Lyndon B. Johnson

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Lyndon B. Johnson in March 1964
Signature of Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon Baines Johnson (born August 27, 1908 in Stonewall , Texas , † January 22, 1973 ibid), also called LBJ because of his initials , was an American politician of the Democratic Party and from 1963 to 1969 the 36th  President of the United States . Before that, he represented the state of Texas in the US House of Representatives from 1937 to 1949 and in the US Senate from 1949 to 1961 . In the Senate, he was also chairman of the democratic parliamentary group from 1953. From 1961 he held the office of Vice President under John F. Kennedy . On the day of his assassination , November 22, 1963, Johnson was sworn in as the new US President on board Air Force One . Johnson ended the remaining 14 months of Kennedy's term in office and was confirmed in office by the largest popular vote majority in US history in the November 1964 presidential election .

Political importance

The centerpiece of Johnson's domestic policy was the Great Society , a large-scale program of social policy reform. Several civil and social reforms in the United States have been promoted under Johnson's leadership as part of the Great Society :

They managed to cut the number of US citizens living in poverty by about half during Johnson's reign; the Medicare and Medicaid programs made health insurance available to broad strata of US citizens for the first time. Johnson also worked hard to improve the education (system), environmental protection, gun controls and consumer protection.

In terms of foreign policy, the Vietnam War dominated Johnson's tenure. Divided into a communist north and an anti-communist south , Vietnam was initially the scene of a civil war. His predecessors had already been involved in the military to prevent the threatened takeover of South Vietnam, which is allied with the USA, by the north, which is supported by the Eastern bloc . Johnson expanded this commitment massively. Since the Tonkin incident of August 1964 and the dispatch of American troops from March 1965, the USA intervened directly in the war. With the Tonkin resolution on August 7, 1964, the President and thus the executive were authorized by both Houses "to take all necessary measures to ward off armed attacks against US troops and to prevent future aggression". This practically meant a free hand for Johnson's presidential war policy. By 1968, the number of US soldiers in Vietnam reached over 500,000. With the length of the war, rising numbers of victims and rising costs, resistance to Johnson's Vietnam policy rose in the USA from 1967, especially among students. The public accepted the consequences of the war less and less and questioned the purpose of the American war effort. Johnson refused to withdraw from engagement in Southeast Asia; however, he protested against even tougher military action such as the use of nuclear weapons . Before the presidential election in November 1968 , Johnson decided not to run again. Until the end of his tenure in January 1969, he pushed ahead with further civil rights laws and reforms as part of the Great Society program. From May 1968 he began peace talks with North and South Vietnam; these were continued until the beginning of 1973 under his successor Richard Nixon . Johnson arranged for the bombing of North Vietnam to be stopped for the most part (and completely in October 1968) in March 1968 and rejected requests by the military to send more soldiers to Vietnam.

Historians primarily recognize Johnson's domestic achievements. His reforms brought a number of lasting improvements in civil rights and social affairs. Possibly he underestimated the combat strength and willingness of the North Vietnamese troops and the resistance of the changing US society to the Vietnam War (see also anti-war movement ).

Life to the presidency

Childhood, adolescence and studies

Lyndon B. Johnson at the age of seven (1915)

Lyndon Baines Johnson was born on August 27, 1908 in Stonewall , Texas, to a farming couple. His parents were Sam Ealy Johnson (1877-1937), who temporarily held a seat in the Texas House of Representatives , and Rebekah Baines Johnson (1881-1958). Johnson had a total of four younger siblings: a brother named Sam Houston Johnson (1914–1978) and three sisters: Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt (1910–1978), Josefa Johnson White Moss (1912–1961) and Lucia Johnson Alexander (1916–1997). Johnson's paternal grandparents had settled in Stonewall, Texas as early as the 1850s . Lyndon Johnson grew up in a very poor family. Looking back at his childhood, Johnson once said, "Poverty was so widespread where I grew up that we didn't even know it existed." In 1913, the Johnsons left their farm in Stonewall and moved a few miles to Johnson City , where young Lyndon attended Johnson City High School . In 1924 he graduated from high school with success. In the same year, after applying unsuccessfully for a place at a teaching college, he decided to go to California with five friends . Johnson spent a year there and did various jobs. He was employed as a clerk in a courtroom, a job that a relative had given him. In 1925 Johnson returned to his native Texas, where he worked for a road construction company for another two years.

