Lyndon Baines Johnson is one of those few Presidents or political leaders who is instantly identifiable by his initials — “LBJ” — an exclusive club also populated by TR, FDR, and JFK but few others. Richard Nixon spent years and tons of energy working to become a member of that group, going as far as naming his autobiography RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon. But LBJ’s initials became a recognizable brand long before he became President; he also had the added advantage of being able to monogram everything in his home with his initials since they were also shared by his wife (Lady Bird Johnson), his two daughters (Lynda Bird Johnson and Luci Baines Johnson), and even one of his dogs (“Little Beagle Johnson” — which wasn’t one of the dogs President Johnson was famously photographed picking up by their ears, those beagles were named “Him” and “Her”).
But where did the name “Lyndon” come from? LBJ’s middle name — “Baines” — was his mother’s maiden name, but “Lyndon” wasn’t a family name. In fact, LBJ didn’t have a name for the first three months of his life. The man who would one day become the 36th President of the United States spent the first three months of his life just being called “Baby”. Of course, he couldn’t spend the rest of his life with the name “Baby”, so LBJ’s parents, Sam Ealy Johnson and Rebekah Baines Johnson, finally came to an agreement on what he would be called. Since LBJ was a far better storyteller than I will ever be, I’ll let him explain, courtesy of the LBJ Library’s always-incredible Oral History Project, as well as LBJ Library Director Mark K. Updegrove’s awesome book, Indomitable Will: LBJ In The Presidency (BOOK | KINDLE).
According to LBJ:
"I was three months old when I was named. My father and mother couldn’t agree on a name. The people my father liked were heavy drinkers — pretty rough for a city girl. She didn’t want me named after any of them.
Finally, there was a criminal lawyer — a country lawyer — named W.C. Linden. He would go on a drunk for a week after every case. My father liked him and he wanted to name me after him. My mother didn’t care for the idea but she said finally that it was alright, she would go along with it if she could spell the name the way she wanted to. So that is what happened.
[Later] I was campaigning for Congress. An old man with a white carnation in his lapel came up and said, ‘That was a very good speech. I want to vote for you like I always have. The only thing I don’t like about you is the way you spell your name.’
He then identified himself…as W.C. Linden.”
…but Bryan Cranston is going to reprise his role of LBJ from Broadway’s “All The Way” in an HBO version of the play, so if World War III doesn’t kill us all before then, that should be a nice distraction.
I think that retirement — being removed from the day-to-day politics, power, and constant action of the Presidency — is what killed LBJ more than his heart problems. LBJ actually took care of himself better when he was President, too; he ate better, he didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink as much, he was engaged in something every hour of every day. I think inactivity led to his death more than anything else.
I don’t think that Eugene McCarthy could have won the Democratic nomination in 1968 if LBJ had stayed in the campaign and ran for another term. As I mentioned in that earlier post about what I think would have happened if LBJ and Nixon had faced each other in the ‘68 election, Johnson, like any incumbent President, would have had significant advantages and as the head of the Democratic Party, he would have controlled the party throughout the process, so any challenge from fellow Democrats could have been handled pretty easily once he put the party apparatus into action and shaped the Democratic National Convention into whatever he might have needed it to be in the case of a floor fight. Plus, LBJ had a powerful campaign organization that was already familiar with a a primary fight (the unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination against John F. Kennedy in 1960) and a Presidential election (the massive popular vote and Electoral College victory in 1964).
There is also another thing that is frequently overlooked when people bring up Eugene McCarthy’s impressive showing against LBJ in the 1968 New Hampshire Primary. President Johnson actually wasn’t on the ballot in the New Hampshire Primary; he was a write-in candidate, partly for strategic reasons (to test the waters in case something like McCarthy’s strong showing in the primary were to happen). So while LBJ won 49% of the vote and McCarthy won an impressive 42% of the vote, I think it’s always important to note that Johnson was a write-in candidate. Still, McCarthy’s performance was impressive, no matter what, and it was a sign that LBJ was going to face a fight from anti-war advocates during primary season and that McCarthy couldn’t be taken lightly. McCarthy technically came in second place in the 1968 New Hampshire Democratic Primary, but it was basically considered a victory, and his strong showing definitely led Johnson to withdraw from the race.
