Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
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Posts tagged "Lyndon Johnson"
The Presidency has made every man who occupied it, no matter how small, bigger than he was; and no matter how big, not big enough for its demands.
Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964

January 22, 1973: Walter Cronkite breaks into programming to announce that former President Lyndon B. Johnson has died in Texas at the age of 64.

Cronkite reports the details of LBJ’s death as he receives them live on-the-air during a telephone call with LBJ aide Tom Johnson.

Our enemies have always made the same mistake. In my lifetime — in depression and in war — they have awaited our defeat. Each time, from the secret places of the American heart, came forth the faith they could not see or that they could not even imagine. It brought us victory. And it will again. For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest sleeping in the unplowed ground. Is our world gone? We say “Farewell.” Is a new world coming? We welcome it — and we will bend it to the hopes of man.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1965

I now know the difference between a cactus and a caucus — in a cactus, all the pricks are on the outside.

Lyndon B. Johnson, to reporters, after meeting with the Senate’s Democratic Caucus following LBJ’s election as Vice President, January 1961

As a Southerner, I am happy to know that a fellow Southerner is in the White House who is concerned about civil rights…LBJ is a man of great ego and great power. He is a pragmatist and a man of pragmatic compassion. It just may be that he’s going to go where John Kennedy couldn’t.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., suggesting that LBJ seemed far more willing to fight for civil rights than JFK ever had, following a one-on-one meeting with President Johnson less than two weeks after the Kennedy Assassination

Could you point me in the direction of some good ~academic articles you'd recommend on LBJ passing the Civil Rights Act or the effect of the 72 McGovern campaign? I'm trying to decide which one I want to write term paper on, thanks!
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I can’t really give you any articles off the top of my head, but there’s a really great book that was recently released by the University Press of Florida which is an academic study of LBJ’s work for Civil Rights — Freedom’s Pragmatist: Lyndon Johnson and Civil Rights by Sylvia Ellis. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
what is your favorite book about LBJ? I'm really interested in learning more about his life and presidency, and was wondering if you could recommend any good books about him.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

The definitive study of Lyndon Johnson is Robert Caro’s magnificent series — The Years of Lyndon Johnson — which is up to four volumes so far: The Path To Power, Means of Ascent, Master of the Senate, and The Passage of Power.  I don’t know if there has ever been a more detailed series of books ever written about one person, but it is a must-read.  It’s takes a commitment to dive into the series since Caro’s almost spent as much time writing the books as it took LBJ to actually live the story told by them and it’s not until the most recent volume (The Passage of Power) that Caro begins delving into LBJ as President.  I’m hoping we get the fifth (and final?) volume sometime this decade, but reading the entire series will make it feel like you know Lyndon Johnson.

For those who, unlike me, actually have a personal life, you may not want to devote every waking hour to reading about LBJ via Mr. Caro’s masterpiece.  In that case, I’d highly recommend Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.  Goodwin has proven her ability over the past couple of decades as one of our great historians, and I think Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream is her best work.  When LBJ left office, he prepared to write his autobiography, The Vantage Point.  LBJ hired Goodwin to help him research and write the book, but he wanted it to sound Presidential or statesmanlike — basically, the opposite of the candid, off-the-cuff LBJ that was always the most fascinating.  The result was that The Vantage Point is stiff and unnecessarily formal — like when LBJ would give a speech on television via prepared remarks rather than the barn-burning, passionate campaign speeches that he would give extemporaneously while on the campaign trail.

After LBJ died, Goodwin culled together the raw notes and anecdotes from hours of working alongside of and talking to Johnson for his autobiography, and she put together Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream — perhaps one of the most personal biographies ever written about a President.  Johnson’s candor, his brilliance, his incredible political intuition, his deep insecurities, and everything that made him so remarkable and/or frustrating to those who came face-to-face with him, worked for him, and battle against him shine brightly through in Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.  Goodwin basically wrote the book that LBJ should have written because his voice is clear on each and every page.  It’s certainly one of the best books ever written about a President, and it’s enhanced not only by Goodwin’s skill as an historian, but because of the unique access she had to LBJ from the time he left the White House.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
since any of the accomplishments they made were tainted by vietnam do you think nixon would have had as good of a domestic record if he had been able to serve as long as lbj did? seems like lbj is thought of better even if you take watergate out of the equation so is it partly due to lbj having more time in the white house?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