In 1927 he began studying at the teachers' college in San Marcos , which he financed with teaching activities for Mexican-American children. In 1931 he successfully completed his studies. He then taught as a teacher in Pearsall and in some high schools in the city of Houston .

Previous political career

Entry into politics and Congressman

Lyndon B. Johnson in naval uniform in 1942

In November 1931, Congressman Richard M. Kleberg Johnson offered to work for him in Washington DC. Johnson accepted the secretary position because his career as a teacher did not seem promising to him, as the wages in the public sector were very low due to the global economic crisis . Johnson worked in Kleberg's office for three years, until 1934. During this time he was able to gain some experience of working in Congress . On his return trip to Texas he met Claudia Alta Taylor , called Lady Bird Johnson (1912-2007), whom he married on November 17, 1934 in San Antonio , Texas . After the wedding, the couple went to Mexico for their honeymoon . Lady Bird gave birth to two daughters: Lynda Bird Johnson (born March 19, 1944) and Luci Baines Johnson (born July 2, 1947).

His enthusiasm for President Roosevelt's reform policies soon brought him to the Democratic Party . Roosevelt fought the Great Depression , which shaped the economic situation in the USA in the 1930s. In 1935 Johnson was appointed director of the National Youth Administration , an institution designed to help young people and students in need find new jobs. After Johnson held the post for two years, he gave it up to run for the House of Representatives . After the death of James P. Buchanan , who had previously held that mandate, a new election was necessary to fill Buchanan's place. Johnson won the election and entered the US House of Representatives on April 10, 1937 . During his campaign, Johnson supported President Roosevelt's popular policies and eventually prevailed over nine competitors. A year later he was re-elected in a regular election in the House of Representatives. Since then, Johnson has been re-elected as a member of parliament every two years up to and including 1946. During his time in the House of Representatives in 1938, he played a key role in the so-called Operation Texas , which enabled Jewish citizens to legally escape from Nazi Germany and other areas occupied by the German Reich to the United States.

Lyndon B. Johnson as a US Senator from Texas in the early 1950s

In 1941 he ran for a seat in the Senate for the first time and was narrowly defeated by the Texas Governor W. Lee O'Daniel at the primary level . He may have been the victim of election fraud.

After the USA entered the Second World War (December 1941) he went as an officer in the US Navy and asked Navy Minister James V. Forrestal for a combat mission . Instead, he was initially entrusted with inspection tasks and in 1942 President Roosevelt sent him to New Guinea to obtain information on the situation of American troops . There Johnson suffered life-threatening pneumonia . After his return home, seven more pneumonia and other respiratory diseases followed between 1943 and 1955. In July 1942, President Roosevelt had all members of the House of Representatives who served in the military exempted so that they could resume their political activities. That ended Johnson's military service. From 1942 he was chairman of a sub-committee in the naval committee of the House of Representatives.

During this time, the entrepreneurial career of his wife Lady Bird Johnson began, which Lyndon B. Johnson significantly promoted through his political influence. Lady Bird Johnson had bought a small radio station in 1943, which Lyndon B. Johnson's contacts with the Federal Communications Commission immediately granted considerable advantages and became financially successful. Lyndon B. Johnson also campaigned regularly for companies from his home country that featured extensive advertising on his wife's channels. Lady Bird Johnson became a multi-millionaire.

