Lyndon Baines Johnson ( August 27, 1908 – January 22, 1973), often referred to as LBJ , was the thirty-sixth (1961 - 1963) Vice President and the thirty-seventh ( 1963 - 1969 ) President of the United States, succeeding to the office after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
In 1927 Johnson enrolled in Southwest Texas State Teachers College. Even though he participated in debate and campus politics, edited the school newspaper, and spent a year away from his studies teaching school, Johnson somehow managed to graduate in only 312 days.
Soon after he graduated from college, Johnson taught public speaking and debate in a Houston high school. However, he soon quit his job teaching and went into the field of 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 Lyndon campaigned for Richard M. Kleberg and was later rewarded for his work in the campaign with an appointment to be the newly elected congressman's secretary.
As secretary, Lyndon became acquainted with people of influence, found out how they had reached their positions, and gained their respect for his abilities. Lyndon's friends soon included some of the men who worked around President Franklin D. Roosevelt, as well as fellow Texans such as Vice President John Nance Garner.
During his tenure as secretary, Johnson met Claudia Alta Taylor, a young woman who was also from Texas. After only a shortwhile of dating, the two were married on November 17, 1934. The couple later had two daughters, Lynda Bird, born in 1944, and Luci Baines, born in 1947.
In 1935, Johnson became the head of the Texas National Youth Administration. His new post enabled him to use the powers of government to find educational and job opportunities for young people. The position in effect enabled him to build political pull with his constituents. He served as the head for two years, only resigning to run for Congress.
Johnson received his first degree in Freemasonry on October 30, 1937. After receiving the degree he found that his congressional duties took so much time he was unable to pursue the masonic degrees.
President Franklin Roosevelt showed a personal interest in the young Texan from the time he entered Congress. Johnson was immediately appointed to the Naval Affairs Committee , a job that carried high importance for a freshman congressman. In 1941, Johnson ran for the U.S. Senate in a special election, but he was defeated.
During World War II he served briefly in the Navy as a lieutenant commander, winning a Silver Star in the South Pacific. In 1948 , Lyndon again ran for the Senate and this time won. He was then appointed to the Armed Services Committee, and later in 1950, he helped create the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee. Johnson eventually became its chairman and conducted a number of investigations of defense costs and efficiency. These investigations in result brought him national attention along with the respect of senior members of the Senate.
After only a few years in the Senate, Johnson was moving up in leadership power. In 1953, Lyndon was chosen by his fellow Democrats to be the minority leader. Thus, he became the youngest man ever named to the post by either major political party. In 1954, Johnson was re-elected to the Senate and since the Democrats won the majority in Senate, Johnson became majority leader. His duties were to schedule legislation and to help pass measures favored by the Democrats.
Upon swearing in, Kennedy appointed Johnson to head the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunities, which led him to work with blacks and other minorities. During his tenure as Vice President, Johnson also took on some international missions, which gave him limited insights into foreign problems.
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.
In 1964, Johnson won the Presidency in his own right with 61 percent of the vote and had the widest popular margin in American history--more than 15,000,000 votes.
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 delinquency, removal of obstacles to the right to vote. Congress, at times augmenting or amending, rapidly enacted Johnson's recommendations. Millions of elderly people found succor through the 1965 Medicare amendment to the Social Security Act.
Under Johnson, the country made spectacular
explorations of space in a program he 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. . . . "
Nevertheless, two overriding crises had been gaining momentum since 1965. Despite the beginning of new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination programs, unrest and rioting in black ghettos troubled the Nation. President Johnson steadily exerted his influence against segregation and on behalf of law and order, but there was no early solution.
The other crisis arose from Vietnam. Despite Johnson's efforts to end Communist aggression and achieve a settlement, fighting continued. Controversy over the war had become acute by the end of March 1968, when he limited the bombing of North Vietnam in order to initiate negotiations. At the same time, he startled the world by withdrawing as a candidate for re-election so that he might devote his full efforts, unimpeded by politics, to the quest for peace.