Lyndon Baines Johnson

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Johnson, Lyndon Baines,

1908–73, 36th President of the United States (1963–69), b. near Stonewall, Tex.

Early Life

Born into a farm family, he graduated (1930) from Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Southwest Texas State Univ.), in San Marcos. He taught in a Houston high school before becoming (1932) secretary to a Texas Congressman. In 1934 he married Claudia Alta Taylor (see Lady Bird JohnsonJohnson, Lady Bird,
1912–2007, b. Karnack, Tex., as Claudia Alta Taylor. She married (1934) Lyndon B. Johnson and played an active role in his political career. As first lady (1963–69), she was the first to have her own press secretary and to make a campaign trip on
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), and they had two daughters, Lynda Bird and Luci Baines. A staunch New Dealer, Johnson gained the friendship of the influential Sam RayburnRayburn, Sam
(Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn), 1882–1961, U.S. legislator, b. Roane co., Tenn. After his family moved (1887) to Fannin co., Tex., he worked at cotton picking. He worked his way through school, studied law at the Univ. of Texas, and practiced in Bonham, Tex.
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, at whose behest President Franklin D. RooseveltRoosevelt, Franklin Delano
, 1882–1945, 32d President of the United States (1933–45), b. Hyde Park, N.Y. Early Life

Through both his father, James Roosevelt, and his mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, he came of old, wealthy families.
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 made him (1935) director in Texas of the National Youth Administration.

In the House and the Senate

In 1937, Johnson won election to a vacant congressional seat, and he was consistently reelected through 1946. Despite Roosevelt's support, however, he was defeated in a special election to the Senate in 1941. He served (1941–42) in the navy.

In 1948, Johnson was elected U.S. Senator from Texas after winning the Democratic primary by a mere 87 votes. A strong advocate of military preparedness, he persuaded the Armed Services Committee to set up (1950) the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee, of which he became chairman. Rising rapidly in the Senate hierarchy, Johnson became (1951) Democratic whip and then (1953) floor leader. As majority leader after the 1954 elections he wielded great power, exhibiting unusual skill in marshaling support for President EisenhowerEisenhower, Dwight David
, 1890–1969, American general and 34th President of the United States, b. Denison, Tex.; his nickname was "Ike." Early Career

When he was two years old, his family moved to Abilene, Kans., where he was reared.
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's programs. He suffered a serious heart attack in 1955 but recovered to continue his senatorial command.


Johnson lost the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination to John F. KennedyKennedy, Anthony McLeod,
1936–, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1988–2018), b. Sacramento, Calif., grad. Stanford (1958), Harvard Law School (1961). For many years (1965–88) he taught at the McGeorge School of Law at the Univ.
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, but accepted Kennedy's offer of the vice presidential position. Elected with Kennedy, he energetically supported the President's programs, serving as an American emissary to nations throughout the world and as chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council and of the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunities. After Kennedy's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, Johnson was sworn in as president and announced that he would strive to carry through Kennedy's programs.

Congress responded to Johnson's skillful prodding by enacting an $11 billion tax cut (Jan., 1964) and a sweeping Civil Rights Act (July, 1964). In May, 1964, Johnson called for a nationwide war against poverty and outlined a vast program of economic and social welfare legislation designed to create what he termed the Great SocietyGreat Society,
in U.S. history, term for the domestic policies of President Lyndon Johnson. In his first State of the Union message, he called for a war on poverty and the creation of a "Great Society," a prosperous nation that had overcome racial divisions.
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. Elected (Nov., 1964) for a full term in a landslide over Senator Barry GoldwaterGoldwater, Barry Morris,
1909–98, U.S. senator (1953–65, 1969–87), b. Phoenix, Ariz. He studied at the Univ. of Arizona, but left in 1929 to enter his family's department-store business.
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, he pushed hard for his domestic program. The 89th Congress (1965–66) produced more major legislative action than any since the New DealNew Deal,
in U.S. history, term for the domestic reform program of the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; it was first used by Roosevelt in his speech accepting the Democratic party nomination for President in 1932.
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. A bill providing free medical care (Medicare) to the aged under Social Securitysocial security,
government program designed to provide for the basic economic security and welfare of individuals and their dependents. The programs classified under the term social security differ from one country to another, but all are the result of government legislation
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 was enacted, as was Medicaid; federal aid to education at all levels was greatly expanded; the Voting Rights Act of 1965 provided new safeguards for African-American voters; more money went to antipoverty programs; and the departments of TransportationTransportation, United States Department of,
executive department of the U.S. government, established by the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. Its chief executive officer, the secretary, is a member of the president's cabinet.
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 and of Housing and Urban DevelopmentHousing and Urban Development, United States Department of
(HUD), established 1965 to coordinate and administer programs that provide assistance for housing and community development.
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 were added to the Cabinet.