Senator and Majority Leader

After his six-year tenure in the Senate, O'Daniel did not seek his mandate again. Johnson therefore decided no longer for the House of Representatives, but to run again for the Senate. In November 1948 he then made the leap to the Senate. This Senate election was preceded by a highly controversial intra-party primary against Coke R. Stevenson , in which fraud was involved and which he won by an extremely narrow margin. In fact, the first results on election night saw Stevenson in the lead with almost 20,000 votes. However, as the local party boss George Parr from South Texas smuggled in several thousand forged ballot papers, Stevenson's lead shrank and finally Johnson was declared the winner with an 87-vote lead. Jim Wells County's electoral commission chief Luis Salas later stated in an interview with historian Robert Caro about the vote count: "If the votes weren't for Johnson, I made them votes for Johnson." The executive committee of the Democrats of Texas voted - also extremely tight - with 29:28 votes in favor of accepting the result. In the ensuing legal battle, Johnson, who was represented by the later Supreme Court Justice, Abe Fortas , was ultimately victorious. This earned him the nickname "Landslide (landslide) Lyndon" for a long time. Since Texas at that time, unlike today, leaned extremely towards the Democratic Party, the intra-party primaries for political offices were the decisive hurdle for the candidates. In the end, the actual election was seen as more of a formality, as Republican candidates were usually clearly inferior. Often the Republicans even refrained from applying for their own due to the lack of opportunities. In the Senate elections in 1954 and 1960, Johnson was therefore confirmed as the representative of his state without any problems. However, since he had been elected US Vice President in 1960, he no longer accepted this mandate.

In the Senate, he proved to be a very efficient parliamentarian and from 1953, as the leader of the democratic parliamentary group (from 1955 as the Majority Leader ), gained a degree of importance and influence that actually went far beyond this office. His duties included drawing up timetables for new laws and working with President Eisenhower on domestic policy issues. This usually worked smoothly - Eisenhower was a Republican, but he also pursued goals of the Democratic Party. In 1954 he successfully introduced the Johnson Amendment , which prevented tax-privileged non-profit organizations from getting involved financially in election campaigns. Johnson was also instrumental in drafting the Civil Rights Act of 1957 , which is considered the first civil rights law in the United States after the abolition of slavery around a hundred years earlier . With Southern Senators almost unanimously opposed to the passing of a civil rights law, the 1957 Civil Rights Act was weakened to the point where it was virtually unusable. Johnson had agreed to this watered-down drafting of the law, unlike later in the presidential office, because he feared a split in his party. As a member of the Armed Forces Committee and co-founder and chairman of the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee , he managed to sharpen his public profile. On July 2, 1955, Johnson, 46, suffered a serious heart attack . This forced him to take a political break lasting several months. He did not return to Washington until January 1956.

Vice President

President John F. Kennedy (standing right) with Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson

1960 presidential election

In the summer of 1960, Johnson was run as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidential election . He had financed the election campaign with funds from his wife's company. However, Johnson had to realize that he was not up to the greater popularity of John F. Kennedy. After Kennedy was officially nominated for the presidential nomination, the latter asked Johnson if he wanted to become vice president , an offer Johnson accepted. To this day there has been discussions about why Kennedy Johnson offered this and why Johnson accepted second place on the political floor. Some historians believe that Kennedy wanted him as his deputy out of respect and courtesy, given that Johnson was the Senate majority leader. Despite the reservations of Robert Kennedy , the brother of John F. Kennedy who campaigned, it became clear that the decision to accept Johnson was a trump card for the future president. Johnson fought with great commitment in the election campaign for Kennedy and was primarily responsible for the fact that the Democrats won several southern states whose voters were rather skeptical of Kennedy. This was especially true in Johnson's home state of Texas. Ultimately, Kennedy and Johnson won the election against Republican candidate Richard Nixon , who was Eisenhower's vice president from 1953 to 1961 . Kennedy received 303 electoral votes, while Nixon received only 219 votes. The inauguration of Kennedy and Johnson took place on January 20, 1961 in Washington.

Term of office (1961–1963)

Johnson (right) shakes hands with a US soldier during his visit to Berlin in August 1961, shortly after the Wall was built

As Vice President, Kennedy entrusted Johnson with two major responsibilities: He was given the oversight of the American space program, which was to implement Kennedy's goal of bringing a man to land on the moon by the end of the decade. He has also been named chairman of the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity . Since hardly any finances were allocated to this body, however, it was in fact ineffective. The Johnson biographer Robert Caro quotes Johnson himself as saying: "I have no budget and I have no power, I have nothing". Despite his experience in the legislative process, Johnson was rarely consulted by Kennedy in this area and was banned from important Cabinet meetings. Overall, however, Kennedy was only able to get around a third of his program through Congress. Towards the end of 1963, the "Bobby Baker Affair", a corruption scandal in which Johnson's closest confidante, Bobby Baker, who was so close to the Vice President that he was nicknamed "Little Lyndon", threatened to prematurely end Johnson's political career break up. "My future is behind me," Johnson told friends. Only after Kennedy's murder was the investigation stopped.

