Facts and Events
Lyndon Baines Johnson (August 27, 1908 – January 22, 1973), often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States (1963–1969), a position he assumed after his service as the 37th Vice President (1961–1963). Johnson, a Democrat from Texas, served as a United States Representative from 1937 to 1949 and as a United States Senator from 1949 to 1961, including six years as Senate Majority Leader, two as Senate Minority Leader and two as Senate Majority Whip. He campaigned unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960, but ran for Vice President with John F. Kennedy heading the ticket for the 1960 presidential election. After their election, Johnson succeeded Kennedy following his assassination on November 22, 1963; he completed Kennedy's term and was elected President in his own right in the 1964 election, winning by a large margin over Barry Goldwater. He is one of four people who have served in both offices of the executive branch as well as in both houses of Congress.
Johnson was strongly supported by the Democratic Party, and as President he designed the "Great Society" legislation upholding civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, aid to education, the arts, urban and rural development, and his "War on Poverty". Assisted in part by a growing economy, the War on Poverty helped millions of Americans rise above the poverty line during Johnson's presidency. Civil rights bills signed by Johnson banned racial discrimination in public facilities, interstate commerce, the workplace, and housing; and the voting rights act guaranteed full voting rights for citizens of all races. With the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the country's immigration system was reformed and all national origin quotas were removed. Johnson was renowned for his domineering, sometimes abrasive, personality and the "Johnson treatment" – his aggressive coercion of powerful politicians in order to advance legislation.
Johnson infamously, though reluctantly, escalated American involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted Johnson the power to use military force in Southeast Asia without having to ask for an official declaration of war. The number of American military personnel in Vietnam increased dramatically, from 16,000 advisors in non-combat roles in 1963, to 550,000 in early 1968, many in combat roles. American casualties soared and the peace process bogged down. Growing unease with the war stimulated a large, angry antiwar movement based especially on university campuses in the U.S. and abroad.
Johnson faced further troubles when summer riots broke out in most major cities after 1965, and crime rates soared, as his opponents raised demands for "law and order" policies. While he began his presidency with widespread approval, support for Johnson declined as the public became further upset with both the war and the growing violence at home. The Democratic Party split in multiple feuding factions, and after Johnson did poorly in the 1968 New Hampshire primary, he ended his bid for reelection. Republican Richard Nixon was elected to succeed him, as the New Deal coalition that had dominated presidential politics for 36 years collapsed. After he left office in January 1969, Johnson returned to his Texas ranch, where he died of a heart attack on January 22, 1973.
Historians argue that Johnson's presidency marked the peak of modern liberalism in the United States after the New Deal era. Johnson is ranked favorably by some historians because of his domestic policies.