There are an awful lot of “What ifs?” in that question, but there is one much bigger problem with your question:  Richard Nixon actually WAS President longer than LBJ was.  It wasn’t that big of a difference, but the fact is that Nixon’s Presidency lasted about five months longer than Lyndon Johnson’s Administration.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What's your opinion of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.? I must admit that, despite his intellect, he grates on me because he seems such an unapologetic partisan for the Kennedys, a keeper of the Camelot flame. To put all my cards on the table, though, I truly admire what LBJ accomplished, and Schlesinger's take that JFK would've accomplished "Great Society"-esque legislation "anyway" if only he had lived seems rather presumptuous to me. Compared to LBJ, Kennedy had a dismal record with Congress.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I completely agree with you.  JFK had legislation bottled up in Congress for weeks and weeks before he died.  LBJ got a lot of that legislation moving again within days of becoming President.  Had he lived, I don’t think JFK would have passed anything close to the amount of legislation that LBJ pushed through Congress.  I would have liked to have asked Schlesinger when exactly Kennedy was planning on beginning to accomplish some of the legislative victories that he was so certain that JFK would achieve.  I respect Schlesinger as a historian, but I definitely agree with you about him being a Kennedy partisan.

(This is coming from the guy who posted approximately 800 things about LBJ to celebrate his 105th birthday last month.)   

Here is a bundle of night-reading waiting for President Lyndon B. Johnson on his bed in the White House on October 12, 1966.
Hopefully you have enjoyed the night-reading about LBJ that I’ve posted tonight to commemorate President Johnson’s 105th birthday.  If something got lost in the shuffle due to the number of posts tonight, you can easily browse all of my Lyndon Johnson content by searching the tag “LBJ”.

Here is a bundle of night-reading waiting for President Lyndon B. Johnson on his bed in the White House on October 12, 1966.

Hopefully you have enjoyed the night-reading about LBJ that I’ve posted tonight to commemorate President Johnson’s 105th birthday.  If something got lost in the shuffle due to the number of posts tonight, you can easily browse all of my Lyndon Johnson content by searching the tag “LBJ”.

Here are the graves of Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson in the family cemetery at the LBJ Ranch near Johnson City, Texas.  I believe these photos are from my first visit to the LBJ Ranch, which was in May 2010.

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At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, a young man from Texas won a gold medal in heavyweight boxing while an old man from Texas proudly watched from the White House in Washington, D.C.

As a teenager growing up in Houston’s rough Fifth Ward, George Foreman was spending his days and nights fighting in the streets and committing petty crimes.  Foreman had little education, few role models, no direction and found the crippling poverty that he lived in to be unbearable.  Then, in 1965, he heard of the Job Corps.

One of the foundations of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War On Poverty, the Job Corps was created in 1964 to provide vocational training and technical education, free of charge, to students aged 16 through 24.  For many young Americans, the Job Corps as an opportunity.  For George Foreman, it was a path to superstardom and success.

After beginning his Job Corps training in Oregon, Foreman was stationed at a center in California where a Job Corps supervisor named Doc Broadus encouraged the 6’4” Texan to consider boxing.  Just three years after he signed up for the centerpiece program of LBJ’s Great Society, George Foreman was representing his country in the Olympics. 

To this day, Foreman credits the Job Corps for saving his life.  Later, he would proudly declare that “Job Corps took me from the mean streets and out of a nightmare lifestyle into a mode where the most incredible dreams came true.”

Following Foreman’s gold medal victory at the 1968 Olympics, he was invited to the White House by President Johnson and became a proud symbol of a Great Society success story.  At the White House, President Johnson asked Foreman when he thought he’d win the world championship and Foreman recalled that “I told him I hoped it would be quick, as I needed the money.  He laughed about that.”

As LBJ headed into retirement in Texas, George Foreman embarked on a successful professional boxing career and with a 37-0 record, he prepared to fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship against the undefeated champion — Joe Frazier.  Foreman started going by the nickname “The Fighting Corpsman”, paying tribute to his Job Corps roots because “it had been President Johnson’s Job Corps which changed my direction in life.  I thought all those Job Corps men out there would see that one among them was making it, and maybe it would help them believe they could as well.”

The Fighting Corpsman was a heavy underdog on January 22, 1973 as he challenged Joe Frazier for the world heavyweight championship in Kingston, Jamaica.  Most boxing reporters and students of the game thought that the match wouldn’t last very long and they were correct.  Foreman dominated Frazier, knocking him down six times in two rounds before the referee finally stepped in and stopped the beating.  As millions watched the fight on television, sportscaster Howard Cosell made one of the most famous calls in history, “Down goes Frazier!  Down goes Frazier!  Down goes Frazier!”.  At just 24 years old, George Foreman — the Fighting Corpsman — was the heavyweight champion of the world.

The victory was George Foreman’s, but no one would have taken more pride in the results of that fight than the architect of the program that turned Foreman’s life around, Lyndon B. Johnson.  Sadly, Johnson never saw the fight.  Just hours earlier on the very day that Foreman won the title in Jamaica, Lyndon Johnson suffered a fatal heart attack at the LBJ Ranch near Johnson City, Texas.  As fans were filing into the arena in Jamaica, Lyndon Johnson died en route to a hospital in Texas.