After the Berlin Wall was built , Kennedy sent his deputy to Berlin in August 1961 to get an idea of ​​the situation. Despite the rejection of the building of the wall, the USA made it clear that it did not want to risk a nuclear war . However, the number of American forces stationed in Berlin was increased significantly. Johnson made further trips to Scandinavia , Canada and South Vietnam . According to the Johnson biographer Robert Caro, Johnson was cut off from important foreign policy issues by the president. Kennedy did not want to give his deputy too much power, as Johnson was considered to be very politically adept and the presidential advisers feared that Johnson might control everything and that he could be given the highest office of the state if he were given too many powers. As a result, Kennedy and his staff were careful not to expose the Vice President too much. For example, the New York Times only noted in a newspaper report during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 that Vice President Johnson was “also present at the crisis meetings ".

Presidency (1963–1969)

Lyndon B. Johnson swearing in on Air Force One a few hours after the assassination attempt on Kennedy. Photo by Cecil W. Stoughton
Johnson on the phone in the Oval Office , 1964

Assumption of office

On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy visited the city of Dallas, Texas . While driving through the city center, he was shot dead by an assassin in his open car . Johnson followed in another car, initially not realizing that Kennedy was hit. He found out about the president's death in the hospital. After this was officially established, Johnson (then 55 years old) was sworn in as the new president by Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes two hours later on board Air Force One , before the plane returned with him, Jacqueline Kennedy and her husband's body Washington, DC . When the plane landed there that evening, the new president made a brief statement at the airport:

“This is a sad time for all people. We have suffered a loss that cannot be weighed. For me, it is a deep personal tragedy. I know that the world shares the sorrow that Mrs. Kennedy and her family bear. I want to do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help - and God's. "

“This is a sad time for all people. We have suffered a loss that cannot be measured. For me personally, this is a deep tragedy. I know the world shares the sadness of Mrs. Kennedy and her family. I will do my best. That's all i can do I ask for your help - and that of God. "

Out of consideration for Jacqueline Kennedy, the new President did not begin to use the Oval Office , the President's office in the White House , for his official business until a week later . On December 7, 1963, he moved into the White House with his wife and two daughters after the Kennedys left it.

One of his first acts was to set up the Warren Commission to investigate the Kennedy assassination.

In his first address to Congress on November 27, 1963, Johnson said he would dedicate his presidency to Kennedy's legacy. But it is not only about solving the attack, but also about improving living conditions in the United States and swiftly passing the civil rights law initiated by Kennedy . Even under his leadership, the following still applies: "This nation will keep its obligations from South Vietnam to West Berlin."

Among the numerous conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy's assassination is that it was a Johnson coup . There is no evidence or serious evidence of this. Johnson himself told an ABC journalist in 1968 that he suspected Fidel Castro behind the attack: "Kennedy tried to catch Castro, but Castro was the first to catch him". This lead was not followed up for fear of war.

After the Kennedy assassination, he kept all members of his predecessor's cabinet . Also, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy was in office, although both politicians parted mutual personal dislike. Robert Kennedy resigned in September 1964 and ran successfully for the US Senate in New York after his hopes of being declared a runner-up by Johnson for the presidential term had not been fulfilled. Some of the ministers appointed by John F. Kennedy remained in office until the end of Johnson's presidency in 1969 (see Lyndon B. Johnson Cabinet ). The appointment of a new Vice President was initially not possible, since before the adoption of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution in 1967, this position could only be filled by presidential elections every four years. As a result, Johnson served without a deputy for the first 14 months of his presidency.