Why didn’t McCarthy do better in the 1968 Democratic primaries once Johnson withdrew from the race? Well, to put it bluntly, Bobby Kennedy screwed him over. For several months prior to the New Hampshire Primary, anti-war activists urged RFK to challenge LBJ for the Democratic nomination, but Kennedy consistently declined to consider a challenge and openly voiced his support in favor of President Johnson’s re-election. Then Eugene McCarthy stunned LBJ and the Democratic Party with his showing in the New Hampshire Primary, and it became clear that there was a passionate anti-war voting bloc that could make a serious difference in the 1968 election. Despite shooting down for months about not entering the race and supporting the incumbent LBJ over his fellow anti-war advocate McCarthy, Kennedy jumped into the race just four days after the New Hampshire Primary.
I know this isn’t a very scholarly way to put it, but RFK pulled a real dick move by jumping into the race after McCarthy had done the legwork in New Hampshire and demonstrated that President Johnson was very vulnerable. When Kennedy announced his candidacy, he immediately started siphoning a lot of those anti-war votes that had propelled McCarthy to the cusp of an upset over an incumbent President in the New Hampshire Primary. Many of those voters saw Kennedy as more electable than McCarthy because he was, of course, a Kennedy, and as they battled each other during the primaries that followed, Johnson’s Vice President, Hubert H. Humphrey, joined the race and was basically seen as the mainstream candidate. To a lot of those young Democratic voters who had supported McCarthy and then bailed in favor of Kennedy once RFK declared his candidacy, HHH was a continuation of the Johnson Administration’s increasingly unpopular foreign policy. But the back-and-forth battle between RFK and McCarthy in many of the state primaries helped clear a path for Humphrey to take a nearly insurmountable lead in delegates as the 1968 Democratic National Convention approached. After winning the California Primary, Bobby Kennedy looked to have some momentum, but he was assassinated that night. In truth, RFK’s only chance at the nomination was probably if all of the candidates headed into the Democratic National Convention without anybody able to clinch the nomination on the first ballot and having a floor fight ensue. Even then, I believe it would have been unlikely for RFK to have been nominated by a Democratic National Convention that was still largely controlled by Lyndon Johnson’s party organization, which would have worked diligently to prevent Bobby Kennedy from being nominated as President. As for McCarthy, he ended up in second place in the delegate count at the Convention, but the battles between him and RFK during the primary season resulted in many of the delegates who had pledged to support Kennedy voting for anybody else besides McCarthy (Kennedy’s delegates were released from their pledge due to his death). Eugene McCarthy got a pretty raw deal in 1968 after being responsible for a major turning point in history with his near-defeat of President Johnson and the aftermath of the ‘68 New Hampshire Primary.
I agree — I think LBJ would have won in ‘68 if he had run. First of all, Hubert Horatio Humphrey, of all people, almost pulled off the victory over Richard Nixon in 1968. Humphrey lost the popular vote by a margin of just over 500,000 votes — in an election where George Wallace won nearly 10 million votes. Despite his Civil Rights accomplishments, I think Johnson would have neutralized Wallace in some of those Southern states. In fact, it’s very possible that a heavyweight like LBJ in the race would have kept George Wallace from launching a bid as serious as he actually did in 1968. Wallace won 46 Electoral votes (all of them being states of the Deep South) and I don’t think that would have happened with LBJ in the race.
Wallace was a big factor in the race, but another big factor was the battle for the Democratic nomination and the turbulence surrounding the primaries, RFK’s assassination, and the battles between Chicago police and anti-war protesters outside of the Democratic National Convention. If LBJ had been the candidate, there would have been no primary fight, and the DNC would have been much more disciplined. There definitely still would have been anti-war protests, but instead of seeming to add to the chaos of the Democrats’ nomination process, it would have come across differently.
