Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973)
On November 22, 1963, at 2:39 p.m., Lyndon Baines Johnson took the Presidential oath of office, becoming the fourth man in United States history to assume the Presidency following the assassination of a Chief Executive.
Johnson was born on August 27, 1908, near Stonewall, Texas. He taught debate and public speaking at Sam Houston High School in Houston, Texas, until 1931, when he formally entered politics. That year, Johnson campaigned for Richard M. Kleberg, a Democratic candidate for Congress. Kleberg won and he brought Johnson to Washington as his secretary.
In 1935, President Roosevelt appointed Johnson the Texas state administrator of the National Youth Administration. Two years later, he was elected to a vacant Congressional seat. In 1948, Johnson defeated ten men to be elected U.S. Senator. He served in the Senate for 12 years. After John F. Kennedy defeated Johnson for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1960, Kennedy asked Johnson to be his running mate. The Kennedy – Johnson ticket proved to be a winning combination. Johnson took a more active role than any previous Vice President.
On November 22, 1963, while riding in a motorcade through the streets of Dallas, Texas, President Kennedy was assassinated. Later that afternoon, Johnson took the oath of office. During the remaining months of Kennedy’s term, Johnson worked to continue the legislation proposed by the slain President. However, the escalating conflict in Vietnam demanded an increasing amount of attention.
President Johnson was re-elected easily in 1964. In his inaugural address, Johnson spoke of a “Great Society.” This term would become the name for his legislative program. The President enjoyed great success in getting this legislation passed. Among his triumphs was the Appalachia bill, which improved living conditions in the 11-state Appalachian Mountain Region. Johnson also proposed important civil rights legislation.
When Johnson was elected, there were fewer than 20,000 American troops in Vietnam. However, by the end of Johnson’s term, there were over 500,000 troops in Vietnam engaged in full-scale combat. With this commitment came increased casualties. From 1961-64, there were only 235 U.S. casualties. During Johnson’s term, U.S. casualties mounted to well over 250,000.
The U.S. involvement in Vietnam caused unrest at home. Some thought the U.S. should not be involved in the conflict, while others thought a more decisive attack was the answer. Due in part to this unrest, as well as the war itself, President Johnson decided not to run for a second full term in 1968. Following Richard Nixon’s inauguration, Johnson retired to his LBJ Ranch. In 1972, he suffered a heart attack. On January 22, 1973, Johnson suffered another heart attack and died.