1964 presidential election

Johnson in a campaign appearance in September 1964
1964 presidential campaign logo

When the next presidential election was due on November 3, 1964 , Johnson announced in advance his Great Society program , which provided for comprehensive social reforms in civil rights, poverty alleviation, education, health care and environmental protection. At the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City in late August 1964, the Democratic Party delegates unanimously declared him a presidential candidate. The Republican Party sent Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater into the race. During the election campaign, Johnson found popular support for his social policy program; he portrayed Goldwater, partly through negative campaigning , as an extremist who could embroil the US in a nuclear war. Johnson's election and advertising slogan was henceforth All the way with LBJ ("all the way with LBJ"). In the election, Johnson won 486 of the 538 electoral votes in Electoral College and Goldwater only 52 electoral votes (some southern states as well as Goldwater's home state Arizona). Johnson achieved a majority in 44 of the 50 states and the federal capital Washington, DC , while Goldwater only achieved a majority in five southern states and his home state.

Judging by the popular vote , Johnson received 61.1 percent of the votes cast and Goldwater 38 percent. It was the highest victory in American history by ratio of votes. 95 percent of African Americans voted for Johnson, probably because of his civil rights program and his plea for equal rights for the black population.

Johnson nominated Senator Hubert H. Humphrey from Minnesota for the vacant position of Vice President since the Kennedy assassination . Johnson's re-swearing in and Vice President Humphrey's inauguration took place on January 20, 1965 in Washington, DC .

The Democratic Party was also able to record significant gains in the simultaneous elections to the Senate and House of Representatives ; they achieved a two-thirds majority in both houses. They thus expanded their already clear majorities in both Congress Chambers; the re-elected president was able to advance his progressive and left-wing liberal program without having to compromise with the opposition.

Domestic politics

President Johnson meets with civil rights leader
Martin Luther King in the White House
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is signed by President Johnson in July 1964
Televised address by President Lyndon B. Johnson on the signing of the Civil Rights Act 1964 desegregation on July 2, 1964
Johnson (right) at a meeting in the Oval Office with Thurgood Marshall , the first recently appointed African-American Supreme Court Justice, in 1967

As part of his Great Society program , which Johnson saw as his vision of a “more democratic and just America,” he said he wanted to help the underprivileged, and especially African-Americans, to achieve more equal opportunities. Historians like David Withney judge that until then no president had taken this issue so seriously. Johnson's civil rights agenda resulted in a slew of laws covering the franchise, health, welfare, education, the environment, nutrition, consumer protection and civil rights. Among historians, Johnson is recognized domestically as a very important president, especially for his work for racial equality and the fight against poverty. Under Johnson, the American welfare state achieved its greatest expansion and acceptance. The economic development benefited him, because under his presidency the gross domestic product rose nominally from 589 billion dollars to 861 billion dollars.

Civil rights

Johnson supported after taking office, the civil rights movement (Civil Rights Movement) of African Americans, led by the well-known civil rights leader Martin Luther King . Although blacks had de jure full civil rights since the end of the Civil War in 1865 , racial segregation , discrimination and prejudice against this population group still prevailed in the early 1960s . A desegregation bill proposed by President Kennedy has already been debated in Congress, but opposition from southerners prevented the bill from being passed. Johnson was quick to act on Kennedy's proposal and put considerable pressure on the Senators and MPs through the spring of 1964. After the House of Representatives approved a draft, there was a filibuster in the Senate from senators who opposed the law. Approval was then again called into question. However, the President continued to reiterate his support for the law. On his initiative, with the help of the Democratic Senators Mike Mansfield and Hubert H. Humphrey (Johnson's later Vice President) and the Republican Everett Dirksen, the permanent speech was ended by a vote of the plenary. After extensive deliberations, the bill passed the Chamber of Congress and went into effect after Johnson had signed it in a ceremony on July 2, 1964. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is considered the most important US federal law for the equality of black citizens and has had lasting effects on many areas of life. Afro-Americans could now go to the same restaurants, swimming pools or shops, and African-American children could now go to the same schools as whites.