And the biggest difference would have been the difference between Lyndon Baines Johnson on the campaign trail and Hubert H. Humphrey on the campaign trail. On television, LBJ often came across wooden and uninspiring, but he was something altogether different while campaigning. More importantly, LBJ wouldn’t have rolled over and just let Nixon get away with any Nixonian dirty tricks. LBJ could play just as dirty, and he would have if it meant the difference between four more years and a forced retirement. LBJ was the incumbent President of the United States and the head of the Democratic Party; he controlled the party apparatus would have known who to use the power of his office and his power of the Democratic Party to propel him to victory if it was kept close.
It definitely would have been closer than the 1964 election; LBJ wouldn’t have cruised to a landslide over Nixon in 1968 like he did over Barry Goldwater four years earlier, but I do think LBJ would have beat Nixon. In the election that we did get — a three-way race between Nixon, Humphrey, and Wallace — the Electoral College results were Nixon 301, Humphrey 191, Wallace 46 (270 votes needed to win). Nixon won the popular vote in 1968 over Humphrey by only a few hundred thousand more votes than Kennedy beat him in 1960 (one of the narrowest victories in American history) and George Wallace claimed 9.9 million votes. As I said, in my opinion, if LBJ had run in ‘68, Wallace either wouldn’t have run or he wouldn’t have been able to get ballot access in all 50 states. Either way, he wouldn’t have won 9.9 million votes and I don’t think he would have won any of the five states that he did actually win in ‘68 (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi). LBJ would have built a powerful voter registration and get out the vote organization in those Southern states with large African-American populations whose right to vote was signed into law and protected three years earlier by LBJ. I think that those new voters, in addition to the Democrats who remained Democratic voters in the South despite LBJ’s Civil Rights policy, would have put those states in the Democratic column. Wallace also won one of North Carolina’s 13 Electoral votes in ‘68.
If it was just LBJ vs. Nixon, I think LBJ would have won all of the states that Humphrey won (Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia) as well as the states that Wallace won (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi). I also think that LBJ would have won 11 of the 32 states that Nixon won majorities in over Humphrey (Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia). In many of the 32 states that Nixon won in the actual 1968 election, his margin of victory was slim and Wallace’s removal from the equation likely would have swung more votes into the Democratic column than the Republican, resulting in a swing of those 11 states. The popular vote margin would still be pretty close, but LBJ would win majorities in most of the major states (those with the most Electoral College votes). In a straight LBJ vs. Nixon matchup in 1968, I think the Electoral College result would be: LBJ 381, Nixon 157.
And, yes, this question motivated me to actually go back and re-figure the 1968 Presidential election’s Electoral College map state-by-state. Don’t say I never did anything for you guys.
That is such a GREAT question because the answer can go so many different ways and spur some fantastic debate. The Presidency is a difficult and terribly exhausting job every day and most Presidents have faced a lot of adversity throughout their terms simply because of the very nature of the position and its responsibilities. There are dozens of individual days that are hard to argue with if they are suggested by someone to be the most difficult single day faced by a President over the 225 years that the job has been in service.
I think that the day you suggested is undoubtedly near the top of the list, as are any of the days when a Vice President assumes the office upon the assassination or death from natural causes of the incumbent President, and November 22, 1963 was, of course, one of the darkest days in the nation’s history. The emotions and thoughts possessed by the people on Air Force One as LBJ took the oath office and they prepared to fly back to Washington, D.C. with JFK in a casket just a couple of hours after he arrived in Dallas on that same airplane very much alive are unimaginable. There are just no words for a tragedy of that magnitude, and, as you mentioned, the presence of a newly-widowed Jackie Kennedy, clearly in shock and standing in the crowded cabin of the plane with her husband’s blood and brain matter staining her clothing, adds a whole different dimension to the tragic day and was a hell of a way for someone to begin their Presidency. There was also the fact that nobody knew the scope of the assassination and whether there might be something even more sinister — an international conspiracy or a plot to decapitate the entire federal government — going on. Plus, LBJ was the only President to actually witness his predecessor’s assassination. As if a Presidential assassination isn’t shocking and traumatic enough, Johnson was only a couple of cars back in the motorcade. He saw what happened and he was taken to Parkland Hospital right behind JFK; LBJ caught a glimpse of the scene inside JFK’s limousine as the Secret Service past the vehicle in order to keep him protected inside the hospital; Johnson was in the building when Kennedy was officially pronounced dead. I’ve always thought that one of the strangest feelings ever experienced by a President had to have been when an aide entered the room where LBJ was being held inside Parkland Hospital and addressed him as “Mr. President” — the moment he realized that JFK was dead and that he was now President. Imagine that.
