At 2:38 PM, on Nov. 22, 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office as the 36th president of the United States. John F. Kennedy had been shot while riding in a parade through downtown Dallas. Johnson was riding two cars behind Kennedy.
Johnson was Kennedy’s vice president so he immediately became president. He was the fourth to be promoted to presidency by the assassination of the a president. Johnson’s first message to the nation was the same day as the assassination. One of the most memorable lines from his speech was, “I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help, and God’s.”
Johnson’s father was. Samuel Ealy Johnson, Jr. He was a farmer and schoolteacher. Both his father and his grandfather were in the Texas house of Representatives. Johnson’s mother was Rebekah Baines Johnson. Johnson had a background in government and also in the Baptist church.
Lyndon Baines Johnson was born on Aug. 27, 1908, on a farm near Stonewall Texas. He was the oldest of five children. He had three sisters and a brother. When Lyndon was five, the family moved to Johnson City. To help earn money he shined shoes in the town’s only barber shop, and herded goats for the local ranchers.
He finished high school in 1924 and with a group of friends he worked his way to California. He earned money doing odd jobs, but he barely made enough to feed himself. After awhile he became severely homesick and hungry so he hitchhiked back to Johnson City and took a job doing road construction. Soon he realized that a higher education would be needed if he wanted to have a better life.
Johnson went to college at Southwest Texas State Teachers College. Johnson got his degree in 1930. Then he taught public speaking and debate at a Houston high school for two years.
Politics and Family
Johnson entered politics at the age of 24, when he became secretary for Richard Kleberg. In 1934 Johnson met Claudia Alta Taylor, daughter of a wealthy rancher. He knew immediately that she was the woman he wanted to marry. They were married on Nov. 17, 1934. When Mrs. Johnson was a baby, she was nicknamed Lady Bird by a family friend who said she was “pretty as a lady bird.” She was never called by any other name. The Johnsons had two daughters Lynda Bird and Luci Baines. With an inheritance from her parents Claudia bought a radio station in Austin which was losing money. After some time the LBJ Company Inc. owned a lot radio television stations.
In 1937 Johnson was elected to the United States House of Representatives. Some years later, one day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Johnson entered active duty and became a lieutenant in the Navy. He was stationed in New Zealand. He was the first person so serve in congress and in the military. Johnson received a silver star for gallantry in action from General Mac Arthur. In 1948 he became senator. In 1957 he became the Majority House Leader.
Johnson tried to become the Democratic party’s nominee for the presidency in 1960. But, the Democratic convention chose Kennedy as their Democratic nominee. Then Johnson became the Vice President when Kennedy was elected. Johnson was also elected House Leader, but he resigned to take on his new job. Kennedy had promised to make his Vice President an active part of his presidency, so Johnson attended Cabinet and White House meetings.
On November 25, while on trip to Texas, John F. Kennedy was assinated by an unknown gunman. Johnson was immediately put into office. In his State of the Union Address shortly after, he announced a slash in the National Budget. He called for more spending on education, health care and job training. But, he then stated that there would be less spending on military even though with situation in SouthEast Asia.
In 1964 Johnson found himself with not very good foreign relations. Though relations with the USSR were getting better, there was a big hole between the U.S. and France. Also, North Vietnam attacked U.S. Battleships in the Gulf of Tanken.
A major event in Johnson’s first year as president was Congressional passage of one of the largest civil rights bills in the nation’s history. The bill had been show to Congress in June 1963 during the large civil rights demonstrations being healed during the time. It was originally Kennedy’s bill, but Johnson firmly stood behind it.
The bill passed the House of Representatives in February, but Southern opponents tried to stop it’s passage into the Senate. But, the bill then passed the Senate, 73 to 27. In July President Johnson signed it into law.
Johnson ran for his second term. It was more like his first real term because Kennedy’s term was three quarters over by the time Johnson took over. Johnson ran for Presidency and won by a landslide. His opponent was Goldwater. Johnson won by the biggest landslide in the nations history. He received 61% of the nation’s votes, which is over 16 million votes. He won in every state except for Goldwater’s state, Arizona, and five states in the Deep South.
During his time in office Johnson made his plan called the Great Society. This plan is an expanded continuation of Kennedy’s New Frontier. The dealt with antipoverty, health, education, conservation, and urban planning measures.
Johnson was deeply involved in civil rights.Johnson pressed Congress for a bill that would assure voting rights for blacks. Legislation passed in July raised social security payments and taxes, which made Medicare available for most people 65 and over.
Johnson accomplished a lot not only because of his big support by the nation but also because the 89th Congress was mostly Democrats. The Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 2 to 1. The Congress passed a huge 1.3 billion dollar bill to aid public schools. They passed another bill that would create the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Later on, Johnson made Robert C. Weaver head of HUD. He was the first black man to be elected to the cabinet.
The United States role in South Vietnam changed in 1965. In March United States planes began bombing military targets in North Vietnam. In June American forces started to fight. For most of the year the Johnson Administration was trying to fine a plan to end the conflict in Vietnam. All plans were rejected by North Korea. Johnson quit bombings to send in diplomats, but this was also rejected by North Vietnam. Johnson started bombing North Vietnam again.
This lead to his surprise decision to not run for a second full term. He said that the war divided the nation into two sides. These two sides were called the Hawks and the Doves. The Hawks asked for more military spending to get the miltary to end the war. The Doves wanted a withdrawal of military out of Vietnam. Johnson didn’t want to deal with this so he decided that for the good of the nation he would not re-run for presidency.
Johnson retired to his ranch in Texas. President Nixon succeeded Johnson and took office in 1969. Johnson died of a fatal heart attack near the end of the Vietnam conflict. The space center near Houston was named Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center after him.