The Civil Rights Act significantly improved the situation of the black population, but did not remove discrimination against African American voters. For this reason, the civil rights movement under Martin Luther King proposed a comprehensive electoral law in early 1965. Johnson was initially skeptical about this plan, considering the passage of a second civil rights law in Congress within a year to be unrealistic. As a result, especially in southern cities, there were numerous mostly peaceful rallies by black people. Johnson had complied with the request that federal troops protect these black protest marches. After several demonstrations, the president began to rethink matters concerning electoral law. In one of his most famous speeches to Congress on March 15, 1965, he called on the legislature to pass an electoral law:

“But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. (...) Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome . "

“But even if we pass this law, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement that has reached every corner of every American state. It is the endeavor of American negroes to secure all the blessings of American life. (...) Your concern must also be our concern. Because it is not just negroes, but all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we will overcome it. "

In the summer of that year, the draft proposed by the Johnson administration was adopted by a large majority; the President signed the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965. The new law banned reading and writing tests as a prerequisite for voter registration, and added federal government oversight to the registration of voters in states and constituencies where such Tests previously applied had been provided. Afro-Americans, who had previously been prevented from registering on the electoral roll, had for the first time an alternative to a lawsuit in court. The law also provided that federal government-appointed election observers could be employed in locations where there was a certain likelihood of discrimination in the election process . The Voting Rights Act worked quickly. Within a short period of time, the number of registered voters in the southern states doubled because many blacks registered as voters. A third of the registrations were made by federal officials.

Johnson was by no means blind to the party-political consequences. After signing the law, he told government representatives and other people around him that this law would result in the loss of the support of the Democratic Party in the southern states (see also: civil rights movement ) . Johnson told former John F. Kennedy advisor Ted Sorensen , "I know the risks are great and we may lose the South, but we may lose these types of states anyway." Indeed, since the 1960s, the southern states have become more of a Republican camp in the presidential election . Even in Texas there was only a Democratic Party victory in 1968 and 1976.

The Civil Rights Act of 1968 expanded this legislation again. Among other things, the law made the following illegal: the refusal to rent or sell an apartment or a house to a person on grounds of race, color, religion or nationality; different treatment of a person in terms of rental or rental conditions Selling, displaying a rental or purchase property with reference to discrimination (s) of the type mentioned above; Coercion, threat and intimidation or influence on the use of rental and purchase rights as well as measures against persons or organizations who support the use of these rights. The President tried twice before 1968 to get a bill with similar content through Congress; but he did not succeed. Only after the assassination of Martin Luther King in April 1968 and the subsequent race riots did Congress approve. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 on April 11, 1968.

In 1967, Johnson appointed Judge Thurgood Marshall as the first African-American judge on the United States Supreme Court, with the approval of the Senate . The appointment is marked by an important quote from Johnson:

"The right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place."

"Doing the right thing, the right time, the right man and the right place."

Johnson was also the first US president to appoint a black minister in his cabinet . From January 1966, the African American Robert C. Weaver held the post of US Minister of Construction, newly created by Johnson .

However, the relationship between the president and leading figures in the civil rights movement such as Martin Luther King did not remain positive over the long term. In terms of foreign policy, the Vietnam War came more and more to the fore, against which a growing number of citizens turned. After initial hesitation, King increasingly criticized the president for his foreign policy. Johnson always firmly rejected this and distanced himself further and further from the civil rights activist. Although he did not change his fundamental stance that African Americans should be given equal rights and opportunities, he increasingly viewed King's remarks on foreign policy issues as a burden, so that King became a de facto undesirable person in the White House. After King's assassination, Johnson still praised his services.

Fight against poverty

President Johnson traveling through poor neighborhoods in May 1964

Shortly after taking office, Johnson announced that he wanted to take action against the growing poverty in the country and that he would take all possible measures to put an end to this negative development. He announced the program called “War on poverty” as early as 1964 before the Congress; it formed the core of his Great Society program alongside civil rights laws. Johnson saw increasing poverty and neglect among those affected as one of the greatest national problems. Johnson, who grew up in very poor conditions, often justified his involvement in this area with his own childhood. Addressing the plenary session of Congress on March 15, 1965, the President made one of his most famous speeches:

“My first post after college was that of a teacher in Cotulla, Texas, in a small Mexican-American school… You won't forget what poverty and hatred can do when you've seen the scars on a child's hopeful face… Back then In 1928, it never occurred to me in my wildest dreams that I would stand here in 1965 and get the chance to help the sons and daughters of these students and people like them across the country. But now I have this chance - and I want to tell you a secret: I am determined to use it. "

During Truman's and Eisenhower's presidencies, the number of citizens living below the poverty line had steadily declined slightly, but under Kennedy the number rose again, even if Kennedy announced that he would take appropriate action. When Johnson assumed the presidency, 23 percent of the population was living below the poverty line, according to official figures.