For the new champion, the victory was bittersweet.  “I felt robbed that night while winning it as I had hoped he would be able to read what happened in Jamaica which could never have been possible had he not had that Job Corps idea and that it would include me.”  In 1983, George Foreman donated the championship belt that he won on the day of LBJ’s death to the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas where it is on display today — a memento from a coincidental day 38 years ago when two Texans were united by accomplishment and cemented in history.

One of the greatest photos of a President, along with the famous “Loneliest Job” photo of John F. Kennedy, is this photograph of an anguished Lyndon Johnson listening to a recorded report about Vietnam from his son-in-law, Charles Robb (later a Senator and Governor of Virginia), who was serving there.
Vietnam crippled LBJ’s Presidency, turned the people against him, and killed the Great Society.  When Johnson lost the people, he lost the will to fight, and he lost the will to live.  He dropped out of the 1968 Presidential race and went home to Texas where, “They know when you’re sick and care when you die.”

Richard Nixon, Johnson’s immediate successor and a President who knew something about heartbreak and failure, was among the best of those who tried to put LBJ’s last years in perspective:
"I think President Johnson died of a broken heart, I really do.  Here’s Johnson, this big, strong, intelligent, tough guy, practically getting so emotional that he’d almost cry, because his critics didn’t appreciate him.  He, till the very last, thought that he might be able to win them.  And the point was, rather than have them love him, he should have tried to do what he could have done very well — have them respect him.  And in the end he lost.  He neither gained the love nor retained the respect.”
It’s tough to love a guy like Lyndon Baines Johnson.  His own personality and Vietnam made it even more difficult.  But he does not get enough respect, even among historians who agree that he is shafted when it comes to his domestic accomplishments.  LBJ did more for Civil Rights than any other President.  Yes, I said, ANY other President.  Even Lincoln.  Lincoln did some great things.  Lincoln helped free the slaves.  But if Lincoln took off the shackles, LBJ enacted laws that protected their freedom.  Not just their freedom, either.  Our freedom.  You are all affected, every day, by something that Lyndon Johnson did.  If you don’t think so, tell me your daily schedule and I’ll give you an example.
On his 105th birthday, I’m not asking you to love Lyndon Johnson.  But I wouldn’t have posted an avalanche of LBJ content on his birthday if I didn’t.  I just hope you take the time to respect what he did, and that’s all I think he would ask of you, too.  Then he’d probably cuss at you and squeeze your arm and kick you in the shin and tell you to go raise hell.

One of the greatest photos of a President, along with the famous “Loneliest Job” photo of John F. Kennedy, is this photograph of an anguished Lyndon Johnson listening to a recorded report about Vietnam from his son-in-law, Charles Robb (later a Senator and Governor of Virginia), who was serving there.

Vietnam crippled LBJ’s Presidency, turned the people against him, and killed the Great Society.  When Johnson lost the people, he lost the will to fight, and he lost the will to live.  He dropped out of the 1968 Presidential race and went home to Texas where, “They know when you’re sick and care when you die.”

image

Richard Nixon, Johnson’s immediate successor and a President who knew something about heartbreak and failure, was among the best of those who tried to put LBJ’s last years in perspective:

"I think President Johnson died of a broken heart, I really do.  Here’s Johnson, this big, strong, intelligent, tough guy, practically getting so emotional that he’d almost cry, because his critics didn’t appreciate him.  He, till the very last, thought that he might be able to win them.  And the point was, rather than have them love him, he should have tried to do what he could have done very well — have them respect him.  And in the end he lost.  He neither gained the love nor retained the respect.”

It’s tough to love a guy like Lyndon Baines Johnson.  His own personality and Vietnam made it even more difficult.  But he does not get enough respect, even among historians who agree that he is shafted when it comes to his domestic accomplishments.  LBJ did more for Civil Rights than any other President.  Yes, I said, ANY other President.  Even Lincoln.  Lincoln did some great things.  Lincoln helped free the slaves.  But if Lincoln took off the shackles, LBJ enacted laws that protected their freedom.  Not just their freedom, either.  Our freedom.  You are all affected, every day, by something that Lyndon Johnson did.  If you don’t think so, tell me your daily schedule and I’ll give you an example.

On his 105th birthday, I’m not asking you to love Lyndon Johnson.  But I wouldn’t have posted an avalanche of LBJ content on his birthday if I didn’t.  I just hope you take the time to respect what he did, and that’s all I think he would ask of you, too.  Then he’d probably cuss at you and squeeze your arm and kick you in the shin and tell you to go raise hell.