Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) was born August 27, 1908, in a small farmhouse situated close to Stonewall, TX. He was pressured into going to college by his parents but left after just a short while, where he spent some time working odd jobs. Eventually, LBJ went to what was then called Southwest Texas State Normal School but is now called Texas State University, thus enabling him to become a high school teacher. For a time, he taught at a segregated Mexican-American school to pay for his tuition. Something that instilled in LBJ a keen awareness of just how many Americans were denied access to higher education because of poverty as well as other issues.
In 1931, LBJ became the legislative secretary to Richard M. Kleberg in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was the one who took care of the day-to-day duties of the position because of Kleberg’s lack of interest. As a result, LBJ managed to make valuable contacts that would pave the way for his own political career.
By 1937, he was in the U.S. House of Representatives; by 1949, he was in the U.S. Senate. However, it is interesting to note that LBJ spent some time on active military duty as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War 2.
By 1960, LBJ had become one of the most successful U.S. Senate majority leaders ever because of his exceptional skill at gathering information. As such, he was in a good position to run for the position of Democratic presidential nominee. Like a lot of his counterparts, LBJ was surprised by John F. Kennedy but wound up being brought into the latter’s campaign as the vice-presidential candidate because of his sway with traditional Southern Democrats. Thanks to this, LBJ was the one to succeed Kennedy as the 36th President of the United States when JFK was assassinated in 1963.
LBJ’s presidency started up at a time when the economy was doing well while international issues had stepped into the background. As a result, he focused on domestic issues. One excellent example was the successful passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was motivated by his liberal politics and religious convictions. Other examples ranged from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to the various programs collected under the moniker Great Society that were meant to eliminate poverty and racial injustice. However, LBJ is also remembered because of his support for the Vietnam War, which was motivated by his belief in the domino theory. As such, he drew much public criticism, as shown by the famous protester chant, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”
After his presidency, LBJ is said to have gone into something of a self-destructive spiral. Indeed, as the story goes, he pulled out the very first cigarette that he had smoked since a heart attack in 1955 after the door had closed on the plane that would take him home to Texas following Richard Nixon’s inauguration in 1969. LBJ didn’t live very long afterward, suffering a second heart attack in April 1972 and then a third heart attack in January 1973. When he died on January 22,1973, he was 64 years of age.