And yet, even with everything mentioned above, I think there are two other more difficult days faced by Presidents. One is April 12, 1945 — another day in which a President died in office and was succeeded by his Vice President. In this case, it was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died suddenly at his retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia, and was succeeded by Harry S Truman.
FDR was clearly dying when he won an unprecedented fourth term as President in 1944, and his health was declining noticeably. When he took the oath of office for his fourth term in January 1945, FDR was sworn in on the South Portico of the White House instead of at the U.S. Capitol. It was said that the inaugural festivities were scaled back because of World War II and that certainly played a part, but FDR’s failing health was also a factor. At just 557 words, Roosevelt’s Inaugural Address was the second-shortest in American history — only George Washington’s second Inaugural Address (March 4, 1793), which was 135 words long, was shorter than FDR’s fourth. After the physically taxing trip and summit with Stalin and Churchill at Yalta and meetings with other Allied leaders in February 1945 — a journey which would have been punishing for even a healthy person — FDR gave a report on the agreements to a Joint Session of Congress. At Yalta, officials from the other Allied delegations were alarmed by FDR’s appearance and when FDR gave his speech to Congress he did so from a seated position, apologizing for his “unusual posture” and noted that it was “easier for me not to have to carry about ten pounds of steel around on the bottom of my legs.” The reference to the leg braces he had worn since contracting polio in 1921 was the first time Roosevelt had ever publicly acknowledged his physical disability, and members of Congress now saw what those at the Yalta Conference had seen — FDR was gravely ill.
One person who did not realize how badly the President was ailing was the Vice President, Harry Truman. In 1944, President Roosevelt had dumped his Vice President, Henry Wallace, from the ticket, and seemingly put the decision of his running mate largely in the hands of the Democratic National Convention. In reality, Roosevelt was virtually positive that he would not survive his fourth term and he wasn’t simply choosing a Vice President — he was choosing a successor. Vice President Wallace didn’t cut it as a successor (not to FDR and definitely not to the leaders of the Democratic Party), and Truman steered the Convention towards Truman, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, and James F. Byrnes, a former Congressman, former Senator, former Supreme Court Justice, a longtime advisor-without-portfolio to FDR and the ultra-powerful director of the War Mobilization Board.
Roosevelt eventually decided that Truman was the guy he wanted and worked behind-the-scenes to get him nominated at the Convention despite a floor fight by passionate supporters of Wallace who wanted to keep him on the ticket and by Truman’s own reluctance to leave the Senate, a job he loved more than anything he had ever done in his life, for the Vice Presidency, which was powerless and boring and lacked even a hint of influence within Presidential Administrations at that point in history. Once elected and sworn in as Vice President, Truman was no different than any of the previous Vice Presidents — he had nothing to do, wasn’t included in on decisions or discussions of policy, and had almost no personal or professional relationship with President Roosevelt. The only thing of note that Truman did during his Vice Presidency was cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate to help his predecessor in the Vice Presidency, Henry Wallace, get confirmed as Secretary of Commerce. Truman spent most of his days on Capitol Hill, and was at having drinks with a small group of Congressmen and Senator in the office of House Speaker Sam Rayburn on April 12, 1945 when he got a call summoning him to the White House ASAP.
