Lyndon B Johnson was born in Stonewall, Texas, on August 27, 1908. He grew up with a brother, Sam, and three sisters, Rebekah, Josefa, and Lucia. Growing up, Johnson participated in school events such as baseball, public speaking, and debate team. Johnson was elected the President of his 11th grade class, and graduated from high school the following year, in 1924. He later attended the Southwest Texas State Teacher's College (present-day Texas State University—San Marcos), and became a teacher at the Welhausen School, 90 miles south of San Antonio. He then moved on to teach public speaking at Sam Houston High School in Houston, TX. His experience at the Welhausen School was transformative in that he came to realize how closed off college was for many of his students, most of whom were of poor, Mexican descent. Of his experience, he said, “And I think it was then that I made up my mind that this nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American.”
In 1930, Johnson helped campaign for Senator Welly Hopkins, and in return Hopkins recommended Johnson to Congressman Richard Kleberg, and Kleberg hired Johnson as his legislative secretary. Several years later, he married Claudia Alta Taylor (“Lady Bird”), and together they had two daughters, Lynda Bird (1944) and Luci Baines (1947). Johnson became head of the Texas National Youth Administration in 1935, and was responsible for making education and job opportunities for Texan youth. Two years later, he decided to run for Congress.
In 1937, Johnson was elected to the House via a special election for the 10th congressional district. While serving in Congress, he advocated for public housing, electricity in rural areas, and elimination of government waste. In 1938, he was reelected to a full term in Congress and served there until 1948. In 1948, he was elected to the US Senate; two years later, he was elected Majority Whip of the Senate. 1954 marked his reelection to the US Senate for a second term; he was quickly elected Majority Leader of the Senate. During this time, he served as Chairman of the Democratic policy committee.
In 1960, Johnson ran for Democratic nominee for presidential candidate. He lost to John Fitzgerald Kennedy; however, Kennedy knew he needed Johnson supporters on his side as well, so Kennedy asked Johnson to be his Vice President running mate. Johnson accepted and resigned from the Senate. Things quickly turned around for Johnson on November 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. He was the first president to be sworn in by a woman, and the only president to be sworn in on Texan ground. Johnson ran for election again in 1964 on the Democratic ticket and won. He went on to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He also passed the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) of 1965 to provide federal money to public schools.
Possibly the most publicized part of Johnson's presidential career was his handling of the Vietnam War. He had to be very careful with decisions on when and where to attack and defend, so as to not involve neighboring countries. He believed that pulling American troops out of Vietnam would bring the war onto American soil, something he wanted to avoid at all costs. As the war grew increasingly worse and the death toll increasingly higher, Johnson was barely able to leave his home without stumbling upon a protest of some sort. Johnson knew whether he pushed for the war or against the war, he would be angering a significant portion of the population.
At this site, you can listen to some of President Lyndon Johnson's most important speeches and peer into the Oval Office through secretly recorded conversations made by Johnson during his presidency.