Proud Products of Texas Public Schools
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Graduate of Johnson City Schools
Johnson City, Texas
Lyndon Baines Johnson was our nation’s 36th president.
After high school, Johnson enrolled in Southwest Texas State Teachers College in San Marcos. He taught public speaking and debate in a Houston high school for a year, but politics drew him away from the classroom.
In 1948, Johnson won a hotly contested and controversial Democratic primary election for the U.S. Senate, then soundly defeated his Republican opponent. Johnson advanced rapidly in the Senate. In 1951 he became party whip.
Johnson lost out in his presidential bid to John F. Kennedy in the Democratic primaries for the 1960 election. Kennedy then selected Johnson as his running mate. As vice-president, Johnson participated significantly in the decision-making process. He frequently offered advice on the moods of Congress and the ways to deal with it.
With the assassination of Kennedy on November 22, 1963, Johnson was catapulted to the presidency. Johnson took the oath of office aboard Air Force One at Dallas’ Love Field less than two hours after Kennedy died. Then Johnson flew to Washington, hoping to calm the fears of the nation.
Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election and began the foundations of his “Great Society” campaign. Medicare, a system of health insurance for the elderly under the Social Security program, was established. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed illiteracy tests and removed other obstacles that tended to prevent blacks from exercising their right to vote. Two new federal departments—Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation—were set up. Federal aid to primary and secondary schools increased substantially.
In 1965, Johnson felt compelled to take the steps that he had warned against in 1964, because the political and military situation in South Vietnam had deteriorated rapidly and a Vietcong victory seemed likely. As the administration viewed it, such a victory not only would give the Communists control of a significant area but also would suggest that the United States could not protect other countries against revolutionaries employing guerrilla tactics and receiving assistance from the outside.
Thus, Johnson “Americanized” the war, an escalation that proved not only an agonizing decision for Johnson, but cause for great social unrest throughout the country. Johnson had hoped that his escalation would check the infiltration of men and supplies from the north and create a military situation that would bring the North Vietnamese to the bargaining table, but it did not. The Vietnam War would rage on.
In early 1968, Johnson announced that he would not seek another term. He left office on January 20, 1969. Johnson’s accomplishments were significant, and, unfortunately, so was the magnitude of the problems he faced.
After retiring, Johnson devoted his time to writing and editing his memoirs. He died at his ranch near Johnson City on January 22, 1973.
“This nation, this generation, in this hour has man’s first chance to build a ‘Great Society,’ a place where the meaning of man’s life matches the marvel of man’s labor.”
—Lyndon Baines Johnson