Johnson's domestic achievements were soon obscured by foreign affairs, however. The Aug., 1964, incident leading Congress to pass the Tonkin Gulf resolutionTonkin Gulf resolution,
in U.S. history, Congressional resolution passed in 1964 that authorized military action in Southeast Asia. On Aug. 4, 1964, North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin were alleged to have attacked without provocation U.S.
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 gave Johnson the authority to take any action necessary to protect American troops in Vietnam. Convinced that South Vietnam was about to fall to Communist forces, Johnson began (Feb., 1965) the bombing of North Vietnam. Within three years he increased American forces in South Vietnam from 20,000 to over 500,000 (see Vietnam WarVietnam War,
conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam between government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by North Vietnam. The war began soon after the Geneva Conference provisionally divided (1954) Vietnam at 17° N lat.
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). Johnson's actions eventually aroused widespread opposition in Congress and among the public, and a vigorous antiwar movement developed.

As the cost of the war shot up, Congress scuttled many of Johnson's domestic programs. Riots in the African-American ghettos of large U.S. cities (1967) also dimmed the president's luster. By 1968 he was under sharp attack from all sides. After Senators Eugene McCarthyMcCarthy, Eugene Joseph,
1916–2005, U.S. political leader, b. Watkins, Minn. He served (1942–46) as a technical assistant for military intelligence during World War II and then taught (1946–49) at the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.
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 and Robert KennedyKennedy, Robert Francis,
1925–68, American politician, U.S. Attorney General (1961–64), b. Brookline, Mass., younger brother of President John F. Kennedy and son of Joseph P. Kennedy.

A graduate of Harvard (1948) and the Univ.
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 began campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination, Johnson announced (Mar., 1968) that he would not run for reelection. At the same time he called a partial halt to the bombing of North Vietnam; two months later peace talks began in Paris. When Johnson retired from office (Jan., 1969), he left the nation bitterly divided by the war. He retired to Texas, where he died.


See his memoirs, The Vantage Point (1971); White House tape transcripts, selected and ed. by M. Beschloss (2 vol., 1997–2001), complete ed. by M. Holland et al. (3 vol., 2005–); H. McPherson, Political Education: A Washington Memoir (1972, repr. 1995); biographies by E. F. Goldman (1969), L. Heren (1970), G. E. Reedy (1970), R. Harwood and H. Johnson (1973), D. K. Goodwin (1976), R. A. Caro (4 vol., 1982–2012), R. Dallek (2 vol., 1991–98), R. B. Woods (2006), and C. Peters (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Johnson, Lyndon Baines


Born Aug. 27, 1908, near Stonewall, Texas; died Jan. 22, 1973, in San Antonio, Texas. American political figure. The son of a farmer.

After graduating from a teachers college in 1930, Johnson became a teacher. From 1939 to 1948 he was a member of the House of Representatives and from 1949 to 1961 a senator from Texas. From 1953 to 1960 he was the leader of the Democrats in the Senate. In January 1961 he became vice-president of the United States; in November 1963, after the assassination of President John Kennedy, he became president. Throughout his political career Johnson represented the middle elements in the Democratic Party; he was closely connected with the financial and oil magnates of Texas. The period of Johnson’s presidency was characterized by aggressiveness in the political course of American imperialism (including the initiation of an aggressive war in Vietnam, intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965, and support of Israel in the Near East crisis of 1967); inside the United States social and racial conflicts became very sharp. The aggravation of the domestic political situation of the United States and the unpopularity of the Vietnam policy of the government forced Johnson in 1968 to refuse to run for a new term.


Evans, R., and R. Novak. L. B. Johnson: The Exercise of Power—A Political Biography. New York, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Johnson, Lyndon Baines

(1908–1973) thirty-sixth U.S. president; born near Stonewall, Texas. Son of schoolteachers, he taught school briefly after graduating from Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Southwest Texas State University) (1930), then gravitated to Democratic politics. After serving as President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administrator of the National Youth Administration in Texas, he went on to the U.S. House of Representatives (1937–49) and was quickly marked by his strong support of New Deal programs. A member of the Naval Reserve, he enlisted for active duty within hours after Pearl Harbor—the first Congressman to do so; he served in the Pacific until President Roosevelt ordered all Congressmen back to their elective office in July 1942. He won a narrow race for the U.S. Senate (1948) and served two terms (1949–61). As Democratic whip and then majority leader (1955–61)—and as the consummate arm-twisting deal-maker—he helped pass some of the most progressive social legislation of the century, including the civil rights acts of 1957 and 1960. Elected John F. Kennedy's vice-president in 1960, he became president on Kennedy's assassination in November 1963; in 1964 he was returned to office by a landslide. He proclaimed a "Great Society" program to fight poverty and racism, achieving passage of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965), plus a slate of social-welfare programs including Medicare. At the same time, he led the U.S.A. into an increasingly bloody and unpopular war in Vietnam. Declining support from his own high-level appointees and increasing divisiveness around the country led to his decision not to run in 1968. He retired to his Texas ranch and to writing his memoirs. Larger than life in his public behavior but more than vulgar in his private speech, sensitive to the plight of many less-fortunate Americans but insecure in his dealings with the Eastern Democratic Establishment, he ended as something of a tragic figure because of his overreaching ways.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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