In November 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was in a motorcade in Dealey Plaza, a park in Dallas Texas, when he was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. At approximately 1:00 pm, President John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead. After the assassination had taken place, the entire nation was left in shock as their late president had been assassinated in what was supposed to be normal escort. The nation wouldn’t be without a leader as after his death, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as President of the United States.
President Lyndon B. Johnson was born on August 27, 1908 in Texas. He was born in a farm near Stonewall, Texas. His family helped settle a nearby city named Johnson City. Johnson was the eldest sibling out five. He was born to his parents Samuel Ealy and Rebekah Baines Johnson. Soon afterwards, Johnson would attend and graduate from the Texas State Teachers College. He would also marry to Claudia Alta and would have 2 daughters.
In 1913, the family moved from their farmhouse to Johnson City, Texas. His family home was comfortable, but did not have indoor plumbing nor any electricity. In a quote said by Johnson later in life, “When I was fourteen years old I decided I was not going to be the victim of a system which would allow the price of a commodity like cotton to drop from forty cents to six cents and destroy the homes of people like my own family” (Germany, 1). At the age of 14, Johnson had a dream of making life for american families such as his own better.
The school Johnson attended were cramped and confined. The school Johnson attended in Texas Hill country had only one room and one teacher. It wasn’t until 1924, when Johnson would graduate from Johnson City High as the President of his six-member senior class.
Although his high school education was difficult enough, the path would only get more rigid when the time came for Johnson to attend summer courses in college. His family, more specifically his father Sam Johnson, were in financial difficulties which was devastating on the well being of himself and his entire family. Sam Johnson was extremely parsimonious in order to send his son to the Texas State Teachers College. Unfortunately, the college would not admit Johnson after high school, so he returned to Texas and worked through manual labor.
After his failed admission to the Texas State Teachers College, Johnson fell into a state of drunkenness which led him to fights and more drinking until he was arrested. Only after this ordeal Johnson became fore determined and finally attended the state Teachers College in 1927. As he attended the college, he pursued extracurricular activities such as journalism, student government, and debate.
Johnson was excellent at student teaching and was sent to a hispanic school in Cotulla, Texas where the neighborhood was poor. Johnson was effective at encouraging students and providing them with the education needed to support themselves in early 20th century America. Although Johnson was considered to be an excellent teacher by both his students and teachers, his academic teaching career would be temporary.
By the time Johnson had graduated from the college in 1930, the U.S. was beginning to enter the Great Depression. The Great Depression was one of the worst stock market crashes to effect the United States. Many americans fell into debt, became impoverished, and became homeless. It is no wonder that Johnson’s teaching career was fleeting, his annual salary was at least $1,300.
After Johnson’s fleeting teaching career, he helped aided his father’s political friend in campaign and soon found himself as an assistant for U.S. Congressman Richard Kleberg. Johnson fulfilled his duties well, answering mail for Kleberg and had a sense of duty towards his obligations. After his service, Johnson returned to Texas in 1938 where he met Claudia Alta Taylor. They married 3 months later. Taylor was given the nickname “Lady Bird” due to her charming, yet genuine personality. (Germany, 2)
In the year 1940, Johnson had enlisted in the U.S. naval reserve thanks to President Roosevelt. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Johnson took a tour of the South Pacific and boarded a B26 Bomber and boarded a plane known as the Heckling Hare. In a moment of his military experience, the Heckling Hare was forced to return to base from a bombing mission and another plane, the Wabash Council, had crashed killing the entire crew.
For Johnson’s contribution in the mission, he was awarded the Silver Star. Afterwards, President Roosevelt recommended that he leave the service. Indeed Johnson was among the many presidents of the United States to risk their lives for the sake of the nation, a value many Americans considered extremely important and a value which would work in his future elections.
In 1937, James P. Buchanan, the congressman of Johnson’s district, had died. Johnson had decided to take the job as the congressman of the district. Using Taylor’s wealth, he was able to get radio stations to broadcast his campaign. He also sided with the policies made by Roosevelt during the depression and had won office. Johnson was 28 at the time he won the office of the 10th congressional district.
As a member of the house, Johnson went great lengths to establish dams and housing projects. By the late 1930’s He also brought electrical power to Texas Hill Country, the name of the geographical region where he had originated from. (Germany,)
In the following years Johnson aimed for a political spot left by a late Texas senator. His competition was a radio celebrity governor named W.Lee O’daniel. Although O’daniel entered the race late, he obtained votes through dishonest means. Johnson won the election and became a member of the house. (Germany,4)
In the following years, Ladybird gave birth to their first two daughters in 1941, they would have another child in 1944. Soon however, the cold war had started and tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The cold war was a period of tension between the U.S. and its allies from World War 2, primarily the Soviet Union. The U.S., at the time, had been wary of the Soviet Union’s position after the war and had been preparing themselves for potential attacks. These preparations included children hiding under desks and in shelters to escape from the threat of nuclear weapons.