After Johnson was in office for six months, a new agency, the Community Action Agency (CAA), was formed. The CAA started social programs from now on and promised the possibility of state financial aid as well as the possibility of finding a job to help the poverty-stricken population. Over a billion dollars were made available here every year .

By the time Johnson left the Oval Office in January 1969 , the number of citizens living below the poverty line had fallen from 23 percent to 13 percent. This was the largest decrease in the poverty rate over a presidential term.

Education and health policy

Lyndon B. Johnson at the Elementary and Secondary Education Act signing ceremony at his former school with one of his former teachers
Johnson signs the Social Security Act of 1965 , ex-President Harry S. Truman on the right
The Gun Control Act was signed on October 22, 1968

Another essential part of Johnson's domestic policy was education and health. In the decades before Johnson's presidency, domestic politicians observed that the US school system was increasingly failing to meet the growing demands. Classrooms were often overcrowded and the quality of teaching was poor. Kennedy tried in the year he took office (1961) to get a bill through Congress that would provide for higher education spending; the draft failed. In 1964, Johnson took up the education problem again and campaigned for a law that reformed education policy. Johnson drafted a law with a special committee; it was submitted to Congress on January 12, 1965. Johnson argued that without this law adequate schooling would not be possible, which inevitably led to a lack of prospects for many young people, from which the entire country would later suffer. In April, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act passed Congress. It enabled the government to invest significant funds in education. Among other things, this included the free supply of school books, the creation of part-time classes and higher salaries for teachers. Community-wide organizations should create opportunities, such as various special courses that could not be offered in normal schools. Indeed, this initiative has significantly improved the education system. On April 11, 1965, at Johnson's request, the bill was available for signature sooner than the usual ten days after congressional approval. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act on the campus of his own school in Stonewall, Texas, in the presence of a former teacher from his own school days.

On July 30, 1965, Johnson signed the Social Security Act of 1965 in Independence, Missouri, in the presence of Harry S. Truman . During his presidency (1945 to 1953) he wanted to create a similar law, but failed in Congress. In doing so, Johnson recalled Truman's contribution to the law that had finally come into existence and expanded the social security system introduced in 1935 . The newly introduced tax- and contribution-financed health protection included Medicare , a public and state health insurance policy predominantly for retirees aged 65 and over, and Medicaid , a special health care plan , financed only by federal, state and local taxes needy people.

Urban Riots and Gun Control Act

During Johnson's presidency, but also afterwards, rioting broke out in numerous cities in the United States, in particular racial unrest. First began in New York City back in 1964 . They increased considerably, especially after the murder of Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968. In some riots, the national guards of the states had to restore order, especially in the 1967 Detroit race riot . The assassination of King, the unofficial leader of the Civil Rights Movement, also influenced some of Johnson's laws, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1968 , designed to improve the situation of African Americans. In the summer of 1968, Johnson, chaired by Otto Kerner , the governor of Illinois , convened the "Kerner Commission" to investigate the incidents of the rioting.

On October 22, 1968, Johnson signed the Gun Control Act , one of the most comprehensive gun control laws in US history. The law allowed more state control over arms sales. This legislation was also influenced by the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.

Environmental policy

At a time when environmental policy was only a marginal issue, the President and his Interior Minister Udall were unusually progressive. Johnson passed the Water Quality Act , a law designed to ensure the quality of water in the United States. He signed the law on October 2, 1965. The Clean Air Act made air cleanliness a key aspect of industrial and energy policy for the first time. During Johnson's tenure, under the influence of Rachel Carson's book The Silent Spring and Udall's reply, The Quiet Crisis, the foundation for conservation at the federal level was laid and the Endangered Species Act prepared. A little later, on October 22, 1965, the Highway Beautification Act was passed , which provided for a beautification of the highway network that had been built under President Eisenhower. On October 2, 1968, Johnson signed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act , which in addition to protecting rivers also provided for the resettlement of game near rivers. President Johnson's wife, Lady Bird Johnson, is considered influential in designating large national parks and other nature reserves and historical memorials. During his tenure, four national parks , six National Monuments , eight National Sea and Lakeshores , nine National Recreation Areas , 20 National Historic Sites and 56 National Wildlife Refuges of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service were dedicated .

