickle and former
Secretary of State Dean Rusk eulogized him at the Capitol.
The final services
took place on January 25. The funeral was held at the National City
Christian Church in Washington, D.C., where he worshipped often when
president. The service, presided over by President Richard Nixon and
attended by foreign dignitaries, led by former Japanese Prime Minister
Eisaku Sato, was the first presidential funeral to feature eulogies,
and they were given by the Rev. Dr. George Davis, the church's rector
and W. Marvin Watson, former postmaster general. Nixon did not speak,
though he attended, as customary for presidents during state funerals,
but the eulogists turned to him and lauded him for his tributes, as
Rusk did the day before.
Johnson was buried
in his family cemetery (which can be viewed today by visitors to the
National Park in Stonewall, Texas), with eulogies by John Connally and
Reverend Billy Graham. The state funeral, the last until Ronald Reagan's
in 2004, was part of a busy week for the Military District of Washington
(MDW), beginning with Nixon's second inauguration.
The Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas, was renamed the Space
Center, and Texas created a legal state holiday to be observed on August
27 to mark LBJ's birthday. It is known as Lyndon Baines Johnson Day.
The Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac was dedicated
on September 27, 1974.
Johnson was awarded
the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 1980.
His widow, Lady
Bird Johnson (born 1912), is still alive, and turned 94 on December