Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon Johnson

  • Ranked #9: Johnson was one of the most experienced and skillful politicians of his time. His administration passed a unprecedented amount of legislation. Much of it was designed to protect the nation's land, air, water, wilderness and quality of life. In short, to keep Americans safer.
  • Summary: Typically, when people discuss Johnson, they usually mention his complex personality. He was able to accomplish some fairly big things due to his political intuition. Robert Novak described Johnson during his term as President, saying, “He can be as gentle and solicitous as a nurse, but as ruthless and deceptive as a riverboat gambler.” According to his wife, “He was a warm and mellow man in so many ways; gentle, extremely loving. But he was not eager to get up in front of thousands or millions of people and act that way. He was that way with his neighbors, his friends and in his home.” He presented an imposing figure when dealing with other politicians, often intimidating them by getting in their face. He was a type-A personality without a doubt and was proud of this fact; once saying, “I don’t have ulcers, I give them.”
  • Bio: He stood 6’ 3” and weighed roughly 210 pounds at the time he became President. In his 40s he suffered a fairly serious heart attack, from which he recovered in roughly six months. For the rest of his life, he feared being alone. In fact, one doctor who was at Parkland Hospital on the day John Kennedy was shot noticed Johnson in the emergency room holding his chest and looking pale. This led the doctor to believe he was having yet another heart attack; however, that was actually not the case. Other than that, and a few kidney stones, Johnson was more or less a fit man.
    He loved to play dominos and cards. He also played golf but often kept his score a secret. He would often take a swim in the White House pool. Outside of a daily newspaper, he read very little, with the exception of required work-related reading materials. He drank moderately and up until his heart attack in 1955, he was a three-packs-a-day smoker. He enjoyed himself on his 415-acre LBJ Ranch in Texas, where he often took guests for a ride in his Lincoln Continental, reaching speeds up to 90 miles per hour. His guests may or may not have enjoyed these rides as much as he did, but I’m sure he was not too concerned about that.
    During his tenure as President, the role of the federal government greatly expanded when it came to domestic affairs. Johnson plowed through something called the “The Great Society.” In short, this was a program that helped the disenfranchised of America. It was something that Johnson was passionate about and at the time he had the political capital and the drive to make it happen. There were environmental protection laws, an immigration act, support for the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities. Even a highway safety act, a public broadcasting act and a bill that protected consumers against dangerous and subpar products were components. He willed a bill through Congress establishing the Department of Housing and Urban Development and also waged a war on poverty.
    If there was anything that got the best of Johnson, it was the Vietnam War. With the protests on American college campuses and what seemed like a never-ending wave of young Americans losing their lives, Johnson lost a lot of heart and that political drive that had helped him excel during over 40 years as a politician. It was at this point he declined to run for re-election in 1968; perhaps a contest he could have easily won. You can say that Johnson’s time in office started and ended in tragedy (ascending into office after the murder of John Kennedy and declining to run for re-election due to the Vietnam War). While he established and extended some very important social programs that are still significant today, (aid to education, Head Start, Medicare and Medicaid) he left office with a hazy legacy. He would die barely over four years after he left office.
  • Pros: Signed major registration that includes, but not limited to Clean Air Act, Civil Rights Act, Social Security Act, Gun Control Act and Older Americans Act..
  • Cons: Lack of success with the Vietnam War. Lost a lot of drive because of the problems with the Vietnam War.
  • Born: August 27, 1908, near Johnson City, Texas
  • Died: January 22, 1973 (aged 64) near Stonewall, Texas
  • Term: November 22, 1963 to January 20, 1969 (assumed term & 1 term)
  • Political Party: Democrat
  • Religion: Disciples of Christ
  • Education: Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Texas State University-San Marcos), graduated 1930 & Georgetown Law School, attended 1934
  • Marriage: November 17, 1934, to Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor (1912–2007)
  • Children: Lynda Bird (1944– ), Luci Baines (1947– )
  • Career: Educator
  • Vice President: Hubert Humphrey