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President Lyndon B. Johnson's Biography

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Lyndon Johnson 18 months old

Born August 27, at Stonewall, Texas. The first child of Sam Ealy Johnson, Jr., and Rebekah Baines Johnson was born in a small farmhouse on the Pedernales River.

He was named Lyndon Baines Johnson, and his grandfather declared he would grow up to be a United States Senator. Three sisters and a brother followed: Rebekah, Josefa, Sam Houston, and Lucia.


At the age of four, Lyndon Johnson began running to the nearby one-room "Junction School" daily to play with his cousins at recess.

His mother persuaded the teacher, Miss Kathryn Deadrich, to take him as a pupil, and he would sit in his teacher's lap and recite his lessons. His school term was cut short by whooping cough.



The family moved to nearby Johnson City, named for Lyndon's forebears, and the young Lyndon entered first grade.

Lyndon Johnson about 7 years old


LBJ with his High School Class

Now fifteen, he graduated from Johnson City High School on May 24. He decided to forego higher education and instead made his way to California with a few friends.

There he performed odd jobs, including one as an elevator operator. A year later he returned home where he worked on a road construction gang.



Borrowing $75, he enrolled in Southwest Texas State Teachers College at San Marcos, Texas (Texas State University-San Marcos). He earned money as a janitor and as an office helper.

He dropped out of school for a year to serve as principal and teach fifth, sixth, and seventh grades at Welhausen School, a Mexican-American school in the south Texas town of Cotulla. He still had time to be a leader in many extracurricular activities, editing the school paper and starring on the debate team.


August 19, graduated with a B.S. degree. He taught for a few weeks at Pearsall High School, in Pearsall, Texas, then took a job teaching public speaking at Sam Houston High School in Houston, Texas. In the spring of 1931, his debate team won the district championship.



Following his election to the House of Representatives in November 1931, Congressman Richard Kleberg asked Johnson to come to Washington to work as his secretary.

Johnson held the job for over three years and learned how the Congress worked. In 1933, he was elected speaker of the "Little Congress," an organization of congressional workers.


In the fall, he briefly attended Georgetown University Law School in Washington, D. C.

On a trip home to Texas, Johnson met Claudia Alta Taylor. He decided almost instantly that she should be his wife. Two months later, Lady Bird, as she was known to her friends, agreed, and on November 17, 1934, they were married in San Antonio. They honeymooned in Mexico.



Resigned as Secretary to Representative Kleberg to accept President Roosevelt's appointment on July 25 as the Texas Director of the National Youth Administration (NYA), a Roosevelt program designed to provide vocational training for unemployed youth and part-time employment for needy students. At 26, he was the youngest state director.


LBJ's Campaign sign for Congressman

Resigned as Texas Director of the National Youth Administration to enter the special election for the 10th Congressional District called after the death of Representative James P. Buchanan. Nine other candidates also entered the election. Johnson backed Roosevelt 100% and handily won the election on April 10.

In Congress, Johnson worked hard for rural electrification, public housing, and eliminating government waste. He was appointed to the House Committee on Naval Affairs at the request of President Roosevelt.



Re-elected to a full term in the 76th Congress and to each succeeding Congress until 1948.


On June 21, 1940, he was appointed Lieutenant Commander in the U. S. Naval Reserve.


Johnson ran for the remaining term of Senator Morris Sheppard upon Sheppard's death. On June 28, he lost a hard-fought race to conservative W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel by 1,311 votes.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, Johnson became the first member of Congress to volunteer for active duty in the armed forces (U.S. Navy), reporting for active duty on December 9, 1941.



Johnson received the Silver Star from General Douglas MacArthur for gallantry in action during an aerial combat mission over hostile positions in New Guinea on June 9. President Roosevelt ordered all members of Congress in the armed forces to return to their offices, and Johnson was released from active duty on July 16, 1942.


 March 19, birth of his first daughter, Lynda Bird.


