Johnson, Lyndon Baines

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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Lyndon Baines Johnson was the thirty-sixth president of the United States, serving from 1963 to 1969. Like three other vice presidents in U.S. history, he assumed the office following the assassination of the president. He took office November 22, 1963, after JOHN F. KENNEDY was killed in Dallas. Johnson's administration was marked by landmark changes in CIVIL RIGHTS laws and social welfare programs, yet political support for him collapsed because of his escalation of the VIETNAM WAR.

Johnson was born August 27, 1908, near Stonewall, Texas. He was raised in Johnson City, Texas, which was named for his grandfather, who had served in the Texas Legislature. Johnson's father, Sam Ealy Johnson, also served in the Texas Legislature. Johnson graduated from Southwest Texas State Teachers College in 1930 with a teaching degree. He taught high school in Houston, until 1931, when he became involved with Democrat Richard M. Kleberg's campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. Johnson gave speeches and spoke to voters on Kleberg's behalf. When Kleberg was elected, he asked Johnson to accompany him to Washington, D.C., as his secretary. Johnson agreed, and his political career in Washington, D.C., was launched.

Johnson was not satisfied to be a secretary to a congressman. He began making friends with powerful Democrats, most notably Representative Sam Rayburn, of Texas. Rayburn, who would soon become Speaker of the House, had enormous influence. In 1935, after President FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT named him director of the Texas division of the National Youth Administration, Johnson used his connections to put twelve thousand young people to work in public service jobs and to help another eighteen thousand go to college.

He quit this position in 1937 to run in a special election for the U.S. House of Representatives in Texas's Tenth Congressional District. In his campaign he supported Roosevelt's policies,

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which came under heavy attack by Johnson's opponents. After Johnson was elected, Roosevelt made a point of getting to know him. Soon the two developed a long and lasting friendship.

Johnson remained in the House of Representatives until 1948, though he did spend a brief period in the Navy during WORLD WAR II. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 1941, and lost to Governor W. Lee O'Daniel by fewer than fourteen hundred votes. He ran again in 1948, this time against Coke R. Stevenson, a former Texas governor. Johnson won the...

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