In the following years, Johnson was racing for the democratic nomination in congress. His only competitor was the Texas Governor, Coke Stevenson. Stevenson was known for his character and impressive personality (Germany, 4)). Stevenson was a worthy foe against Johnson as they had an all out campaign against one another. In the end, there were 3 counties whose voting tallies were suspicious gave Johnson the upper hand and won the election. Ever since, people had nicknamed him “Landslide Johnson”.()
During Johnson’s time as a senator, he supported the concept of military preparedness, A concept that demanded a sufficient amount of weapons, personel, soldiers, and equipment to complete any . He also focused is gaze on domestic issues that plagued the state and country (Germany, 5). Johnson
In the years 1952 and 1956, Lyndon B. Johnson had attempted to become president of the U.S., but had failed in both attempts. It wasn’t until the year 1960, where his rival for the position was none other than a certain John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Although Johnson had plenty of political experience, Kennedy had surpassed him. In the end, John F. Kennedy won the position as president of the United States.
The vice presidency didn’t always sat well with Johnson, but he was willing to be more than tolerant. He oversaw both the space program and Kennedy’s decision to send military forces in the country of Vietnam where the south’s democratic government was in danger of being wiped out by the communist government of the north.
In November 1963, Johnson was present at the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy. He was only 2 cars behind Kennedy in the signature President’s Motorcade. Moments later, when there were cheers in the crowd and laughter, Kennedy was shot in his own car by Lee Harvey Oswald through a building window. Kennedy died from the bullet wounds in the head.
When Johnson returned to Washington D.C., he was sworn in as president of the United States. He had given a speech to the nation when he was sworn aboard Air Force One. ‘I will do my best—that is all I can do.’ Johnson was sure to promote Kennedy’s policies and made sure to include his own.
At the launch of Johnson’s presidency, he focused his efforts on domestic affairs within the country. One such issue he faced was the War on Poverty. The war on poverty is the name for the social welfare legislation enacted during Johnson’s administration. Johnson had beseeched the House Appropriations Committee Chairman George Mahon, in an afternoon phone call on July 1964 (). In the call, Johnson asked for his help in passing the bill in a famous quote, “You help me, because this is one I just can’t lose. This is the only Johnson proposal I’ve got. The only bill, and it’s as sound as a dollar.”.
In some ways, the War on Poverty bill was a way for Johnson to show the country that addressing the nation’s poverty would increase their faith in him as president. The citizens of the nation still remembered the assassination of John F. Kennedy like a wound that has not healed for a period of time. After all, the bill was introduced only a year after the assassination. The bill likely increased Johnson’s popularity tenfold.
Another domestic affair that plagued the nation was the segregation within the country. The Civil Rights Movement of centered around the unfair discrimination of which black people had faced. The period was filled with controversies surrounding “Separate but equal” laws, disadvantageous education, and much more. With the effort put forth by individuals such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, Johnson was able to introduce the Civil Rights Act. The law would make the discrimination based on color permanently illegal.
In addition to the Civil Rights Act, Johnson had also introduced the Voting Rights Act. Ever since 1890, there have been racially discriminatory laws inhibiting black people from voting. These laws include literacy tests that failed any black person, “Good Character” tests, and poll taxes. In response to watching protestors fight against the process, Johnson proposed the the Voting Rights Act which suspended the tests in states with a low voting threshold (). Immediately, there were results springing forth from the South.
Although these bills championed equality ideals, tensions still stirred in the south. Riots broke out in many cities across the south. State troopers were deployed to keep the populace under control. The most shattering of the riots occurred in the summer of 1968, when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by a gunman in Memphis, Tennessee. The times then were extremely difficult and it must have taken everything to maintain any sense of civilization.
While Johnson had his eyes set on issues within the country, he also set his gaze on the foreign affairs which involved the nation. The most notable of which was the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was a controversial war which divided citizens views of whether or not the U.S. was the bastion of democracy. The predecessors before Johnson had the difficulty of choosing whether or not to commit the military towards the warm (Germany,4).
Johnson was committed to maintaining the status of South Vietnam (Germany,4). When he was a senator, he was in favor of the “containment theory”, a military concept that centered around halting the expansion of the enemy. As a president, he did his best to support the war effort, partly due to the fact that he did not want to be known as the president that lost the war (Germany, 6).
Johnson’s difficulty with the Vietnam War was just beginning. The U.S.’s commitment to the war meant that more soldiers would join the pacific fray. The number of troops had steadily increased from 100,000 to 500.000 by the year 1965. It was around this time that anti-war sentiment grew within the nation. The people were protesting for the end of America’s involvement in the civil war. Ultimately, public frustration at the war only made Johnson’s presidency more difficult.
It was during the war that the The North Vietnamese Liberation Front army were continually achieving successful victories. Protest against the war grew at its peak. Johnson finally decided that the war itself would be one that victory cannot be attained without throwing the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers (Germany,5).
Around the time when Johnson reached his decision
When Johnson retired from office, his health was not what it once was. He spent his days in his ranch in Texas, publishing his memoir, and developing his presidential library (Germany,5). Johnson died on January 22, 1973. The Vietnam War had ended with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords a day later. Johnson lives on through is autobiographies, memoirs, and records kept in the presidential library. To me, he was a unique president who was thrusted into the middle of conflict and succeeded.
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