July 2, birth of his second daughter, Luci Baines.


After a dramatic campaign in which he traveled by "newfangled" helicopter all over the state, Johnson defeated Coke Stevenson in the Democratic primary race to be the party's candidate for the Senate seat vacated by Senator W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel.

Johnson won the primary by 87 votes and earned the nickname "Landslide Lyndon." In the general election, November 2, he defeated the Republican, Jack Porter, and was elected to the U. S. Senate.



January 2, elected Majority Whip of the United States Senate.


January 3, elected Minority Leader of the Senate at the age of 44. Johnson won national attention as chairman of the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee during the Korean War.



November 2, re-elected to the U. S. Senate for a second term by a margin of 3 to 1.


Elected Majority Leader of the Senate. During his tenure as Senate Majority Leader, he served as Chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, Democratic Steering Committee, and Democratic Conference of the Senate.

On July 2, while visiting George Brown's estate in Middleburg, Virginia, Johnson suffered a severe heart attack and entered Bethesda Naval Hospital. On August 7, he was released from Bethesda; on August 27, he returned to the LBJ Ranch to recuperate. Johnson did not return to Washington and Capitol Hill until December.



Nominated for President at the Democratic National Convention as a favorite son candidate.


Steered through to passage the first civil rights bill in 82 years (Civil Rights Act of 1957). As Chairman of the Senate Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee he began hearings on the American space program following the launch of the Russian satellite, Sputnik, on October 4. Johnson considered the highlights of his Senate career to be the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the vitalization of the United States space program.



Guided to passage the first space legislation (National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958). President Eisenhower designated Senator Johnson to present a United States resolution to the United Nations calling for the peaceful exploration of outer space.


July 13, nominated for President of the United States at the Democratic National Convention by the Speaker of the House of Representatives Sam Rayburn; received 409 votes; nominated Vice President by acclamation on July 14.

November 8, elected Vice President of the United States, and re-elected to his third term in the United States Senate. The Kennedy-Johnson ticket defeated the Nixon-Lodge ticket in one of the closest elections in American history.

Campaign poster for LBJ and JFK



January 3, took the oath of office for the full six-year term in the Senate and immediately resigned.

January 20, was administered the oath of office as Vice President of the United States by the Speaker of the House of Representatives Sam Rayburn. As Vice President, Johnson was a member of the Cabinet and the National Security Council, Chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, Chairman of the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, and Chairman of the Peace Corps Advisory Council.

He was sent by President Kennedy on missions to the Middle East, the Far East, Europe, Latin America, Africa, and South Asia. May 11-13, 1961, he visited Vietnam while on a trip to Southeast Asia as President Kennedy's representative.

On April 20, the day Congress approved the amendment making the Vice President Chairman of the Space Council, President Kennedy sent Johnson a memorandum asking him to conduct an overall survey of the space program and to study the feasibility of going to the moon and back with a man before the Soviet Union could attain that goal.

After a careful study, Johnson replied on April 28, that a manned moon trip was possible, and "with a strong effort the United States could conceivably be first in those accomplishments by 1966 or 1967." On May 25, President Kennedy announced to Congress: "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth."



President Johnson taking the oath on Air Force One

November 22, Lyndon Baines Johnson became the 36th President of the United States following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.

In an address before a joint session of Congress on November 27, Johnson pledged support for President Kennedy's legislative agenda, which included civil rights and education legislation.


In a speech at the University of Michigan, May 22, Johnson spoke of a "Great Society." He said, "The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning." The speech set the tone for the fall campaign.

July 2, signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in a televised ceremony at the White House. The far-reaching law included provisions to protect the right to vote, guarantee access to public accommodations, and withhold federal funds from programs administered in a discriminatory fashion.

On August 2, North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the destroyer USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin. August 4, a second North Vietnamese PT boat attack was reported on the USS Maddox and her escort, the USS C. Turner Joy, this time in poor weather. There would be debate, then and later, over whether the second attack actually occurred.