Truman wasn’t sure what was going on, but Allied troops were quickly closing in on Berlin that month from the west and the east, so it could have been just about anything. When he arrived at the White House, it was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who told him, quite bluntly, “Harry, the President is dead.” Despite FDR’s poor health, Truman was stunned. “Is there anything I can do for you?”, the new President asked Eleanor Roosevelt, and the new widow responded, “Is there anything we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now.”
That wasn’t an exaggeration. World War II was coming to a close in Europe and still raging in the Pacific. Within two-and-a-half weeks of Truman’s succession to the Presidency, Mussolini was captured and killed by his own people in Italy, Berlin fell to the Soviets, Hitler killed himself in his bunker, Germany surrendered, and the war ended in Europe. And, at some point shortly after Truman was sworn into office, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson briefed him on the work being done to build an atomic bomb. Truman — the only President to order a nuclear strike — was completely in the dark about the Manhattan Project and the goal of building a nuclear weapon until after he became President. With all of that to come, everything going in on the world, and the fact that he had suddenly succeeded the longest-serving President in American history — a man whose image was hanging in the houses of millions Americans next to an image of Jesus — in the midst of the bloodiest war in the history of the world is why Truman’s April 12, 1945 was a more difficult day than LBJ’s November 22, 1963. The day after he was sworn into office, Truman said to reporters, “I don’t know whether you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”
The other day that I would consider one of the single most difficult days experienced by a President doesn’t require much of an explanation because most of us remember it well. We lived through it and it’s tragically memorable in the same way that older generations remember November 22, 1963 or another day that was very difficult for a President, December 7, 1941 (the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor). No matter how I voted, or how I felt about George W. Bush when it came to other issues and his Presidency overall, I will never forget his poise during the days after September 11, 2001, which was without a doubt one of the toughest days any President has ever experienced. He was a bit unsteady on the day of the attacks, at least in his statements early in the day, but we were all unsteady. We didn’t know what the hell was going on, and the President was in the frustrating position of not being allowed by the Secret Service to return to Washington, D.C. until later in the evening. He was removed from the situation, forced to remain in the air aboard Air Force One as it flew across the country, protected by fighter jets, to a secure location in Nebraska. President Bush began to find his footing with his address to the nation that night from the Oval Office once he finally ordered to be taken home to Washington, and he was fantastic throughout the rest of that week, especially at the National Prayer Service and when he visited with the family members of victims and with rescue workers at Ground Zero.
Knowing how difficult 9/11 was for regular Americans like me, far removed from the horror in Manhattan, in Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon, I can’t imagine how hard that day was to the actual victims of the attacks, or those people connected to the victims. And it’s impossible to understand how hard September 11, 2001 was for the President of the United States, from the moment Andy Card whispered the news to him in that classroom in Sarasota, Florida until he finally went to sleep that night after a day of attacks on the country unlike any that any other President has ever faced. Like I said at the beginning of this answer (approximately 90,000 words ago), this is a great question because it has so many possible answers and opens up a very interesting debate. But in my opinion, no President had a more difficult single day than George W. Bush on September 11, 2001.
I don’t want to have this answer be an indication that I’m going to answer every message I have received on the Presidential rankings and/or debate or justify each individual ranking, but I do want to quickly make a point on this.
First of all, I never said that LBJ was 100% responsible for the passage of either the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act — credit belongs to the activists, to the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, to the moderate Republicans who offset the opposition by the Southern Democrats, and to many other people and politicians, including JFK. But it was Johnson, his political skills, and his mastery of legislative government who got the legislation through Congress and signed it. It was Johnson who saw that there was political value in using the national mood following Kennedy’s assassination along with the events of the Civil Rights Movement to recognize that the time was right to get the legislation passed. I don’t mean that he felt the time was right to grant equal rights — he had frequently noted that the time for action had long passed — but that, politically, the stars were aligned for actually being successful at getting something done. John F. Kennedy was a good leader with fantastic political skills, but he was overly cautious — especially with civil rights — and when it came to legislative success, Kennedy had not proven himself. Not as a member of Congress, and not as President.
