“For every generation there is a destiny. For some, history decides. For this generation the choice must be our own.” Although a US Representative, he also served in the Navy in World War II, where he earned the Silver Star. He is one of four people to have served in four elected federal offices: Representative, Senator, Vice President, and President. He was the first president to be sworn in on airplane, although it was not in flight. He was the first, and only president to be sworn in by a woman and on Texas soil. He is Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States, serving from November 22, 1963, until January 20, 1969. Lyndon was born on August 27, 1908, near Stonewall, Texas. He had a love for learning at a young age, running a mile to school at the age of four. Lyndon’s father and grandfather were members of the Christadelphian Church, which claims that its beliefs are based entirely on the Bible, although they reject many current teachings of Christianity (such as the Trinity), claiming that mistakes have occurred through translation errors.
Lyndon was introduced to the world of politics as a child, often campaigning with his father, State Senator Sam Johnson. Lyndon planned on being president from a young age. Lyndon attended and graduated from Texas State Teachers’ College (now Texas State University) and went on to briefly teach before entering politics. He married his wife, Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor on November 17, 1934, after attending Georgetown University Law Center for several months.
Lyndon entered politics in 1930, when he became a legislative secretary for Congressman Richard Kleberg, a position for which he was recommended by Texas State Senator Welly Hopkins. As a legislative secretary, Lyndon was chosen by the group of Congressional aids to be their speaker. This position allowed him to begin developing relationships with Congressmen, newspapermen, and lobbyists.
From April 10, 1937, until January 3, 1949, Lyndon was a United States Representative, and became trusted by President Franklin Roosevelt. Lyndon supported Roosevelt’s New Deal plan and supplied Roosevelt with information regarding internal politics in Texas. After the United States entered World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lyndon joined the Naval Reserve and asked for a combat assignment. He was denied, but later given a special assignment by President Roosevelt to report on the conditions in the Southwest Pacific, where his plane was allegedly shot at by the Japanese. This claim is disputed by the various members of the flight crew.
In 1948, Lyndon was elected as a US Senator in a highly controversial election, with charges of fraud on all sides. Lyndon quickly advanced in the Senate, due in large part to his ability to form friendships with the older Senators. From 1951 to 1953, Lyndon served as Senate majority whip. In January 1953, Lyndon was elected Senate minority leader, the most junior senator to ever hold the position. In 1954, Lyndon’s party regained power in the Senate and Lyndon became Senate majority leader. During his time in the Senate, Lyndon supported and helped pass many of President’s Dwight D. Eisenhower’s plans. In 1955, Lyndon suffered a near fatal heart attack, which was linked to his 60-cigarettes-per-day habit. Lyndon quit smoking, with a few exceptions, and did not resume until after he left the White House. In 1960, after failing to obtain the nomination for the Democratic Presidential ticket, Lyndon was offered the vice-presidency by John F. Kennedy.
As vice-president, Lyndon helped secure the votes of the Southern Democrats, which led to a victory over Richard Nixon by a small margin. During his time as vice-president, Lyndon headed the space program, oversaw negotiations on the nuclear test ban treaty, and supported equal opportunity legislation for minorities. Lyndon, however, was frustrated by his lack of influence with President Kennedy.
On November 22, 1963, immediately following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President of the United States by US District Judge Sarah T. Hughes aboard Air Force One. As no Bible was onboard, Lyndon was sworn in using a Roman Catholic missal (a book containing instructions for mass) found in Kennedy’s desk. Lyndon then immediately returned to Washington DC, to show a smooth transition of power for the grieving nation. His quick actions called some to question him as being too eager to assume power. To quell rumors sure to crop up surrounding Kennedy’s death, one of Lyndon’s first acts was to put together a commission, headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, to investigate the Kennedy’s death. The Warren Commission unanimously determined that Lee Harvey Oswald was alone responsible for the death of President Kennedy. In a speech to Congress, Lyndon promised to honor Kennedy by passing the Civil Rights Act, which was passed in 1964. Lyndon also continued to support many of Kennedy’s programs, in addition to having many of his own bills, such as tax cuts, passed by Congress.
Lyndon was elected President by a high majority in 1964. Lyndon continued his work on civil rights, which he had supported for years, by the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Lyndon also championed and signed into law many social programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, food stamps, Work Study, and the Economic Opportunity Act. These programs were designed to aid education, promote urban renewal, beatification, conservation, and control and prevent crime. Lyndon also declared “War on Poverty.” Lyndon was a great supporter of the space program and oversaw the travesty of Apollo 1 and the success of Apollo 8 orbiting the moon, which paved the way for Apollo 11 to land on the moon six months later.
During his Presidency, Lyndon increased the number of soldiers on the ground in Vietnam. Lyndon also gained permission to use military force without consulting the Senate. As his presidency wore on, public support for Lyndon and his policies, especially regarding Vietnam, continued to decline. His waning popularity and uncertain health prompted him to announce that he would not be seeking another term as President, although he was eligible since he served less than 24 months of Kennedy’s term.
In January 1969, Lyndon left Washington and returned home to Stonewall, Texas. After leaving office, Lyndon embarked on what some historians have called a self destructive path, indulging in cigarettes and gaining weight. He died at his ranch on January 22, 1973, following a massive heart attack. He was 64 years of age.
Happy Birthday Mr. President!