President Johnson ordered retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnam after being given firm assurance that the attack did occur, and he sought a congressional resolution in support of our Southeast Asia policy.

On August 7, with only two dissenting votes in the Senate and none in the House, Congress passed the Southeast Asia Resolution (often called the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution) backing him in taking "all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression." Johnson signed the resolution on August 10.

August 20, in the White House Rose Garden, Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act. The act established the Office of Economic Opportunity to direct and coordinate a variety of educational, employment, and training programs which were the foundation of President Johnson's "War on Poverty."

August 26, nominated for President of the United States at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Hubert Humphrey nominated for Vice President.

November 3, elected President of the United States with the greatest percentage of the total popular vote (61%) ever attained by a Presidential candidate. Hubert Humphrey was elected Vice President.



January 20, Johnson took the Oath of Office as President of the United States. The "Great Society" program became the agenda for Congress: aid to education, protection of civil rights (including the right to vote), urban renewal, Medicare, conservation, beautification, control and prevention of crime and delinquency, promotion of the arts, and consumer protection.

Johnson's foreign policy rested on four principles: deterring and resisting aggression, promoting economic and social progress, encouraging cooperation among nations of the same region and seeking reconciliation with the communist world.

In a ceremony on the front lawn of the former Junction Elementary School, President Johnson sat next to his first schoolteacher, Miss Kathryn Deadrich Loney, and signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act on April 11. The act was the first federal general aid to education law and focused on disadvantaged children in city slums and rural areas.

As the situation in South Vietnam deteriorated, President Johnson began enlarging the U. S. commitment in Vietnam. On July 28, he announced that he had ordered U. S. military forces in Vietnam increased from 75,000 men to 125,000. He said he would order further military increases as they were needed, committing the United States to major combat in Vietnam.

July 30, signed the Medicare bill in a ceremony at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. The act established a medical care program for the aged under the Social Security System.

At a signing ceremony televised from the Capitol Rotunda on August 6, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. After speaking in the Rotunda, Johnson moved to the President's Room off the Senate chamber to sign the bill.

Abraham Lincoln had used the same room on August 6, 1861, to sign a bill freeing slaves who had been pressed into service of the Confederacy. The bill provided for direct federal action to enable Negroes to register and vote. In 1969, in his final press conference as President, Johnson cited passage of the Voting Rights Act as his greatest accomplishment.



Luci Baines Johnson, President Johnson's younger daughter, married Patrick J. Nugent in a ceremony at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D. C., on August 6. (The Nugents divorced in August 1979.)


Lynda Bird Johnson, President Johnson's older daughter, married Charles S. Robb in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on December 9.


March 31, in order to devote his time to seeking peace in Vietnam and at home, President Johnson announced that he would not be a candidate for another term as President of the United States.



On January 20, Johnson returned to Texas and the LBJ Ranch, following the inauguration of President Richard M. Nixon.

As Senator, Vice President, and President, Johnson had exercised strong leadership in the U. S. space program.

On July 16, at President Nixon's request, President Johnson attended the launching of Apollo 11 at Cape Kennedy, Florida. Apollo 11 carried astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins toward the moon.

On July 20, while Michael Collins circled the moon in the command module Columbia, Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin became the first men to land on the moon. The flight represented the fulfillment of the goal, set in 1961 and reaffirmed by President Johnson, of reaching the moon in the 1960s.


May 22, on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, Johnson attended the dedication of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library.The Johnson Library is part of a system of presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.

It was established to preserve and make available for research the papers and memorabilia of President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Image of LBJ Library and Museum




Following a short retirement Lyndon Johnson died at his ranch on January 22. He is buried in the family cemetery at the LBJ Ranch near his birthplace. During his retirement he wrote his memoirs, The Vantage Point, taught students, and participated in the beginning of a series of national symposia on the critical issues of modern America held at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library.

Compiled by the LBJ Library Archives Staff