Lyndon B. Johnson

From Ohio History Central
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Lyndon B. Johnson, 1969

Lyndon Baines Johnson was President of the United States of America from 1963 to 1969.

Johnson was born on August 27, 1908, near Stonewall, Texas. At five years of age, he moved with his family to Johnson City, Texas. He graduated from the local high school in 1924, when he was only fifteen years old. Believing that furthering his education would not benefit him, Johnson took odd jobs to support himself, including as a migrant laborer in California and as a road gang worker in Texas. By 1927, Johnson had grown tired of this type of life and enrolled in Southwest Texas State Teachers College. He graduated in 1930.

Upon graduating from college, Johnson spent two years teaching school, before he embarked on a political career in 1932. That year he found employment as the personal secretary to Richard M. Kleberg, a member of the United States House of Representatives from Texas. Johnson worked for Kleberg until 1935, when he became the director of the National Youth Administration in Texas. The National Youth Administration was part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal program. Its purpose was to find employment for teenagers during the Great Depression. In 1937, Johnson won election to the U.S. House of Representatives. A member of the Democratic Party, Johnson became a staunch supporter of Roosevelt's policies. Johnson continued to serve in the House of Representatives until 1948, although he did seek election unsuccessfully to the United States Senate in 1941. Johnson also was absent from the U.S. Congress for part of 1941 and 1942, as he served as a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy for part of World War II. Johnson was the first member of Congress to volunteer for active duty in the military during World War II.

In 1948, Johnson won election to the United States Senate. He remained as one of Texas' two senators until 1960, when he ran for the vice presidency of the United States. John F. Kennedy was his running mate. Johnson helped Kennedy win the election of 1960 by helping convince white Southerners to vote for Kennedy, a Northerner from Massachusetts. The presidential election of 1960 was one of the closest elections in American history. While Johnson was a senator and as vice president, he was a supporter of space exploration, of extending civil rights to people of all races, and of increasing federal funding for education. He also became a strong opponent of communism.

On November 22, 1963, an assassin killed John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. As vice president, Johnson succeeded Kennedy as president. Johnson urged the United States Congress and the American people to honor Kennedy by fulfilling the former president's call for a New Frontier in the United States. Johnson encouraged the Congress to eliminate racial discrimination, to end poverty and hunger in the United States, to redevelop dilapidated cities (Model Cities Program), to provide the American people with federally-financed health care (Medicare and Medicaid), and to increase funding for education (including the Jobs Corps and Project Head Start, among other programs). Ohioan Theodore Berry was instrumental in assisting Johnson in establishing Head Start. Johnson called his policy the Great Society, hoping to make the United States the greatest nation on the face of the earth. As part of this Great Society policy, Johnson also implemented the War on Poverty in 1964, hoping to eliminate poverty in the United States. Johnson experienced much success when it came to his domestic policy. The United States Congress implemented most of his budget proposals, and the number of Americans living in poverty declined during Johnson's administration. Because of his Great Society programs, Johnson won election to the presidency in 1964.

When it came to his foreign policy, Johnson experienced far fewer successes. Johnson was the president who escalated American involvement in Vietnam. This conflict divided Americans and helped lead to a sense of distrust for many Americans with their government. Students, among other Americans, protested the Vietnam War, and sometimes these protests turned violent, such as at Kent State University, in Kent, Ohio, in 1970. As it became clear to the American people in 1968 that the United States was no closer to winning the Vietnam War than it had been in 1964, Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection to the presidency. His presidential term ended in January 1969. Because of Johnson's actions in Vietnam, Ohioans cast their ballots for the Republican candidate for president, Richard Milhous Nixon, in 1968. Nixon had the widest margin of victory in Ohio than he had in any other state.

Following his presidency, Johnson retired to his ranch in Texas. He wrote his memoirs, which were published in 1971. On January 22, 1973, Johnson died from a heart attack.

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