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Lyndon B. Johnson: 36th President: In Office During the Vietnam War

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else we're destined to repeat it.

Official Presidential Photo

Early Political Career and Family Life with Lady Bird

Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, unexpectedly took office after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Texas. On August 27, 1908, Lyndon was born in Central Texas from modest means. He was the oldest of five children to Sam Ealy Johnson Jr. and Rebekah Baines Johnson. His father was a farmer. He also worked as a state legislator.

In 1930, he graduated from Southwest Texas State Teachers College (renamed Texas State University) in San Marcos, Texas. While he was there, he taught students of Mexican descent in south Texas to help pay for his education. This experience gave him a greater appreciation for those in poverty.
In 1931, he moved to Washington, D.C., to serve as a congressional secretary, where he met many influential people and learned about the political process.
On November 17, 1934, he married his wife Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor. She was a soft-spoken, well-educated woman from a prominent family. They eventually had two daughters, Lynda and Luci. Three years later, he began his political career when he won a spot in the House of Representatives due to a New Deal Platform under Franklin D. Roosevelt. He became the Texas director of the National Youth Administration, which helped young people find jobs or volunteer work during the Great Depression.

When World War II began, he served in the Navy as a lieutenant commander, although he continued his service in the House. He won the Silver Star in the South Pacific.

He served six terms in the House before being elected into the Senate in 1948. Five years later, he became the youngest Minority Leader in Senate history. Then a year later, he became the Majority Leader for a total of twelve years in the Senate.

Became President after JFK's Assassination

Lyndon was with JFK the day of his assassination, which happened on November 22, 1963. Within two hours of his death, Lyndon took the Oath of Office while aboard Air Force One and became the next President as they immediately rushed him to Washington D.C.

He was very qualified for the position, despite not having run for it with his thirty-plus years as a politician. He was very hard working and was very focused on reasoning with people. He was often quoted saying, "Come now, let us reason together," as he talked with people regarding anything and everything.

He quickly went to work after taking an oath and promised the American people that he would continue Kennedy's progressive ideas. He passed many new laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and continued the tax cuts that President Kennedy was pushing before he passed away.

He later passed an education bill, an anti-poverty plan, and a food-stamp program. Due to his great success with these bills, he was easily reelected with 61 percent of the vote and the most significant popular margin in American history with more than 15 million votes.

Unfortunately, despite the new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination programs, there was a lot of rioting in black ghettos. He remained firm against segregation, but trouble still brewed on the racial front.

In the Navy

 Lyndon Baines Johnson in navy uniform.

Lyndon Baines Johnson in navy uniform.

What Was the Great Society?

He highly valued education and wanted to pass a bill that ensured everyone had the right to a good education. He called it the "Great Society" program because he felt that America should "...build a great society, a place where the meaning of man's life matches the marvels of man's labor." His efforts helped education and included urban renewal and development of depressed regions, conservation, prevention of the spread of diseases, help for those facing poverty, thwarting crime, and removal of obstacles to the right to vote. He also helped many older adults through the 1965 Medicare amendment to the Social Security Act.

While in office, the space program flourished. In December 1968, three astronauts orbited the moon, and Johnson was quoted saying, "You've taken ... all of us, all over the world, into a new era. . . . "

Unfortunately, the Vietnam War took place while he was in office. Despite his efforts to end Communist aggression by seeking a settlement, many blamed him for this war. By March 1968, the controversy over the war heightened; meanwhile, Johnson sought negotiations and limited the bombing of Vietnam. He withdrew his nomination for re-election on March 31, 1968, hoping that he could continue to strive for peace without the impedance of politics.

What He Did After He Left Office

In 1969, he left the office and retired to his ranch in Texas near the Pedernales River. He established his presidential library, which opened in 1971 in Austin on the University of Texas's campus. He also worked on his memoirs.

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When he left office, a half-million U.S. troops were still fighting in Vietnam, and people continued to protest in Washington. Many Americans even blamed him for the war not ending. It was not until the day before he died that he heard that Viet Nam had gained peace. He died on January 22, 1973, at 64 of a heart attack. The Vietnam War officially ended shortly after. His birthday became a Texan holiday after he died. Jimmy Carter also awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously.

Awarding the Distinguished Service Cross

President Lyndon B. Johnson awards the Distinguished Service Cross to First Lieutenant Marty A. Hammer, in Vietnam.

President Lyndon B. Johnson awards the Distinguished Service Cross to First Lieutenant Marty A. Hammer, in Vietnam.

Fun Facts

  • In 1965, he signed Medicare law, which provided millions of older people with healthcare.
  • The Vietnam War broke out while he was in office, and although he sought peace with them throughout his term in office, he died before the end of the war.
  • The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy occurred near the end of his presidency.
  • He took the Oath of Office only two hours after the assassination of JFK.
  • Three men orbited the moon while he was in office.
  • He earned the Silver Star while he was a lieutenant in the Navy. The Silver Star is the military's third-highest personal decoration for valor in combat.

Basic Facts

Question Answer

Born

August 27, 1908 - Texas

President Number

36th

Party

Democratic

Military Service

U.S. Naval Reserve - Commander

Wars Served

World War II

Age at Beginning of Presidency

55 years old

Term of Office

November 22, 1963 - January 20, 1969

How Long President

6 years

Vice-President

None (1963–65) Hubert Humphrey (1965–69)

Age and Year of Death

January 22, 1973 (aged 64)

Cause of Death

heart attack

Sources

  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2009). Lyndon B. Johnson. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/lyndonbjohnson
  • History.com Staff. "Lyndon B. Johnson." History.com. 2009. Accessed March 07, 2018. https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/lyndon-b-johnson.
  • Sullivan, George. Mr. President: A Book of U.S. Presidents. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Print.

© 2017 Angela Michelle Schultz

Comments

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on August 27, 2018:

I know there are many who agree with you, Jess Aragon.

Jesse aragon on August 27, 2018:

He wasted his entire term in office n lost the war by not letting the military fight the war read deriliction of duty

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on November 15, 2017:

I am enjoying these articles on the different presidents very much. LBJ was a wonderful man and an effective president. :)

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on November 15, 2017:

I appreciate such a good non-biased telling of his story. You are superb at your craft. I didn't know he was a teacher as well. That would explain, as you correctly pointed out, his humanistic domestic ideas.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on November 14, 2017:

Thank you very much Tim for sharing your own knowledge on him.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on November 14, 2017:

Excellent work. An interesting fact about LBJ - he had a reputation of "leaning" into people when talking to them to get his point across. It was called: the Johnson technique.

Also interesting about LBJ: a southerner went after and crushed the KKK and Nazis in the South.

You are right. Vietnam really impacted his presidency. Great overview. Good information.

Sharlee on November 14, 2017:

Enjoyed the article... Nicely done.

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