President Kennedy did make an important and influential address on civil rights on June 11, 1963. His then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson made a speech that was quite similar on equal rights and race less than two weeks earlier, on Memorial Day, at Gettysburg. Is it possible that this was a coordinated roll-out of the Kennedy Administration’s civil rights policy or purely a direct response to the President taking command of the Alabama National Guard and order the desegregation of the University of Alabama when Alabama Governor George Wallace stood at the door to protect segregation? Sure, that’s possible. But considering how little Kennedy involved Johnson in policy, I doubt that it was coordinated, and even if it was, the President would have been out in front on the issue, not the Vice President.
So, is it possible that LBJ’s speech forced the issue? Vice President Biden spoke out on his support for same sex marriage in 2012, and it resulted in President Obama having to speak out and note that his position on the issue had evolved and that he now supported same sex marriage, as well. Obama and his staff didn’t want to have to cross that bridge yet, especially prior to the 2012 election, but they had to act because the VP acted. Perhaps the incident at the University of Alabama gave President Kennedy a reason to make that speech on June 11, 1963 and clearly state his position on civil rights because his Vice President — a man who was as Southern as the South gets — was out in front of him on the issue and had forced his hand.
On civil rights, John F. Kennedy believed the right things, but he was extremely cautious about actually taking the dramatic actions that were needed. Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement openly criticized him for this. And while the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were originally worried about LBJ and weren’t sure if they could trust him, especially once he assumed the Presidency, if you could ask any of them today who did more for civil rights or who they would rather have fighting for them when it came to actually achieving their goals, I am convinced their answer would be Lyndon B. Johnson.
In closing (I said this would be done quickly, but I got carried away), if you’re going to disagree or debate with me or anyone else (which is totally cool…seriously, I have no issues with that) and you’re going to bring up the other person’s “evidence”, you should definitely be solid when it comes to the main facts — I ranked LBJ at #5, not #6. That’s a big one, especially since you’re bringing up his positioning in my rankings. I hope that doesn’t like a petty attack at your comments because that’s not my intention and it’s why I’m sticking it at the end after my explanation. It’s just that with something like that, you’ve gotta come correct, for lack of a better phrase. Also, I didn’t list every accomplishment or every failure of every President in my rankings because I barely had the time and energy to do what I did do; going even deeper into would have resulted in every entry being 6,000 words long. Lyndon Johnson achieved more than just civil rights — few Presidents had more domestic accomplishments than President Johnson. But, let’s just say that civil rights was his “only” accomplishment — imagine gigantic quotation marks surrounding the word “only” — if civil rights was the “only” thing that LBJ achieved, isn’t that enough? Ask John Lewis or Dorothy Cotton or Joseph Lowery or Andrew Young or Diane Nash or C. T. Vivian how important the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were, and see what they thought about LBJ’s accomplishments.
