|Full Name||Lyndon Baines Johnson|
|Birthday||August 27, 1908|
|Death Date||January 22, 1973|
|Net Worth||$98 million|
As a longtime admirer of LBJ, I‘m thrilled to provide an in-depth introduction to this towering yet controversial figure. Born in rural Texas, Johnson overcame humble beginnings to become one of the most impactful reformers in U.S. history. From his hardscrabble upbringing to his shrewd political maneuvers, Johnson lived a remarkable life full of twists and triumphs.
Early Life and Political Rise
Johnson grew up poor in the Texas Hill Country, working various jobs to support his family. He put himself through Southwest Texas State Teachers‘ College, graduating in 1930. With his trademark drive, Johnson headed to Washington D.C. and worked his way up the political ladder. He leveraged his big personality and intelligence to win a House seat in 1937 at just 28 years old.
During 12 years in the Senate, Johnson earned a reputation as a "Master of the Senate." Biographer Robert Caro described his wheeling-and-dealing personality: "Johnson‘s ambition was uncommon in intensity. It was uncommon in scope. It was unprecedented in the way it drove him to work."
Presidency and the Great Society
Thrust into the presidency in 1963, Johnson seized the opportunity to enact his liberal social reforms aimed at eliminating poverty and injustice. According to Johnson, "Our aim is not only to relieve the symptoms of poverty but to cure it – and above all, to prevent it."
Highlights of the Great Society programs enacted under Johnson include:
- Medicare and Medicaid – Providing health insurance for the elderly and poor
- Head Start – Preschool education for underprivileged children
- Public Broadcasting – Funding educational television and radio
Johnson declared, "We have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society." His social reforms remain integral to American life today.
Vietnam War and Decision Not to Run Again
Johnson‘s presidency unraveled over the Vietnam War. Unable to lead the country to victory in Southeast Asia, Johnson was plagued by protests around the war. On March 31, 1968, he shocked the nation by declaring he would not seek re-election.
Johnson recounted his thinking at the time: "I knew from the start that I was bound to be crucified either way I moved. If I left the woman I really loved – the Great Society – in order to get involved with that bitch of a war on the other side of the world, then I would lose everything at home."
Legacy of a Flawed but Consequential Leader
In looking back on Johnson‘s presidency, his sweeping domestic achievements stand out, despite the debacle of Vietnam. With his oversized personality and ambitious reforms, LBJ profoundly shaped modern America. The Great Society programs remain essential elements of the social safety net today.