Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon Johnson

36th President, 1963-1969

Early Life and Pre-presidency

Official Presidential portrait of Johnson Artist: Elizabeth Shoumatoff, 1968

Official Presidential portrait of Johnson
Artist: Elizabeth Shoumatoff, 1968

  • Born Lyndon Baines Johnson on August 27, 1908 in Stonewall, Texas.
  • Parents: Samuel Ealy Johnson, Jr. and Rebekah Baines. Siblings: Sam Houston, Rebekah, Josefa, and Lucia.
  • Graduated from Johnson City High School in 1924.
  • Enrolled at Southwest Texas State Teachers’ College in 1926 and graduated in 1930.
  • Taught at Welhausen School in Cotulla, Texas from 1928 to 1929 as a student teacher.
  • Taught at Pearsall High School in Pearsall, Texas after graduating, then at Sam Houston High School in Houston, Texas.
  • Worked as an aide to Congressman Richard M. Kleberg from 1931 to 1935.
  • Married Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor (1912–2007) on November 17, 1934. Children: Lynda Bird (1944– ) and Luci Baines (1947– ).
  • Appointed director of the National Youth Administration in Texas in 1935 and resigned in 1937.
  • Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1937 and served until 1949. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 1941 but lost.
  • When the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, Johnson obtained an officer’s commission in the Naval Reserve.
  • Appointed by then President Franklin Roosevelt to inspect the progress in the Pacific and was awarded a Silver Star by the President.
  • Ran for the U.S. Senate again in 1948 and won in a controversial election. He served from 1949 to 1961.
  • Nominated as the Vice Presidential candidate of John F. Kennedy for the Democratic Party in the 1960 election. They won, but Johnson would not serve as Vice President for long.
  • On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas while traveling in a motorcade. Two hours later, Johnson was sworn in as the President of the United States.

Presidency

White House photo of Johnson, 1964

White House photo of Johnson, 1964

  • Took his oath of office on November 22, 1963 in a conference room aboard Air Force One at Love Field, Dallas, Texas.
  • On November 29, 1963, created a special commission to investigate the assassination of John F. Kennedy: The President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren. It was also known as the Warren Commission.
  • Issued Executive Order 11129 on November 29, 1963 renaming the Launch Operations Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Florida as the John F. Kennedy Space Center.
  • Signed the Civil Rights Act in July 1964. The law outlawed major types of discrimination such as sex, race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion.
  • The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, passed by Congress on August 7, 1964, gave the President the power to pursue military action in Vietnam without consulting the Senate.
  • Signed the Revenue Act of 1964 in February and the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 in August as part of his “War on Poverty” program.
  • Elected for a first full term as President in the 1964 election.
  • On February 9, 1965, ordered the bombing of North Vietnam, marking the start of U.S. fighting in the Vietnam War. In July, he ordered more troops to Vietnam.
  • Signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in April, 1965. The law provided for the funding of primary and secondary education and put emphasis on equal access to education. In November 1965, he signed the Higher Education Act, which provided federal funding to universities and financial assistance to college and postgraduate students.
  • In July 1965, signed the Social Security Amendments of 1965. The legislation created Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law in August. It outlawed many discriminatory practices that had prevented African–Americans from voting such as passing literacy tests and paying poll taxes. In March 1966, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the law’s constitutionality.
  • Signed the Immigration Act of 1965 in October. The law removed the national origin system of immigration quotas that had prevented Latin Americans, Asians, and Africans from entering the country. Instead, the law focused on immigrants’ skills and family relationships with U.S. citizens and residents.
  • In March 1968, Johnson ordered a partial halt in the bombing in North Vietnam. In May 1968, the U.S. and North Vietnam met in Paris for peace talks.
  • His term was marked by the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights leader, in April, 1968 and Robert Kennedy in June 1968. The brother of President Kennedy was seeking the Democratic Party nomination for President.
  • During his term, NASA conducted several spaceflight tests to land on the moon. The Apollo 1 to 8 missions were all conducted during his term.

Post-presidency

Johnson after his Presidency, 1972 Courtesy LBJ Museum & Library

Johnson after his Presidency, 1972
Courtesy LBJ Museum & Library

  • Retired to his ranch in Stonewall, Texas.
  • He published his memoir The Vantage Point in 1971.
  • He opened and dedicated the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas in May 1971 with then President Richard Nixon.
  • His health began to fail soon after he retired. In March 1970, he had an angina attack and was ordered to lose weight. In April 1972, he suffered a major heart attack. He was also diagnosed with diverticulosis, but his heart was too weak to have surgery.
  • Attended former President Harry S. Truman’s funeral on December 28, 1972. It would be his last public appearance.
  • Died on January 22, 1973 of a heart attack at his Texas ranch.
  • His body was brought to Washington, D.C. for a state funeral and lay in state at the U.S. Capitol. On January 25, 1973, a funeral service was held at the National City Christian Church.
  • He was buried in the family cemetery on his ranch in Stonewall, Texas. In his final will, Johnson donated his farm to the government, but the cemetery remains a private property and no visitors are allowed in.
  • The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is the President’s former ranch. It includes the house where he was born. It was originally designated as the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Site in 1969, but it was redesignated as a National Historical Park in 1980.
  • The Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site is just across the Pedernales River from the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. It was officially dedicated in 1970 with the Johnson family in attendance.
  • In 1973, NASA renamed its Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas as the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.
  • The Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove is located on Columbia Island in Washington, D.C. It was authorized by Congress in December 1973 and dedicated in September 1974.