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

Updated on June 26, 2018
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Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past or else be destined to repeat it.

Official Presidential Photo

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Early Political Career and Family Life with Lady Bird

Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, unexpectedly took office after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Texas. Lyndon was born on August 27, 1908 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 state legislator, which was Johnson's earliest view of politics.

In 1930, he graduated from Southwest Texas State Teachers College (renamed Texas State University), which was located in San Marcos, Texas. While he was there, he taught students of Mexican descent in south Texas in order 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 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 that 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 a total of 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.

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What Was Lyndon B. Johnson Known For?

Lyndon was with JFK the day that the President was shot 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 the position 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 oath and promised the American people that he was going to continue Kennedy's progressive ideas. He passed many new laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as 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 with the largest 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.

What Was the Great Society?

He highly valued education, and wanted to pass a bill that made sure everyone had the right to a good education, which he called 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." This not only helped education, but also 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 elderly people 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. Many blamed him for this war, despite his efforts to end Communist aggression by seeking a settlement. 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, in hopes that he could continue to strive for peace without the impedance of politics.

What He Did After He Left Office

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

When he left office a half million U.S. troops were still fighting in Vietnam and people continued to protest in Washington. Many Americans still blamed him for the war not ending. It was not until the day before he died, where he heard that peace was being found in Viet Nam. 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.

In the Navy

 Lyndon Baines Johnson in navy uniform.
Lyndon Baines Johnson in navy uniform. | Source

Fun Facts

  • In 1965, he signed Medicare law, which provided millions of elderly persons healthcare.
  • The Vietnam War broke out while he was in office, and although he sought for peace with them throughout his term in office, he died before the end of the war.
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and senator Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated 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.

Excerpt from the History Channel

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

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. | Source

List of United States Presidents

1. George Washington
16. Abraham Lincoln
31. Herbert Hoover
2. John Adams
17. Andrew Johnson
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. Thomas Jefferson
18. Ulysses S. Grant
33. Harry S. Truman
4. James Madison
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
5. James Monroe
20. James Garfield
35. John F. Kennedy
6. John Quincy Adams
21. Chester A. Arthur
36. Lyndon B. Johnson
7. Andrew Jackson
22. Grover Cleveland
37. Richard M. Nixon
8. Martin Van Buren
23. Benjamin Harrison
38. Gerald R. Ford
9. William Henry Harrison
24. Grover Cleveland
39. James Carter
10. John Tyler
25. William McKinley
40. Ronald Reagan
11. James K. Polk
26. Theodore Roosevelt
41. George H. W. Bush
12. Zachary Taylor
27. William Howard Taft
42. William J. Clinton
13. Millard Fillmore
28. Woodrow Wilson
43. George W. Bush
14. Franklin Pierce
29. Warren G. Harding
44. Barack Obama
15. James Buchanan
30. Calvin Coolidge
45. Donald Trump

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Angela Michelle Schultz

    Comments

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      • k@ri profile image

        Kari Poulsen 

        9 months ago from Ohio

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

      • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

        Tim Truzy 

        9 months ago from U.S.A.

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Angela Michelle Schultz 

        9 months ago from United States

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

      • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

        Tim Truzy 

        9 months ago from U.S.A.

        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.

      • Sharlee01 profile image

        Sharon Stajda 

        9 months ago from Shelby Township Michigan

        Enjoyed the article... Nicely done.

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