Johnson, Lyndon B(aines)


Johnson, Lyndon B(aines)
born Aug. 27, 1908, Gillespie county, Texas, U.S.
died Jan. 22, 1973, San Antonio, Texas

36th president of the U.S. (1963–69).

He taught school in Houston, Texas, before going to Washington, D.C., in 1932 as a congressional aide. In Washington he was befriended by Sam Rayburn, speaker of the House of Representatives, and his political career blossomed. He won a seat in the U.S. House (1937–49) as a supporter of the New Deal, which was under conservative attack. His loyalty impressed Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who made Johnson his protégé. He won election to the U.S. Senate in 1949 in a vicious campaign that involved fraud on both sides. As Democratic whip (1951–55) and majority leader (1955–61), he developed a talent for consensus building through methods both tactful and ruthless. He was largely responsible for passage of the civil rights bills of 1957 and 1960, the first in the 20th century. In 1960 he was elected vice president under John F. Kennedy; he became president after Kennedy's assassination in 1963. In his first few months in office he won passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most comprehensive and far-reaching legislation of its kind in American history. Later that year he announced his Great Society program of social-welfare and civil rights legislation. His attention to domestic matters, however, was diverted by the country's escalating involvement in the Vietnam War (see Gulf of Tonkin Resolution), which provoked large student demonstrations and other protests, beginning in the late 1960s. Meanwhile, discontent and alienation among the young and racial minorities increased as the promises of the Great Society failed to materialize. By 1967 Johnson's popularity had declined steeply, and in early 1968 he announced that he would not seek reelection. He retired to his Texas ranch.

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Universalium. 2010.

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