Lyndon Baines Johnson: His Life and Legacy
“Let a troubled world take note that here on the border two free nations have resolved their differences with dignity and with justice.” – Lyndon B. Johnson addressing the nation from El Paso, Texas on September 25, 1964
Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ), the 36th president of the United States, has been described by historians in many ways: an environmentalist, a brilliant politician, a social reformist, and a hero of civil rights. On the other hand, LBJ has been described as an arm twister, a man obsessed with his place in history, and the man most responsible for U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Indeed, many writers and historians seem to either praise LBJ or despise him altogether. The goal of this essay, however, is not to prove that he was a “good” man or a “bad" man. Instead, this essay will lay out the facts revolving around the life of LBJ and let you develop your own opinion about him.
In the rural town of Stonewall, Texas, Lyndon Baines Johnson was born on August 27, 1908. LBJ graduated from Southwest Texas State Teachers College (present day Texas State University-San Marcos) in 1930. Shortly thereafter, he went to work as a personal secretary to then U.S. Representative Richard Kleberg. In 1934, he met and married Claudia Alta Taylor, known thereafter as Lady Bird Johnson. (Lady Bird was a childhood nickname).
After a brief stint in teaching, LBJ was appointed by President Roosevelt as the head of the Texas National Youth Administration. A couple of years later, LBJ found himself living in the right congressional district at the right time. U.S. Representative James Buchanan’s untimely death in 1937 left an opening in Texas’ District 10. A special election was held in which LBJ entered and won, thus becoming a U.S. Representative at age 28.
In 1941, after losing an election to get into the U.S. Senate, and after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed LBJ as a congressional inspector of the war on the Pacific Front. A matter of extreme controversy occurred when LBJ came back from his inspections—he was awarded the Silver Star. What did LBJ do to earn a Silver Star? As it turns out, LBJ didn’t really do much of anything. He was involved in a single bombing raid in which he was an observer in an aircraft. He did none of the piloting or bombing. In fact, some sources speculate that LBJ’s jet turned around due to an engine malfunction before the bombing even took place. It should be noted that not one pilot or bomber on this mission received an award for their service, yet LBJ did as an inspector.
After the war and back in politics, LBJ won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1948. He became very powerful during his twelve years in the U.S. Senate by surrounding himself with senior senators, working extremely hard, and using his infamous treatment to get what he wanted.