36th President of the United States (1963-1969)
Full Name: Lyndon Baines Johnson
Born: August 27, 1908, near Stonewall, Texas
Political Party: Democratic
State Represented: Texas
Term: November 22, 1963-January 20, 1969 (Assumed the Presidency upon the death of John F. Kennedy)
Age at Inauguration: 55 years, 87 days
Administration: 44th (Completed the term of President Kennedy) and 45th
Congresses: 88th, 89th and 90th
Vice President: None (1963-1965) and Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Jr. (1965-1969)
Died: January 22, 1973, LBJ Ranch, near Johnson City, Texas
Age at Death: 64 years, 148 days
Buried: LBJ Ranch, near Johnson City, Texas
2012 Dead Presidents Ranking: 5 of 43 [↑1]
In 2012, many of my longtime readers were surprised that I had LBJ ranked #6 instead of #3, or even #1 as some people suspected I might put him due to my unabashed appreciation and frequent praise of his leadership. I noted then — as I am also noting now — that the distance between the Presidents ranked #4, #5, and #6 is almost non-existent. You can basically consider all three of those Presidents as tied for fourth place, but I couldn’t conceivably have a tie in my own personal rankings. There are no specific statistics or metrics or any sort of processes in determining my Presidential Rankings that would lead to a tie, so including one just because the Presidents ranked 4th, 5th, and 6th are basically interchangeable in my opinion would be a cop-out or just plain lazy. (With that said, while the Presidents ranked #4, #5, and #6 are separated by an almost imperceptible distance, the difference between those three Presidents and the President ranked #7 is pretty significant.) LBJ is a great President because of his domestic accomplishments and Civil Rights, even with the turmoil of the last few years of his Presidency and the drag that Vietnam places on his legacy. I am adamant that the passage of true, effective Civil Rights legislation during LBJ’s Presidency — legislation that was shepherded and piloted through Congress by Lyndon Johnson — is one of the great accomplishments in all of American History. I believe that LBJ did more for Civil Rights than anyone in American History — including Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. His leadership when it came to getting legislation passed through Congress so that he could sign it never receives the full appreciation that I feel it deserves, so I’ll continue fighting my own battle for it. With this year’s 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and next year’s 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Johnson’s legacy has received an infusion of attention, and that attention has led to a greater appreciation of LBJ’s leadership. The escalation of the Vietnam War undoubtedly casts shadows over Johnson’s accomplishments, but I believe Civil Rights will ultimately dominate discussion of LBJ’s overall legacy. The increase in attention and admiration due to the anniversaries of the Civil Rights legislation is why I have LBJ at #5 this year instead of #6, but again, I think the Presidents that I have ranked #4, #5, and #6 are interchangeable.
1948: Schlesinger Sr./Life Magazine: Not Ranked
1962: Schlesinger Sr./New York Times Magazine: Not Ranked
1982: Neal/Chicago Tribune Magazine: 12 of 38
1990: Siena Institute: 15 of 40
1996: Schlesinger Jr./New York Times Magazine: 14 of 39
2000: C-SPAN Survey of Historians: 10 of 41
2000: Public Opinion Poll: 19 of 41
2005: Wall Street Journal/Presidential Leadership: 18 of 40
2009: C-SPAN Survey of Historians: 11 of 42
2010: Siena Institute: 16 of 43
2011: University of London’s U.S. Presidency Centre: 11 of 40
When you can provide me some solid, definitive evidence that proves that Richard Nixon, Henry Cabot Lodge, Barry Goldwater, and “half of everyone else” were “convinced” that LBJ arranged the assassination of JFK, I’ll go ahead and start considering your theory.
More importantly, who is “everyone else”? Because if “half of everyone else” is convinced that LBJ planned JFK’s assassination, it seems like that would get more play in the history books and, oh, I don’t know, maybe be mentioned in LBJ’s biography somewhere before getting to signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I mean, “everyone else” sounds like a lot of people — in fact, it sounds like literally everyone on the planet in addition to Nixon, Goldwater, and Lodge — so if half of everybody on the planet was “convinced” (not “suspicious” or “curious”, but “convinced”!) that LBJ was culpable in John F. Kennedy’s assassination, you’d think that more people would mention it.
Then again, maybe you’re right and “half of everyone else” — literally billions of people — believe what you believe, but they just don’t want to say it out loud because it’s fucking ridiculous and they don’t want to sound like idiots.
When you provide that solid, definitive evidence, however, I’ll be the first person in line to shake your hand and apologize for my naivete. I don’t like being wrong about things, but it’ll be really cool to have communicated with the one person who had the genuine proof of a conspiracy that NOBODY has been able to deliver in the 50 years since November 22, 1963.
President Lyndon B. Johnson and Senator Richard Russell of Georgia
"Watch their hands, watch their eyes. Read eyes. No matter what a man is saying to you, it’s not as important as what you can read in his eyes. The most important thing a man has to tell you is what he’s not telling you; the most important thing he has to say is what he’s trying not to say." — Lyndon B. Johnson