“A President’s hardest task is not to do what is right, but to know what is right.”
Johnson grew up in Texas, where his parents worked as teachers and farmers. He learned to read before he was four-years-old and was a good student. After graduating from high school, he moved to California where he worked odd jobs. Two years later, he decided that he’d had enough of hard physical labor and went to college.
Johnson was a teacher but later served in Washington as secretary to Congressman, Robert Kleberg. Both his father and grandfather had held public office and politics was in his blood. He served six terms in the House of Representatives and won a Silver Star during World War II. Kennedy asked Johnson to be his vice-president. Three years later, Johnson became President when Kennedy was assassinated.
- Lyndon B. Johnson was born August 27, 1908 in Stonewall, Texas.
- He married Claudia Alta Taylor in 1934. She was nicknamed Lady Bird.
- The couple had two daughters, Lynda and Luci. Every member of Johnson’s family, including his dogs, had the same initials, LBJ.
- Johnson was sworn in as President two hours after Kennedy’s assassination as he flew back to Washington D.C. aboard Air Force One (the presidential airplane). His wife stood on one side of him. Jacqueline Kennedy stood on the other side, still wearing clothing stained with Kennedy’s blood.
- Johnson declared a “War on Poverty” and promised a “Great Society.” He worked with Congress to fund public education, battle poverty, and end crime. He started Medicare, which helped elderly people pay their medical bills. He was also the founder of the Public Broadcasting Service.
- Johnson worked hard for minorities, guaranteeing blacks the right to vote.
- Johnson’s biggest challenge during his Presidency was the Vietnam War. North Vietnam, a Communist ally to Russia, had invaded South Vietnam. Johnson – and many others – believed it was important to prevent the spread of Communism. He sent U.S. troops and weapons to Vietnam. The war went on for a long time and many Americans disagreed with it. Johnson was heavily criticized, especially by young Americans, who held protests and even burned the American flag.
- Johnson had a larger-than-life personality. He loved to eat and ate large quantities of barbecue and ice cream. He gave his friends and family generous gifts, but could be ruthless and aggressive with opponents. He often took a break to swim nude during the day and demanded that his workers do the same. He loved to talk and even had phones installed in the bathroom.
- Johnson completed Kennedy’s term and won a second term in office. He was very unpopular by the end of the second term and did not run again. He retired to Texas to manage his ranch and oil fields.
- Johnson died of a heart attack four years later in 1973.
Questions and Answers
Question: What was Lady Bird Johnson’s role in the White House?
Answer: Lady Bird Johnson loved nature. She worked to beautify the parks and avenues in Washington D.C. and served on the National Parks board.
Visit Whitehouse.gov to learn more about Lydon B. Johnson, 36th U.S. President.