• Lyndon Johnson grew up in Texas and studied to become a teacher, though his ambitions were always to enter politics.
• His first political job was in Washington, D.C. as an aide to a Texas congressman.
• During the Great Depression, Johnson worked as the Texas director of the National Youth Administration, and by age 28 won a seat in the House of Representatives.
• Johnson served in the Naval Reserve during World War II without having to give up his House seat, and after six terms won a seat in the Senate.
• Johnson quickly became a powerful senator, working his way up to Senate majority leader.
• In the 1960 presidential election Johnson lost the primary to John F. Kennedy, but was quickly selected as Kennedy’s running mate to balance the ticket. He was Protestant to Kennedy’s Catholic, Southern to Kennedy’s north, and a veteran politician to Kennedy’s inexperience.
• Johnson became president after Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963.
How he defined the office
• Johnson’s ability to sway lawmakers to vote in his favor was honed during his time in the House and Senate and that, coupled with a Democratic majority in Congress when he won election in 1964, helped him push through his domestic agenda.
Successes and failures
• Johnson’s domestic policy was called “The Great Society.” He wanted to end poverty and achieve racial equality. Among other aspects of the agenda: A bill was passed establishing a Department of Housing and Urban Development. Colleges and school districts – especially poorer ones – were given federal aid. More government funding overall was devoted to the poor in Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”
• The president followed through on Kennedy’s vision of improving civil rights by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and passed the Voting Rights Act.
• Johnson took over the presidency with the conflict in Vietnam escalating, and increased the presence of American troops there. After reports American naval vessels were attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, authorizing the president to take whatever measures necessary to protect the armed forces.
• Americans’ opposition to war increased as Johnson’s term went on, and he opted not to run for another in 1968.
• “This is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest that is sleeping in the unplowed ground.” – from his inaugural address Jan. 20, 1965.