Indian rights

Lyndon B. Johnson in December 1967

Kennedy had already appointed Interior Minister Stewart Lee Udall and Philleo Nash (1961–1966) as Indian commissioners, two politicians who were close to the interests of the over 500 Indian tribes in the USA. Johnson continued this policy. The Indian Resources Development Bill , introduced on May 16, 1967 , which was supposed to guarantee economic autonomy while preserving the collective rights of the tribes, failed due to resistance from the Indian representatives. They did not see the responsible Bureau of Indian Affairs as a trustworthy guarantor for their collective land rights after its long term policy of termination . In 1968, one of the tribes that fell victim to American Indian policies before Kennedy won the Supreme Court. In the case of Menominee Tribe v. In the United States , the court ruled that despite this policy of dissolving the tribes, fishing and hunting rights would only be dissolved if this dissolution was expressly the subject of a jurisprudence, not simply by virtue of a law or decree. However, this ruling requires a justification. As a result, this livelihood, which is important for the subsistence economy of many indigenous groups, was preserved. The effects of this law can be felt as far as Canada and Australia. Although the government granted the tribes more sovereign rights, they wanted under all circumstances to ensure that the general rights from the Bill of Rights were also valid where Indian legislation was introduced. This should be ensured by the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968.

The fight against poverty was more in line with Johnson's line. On his instructions, a National Council on Indian Opportunity was established in 1968 , with Vice President Hubert Humphrey as chairman. In the election campaign of 1968, however, the issue of indigenous rights no longer played a role, as Richard Nixon also called for an end to the termination policy.

Infrastructure and development of the west

During Johnson's tenure, the construction of the Interstate Highway System was massively promoted. The construction measures should on the one hand improve the transport connections even in sparsely populated areas and on the other hand serve as job creation measures . Of the major plans for irrigation systems in the western United States, only the Central Arizona Project was realized. It was intended to promote agriculture in the deserts and semi-deserts of Arizona. Associated with this was the construction of power plants to supply the poorly developed region and to set up industry.

Science and culture

In cultural policy, he founded the National Endowment for the Arts funding programs for art and culture and the National Endowment for the Humanities for the promotion of the humanities .

Immigration law

On October 3, 1965, Johnson signed the Immigration and Naturalization Services Act of 1965 on Liberty Island , the island in the port of New York on which the Statue of Liberty is located, which replaced the previously valid quota regulations for immigration and partly with more liberal provisions replaced. The law mainly simplified the rules for immigrants from Africa and Asia . Until this law was passed, immigration to the United States, with the exception of immigration from Central and South America, was largely limited by quota regulations to immigrants from European countries. So far, the immigration regulations towards China have always been particularly strict. The United States only really opened up to Chinese migrants after the Immigration and Naturalization Services Act of 1965 . The law also limited immigration for the first time from the countries of Central and South America that were not covered by the old immigration laws. Further changes followed in 1976 and 1978 under Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter , whereby the number of visas was fixed at a maximum of 20,000 per country per year.

Space travel

Johnson (center) observes the start of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in July 1969 (a few months after his tenure ended)

Johnson's predecessor, John F. Kennedy, announced at the beginning of his term of office that he would be massively promoting the US space program. He explained that the US aspired to put a person on the moon by the end of the 1960s and thereby win the 'space race' (in the context of the Cold War between the US and the USSR). Kennedy put his Vice President Johnson in charge of overseeing this program. After taking office in 1963, Johnson did not reduce the US space program. The Apollo program operated by NASA tested techniques that would be important for a moon landing.

In December 1968, a month before Johnson's tenure ended, Apollo 8 sent the first color image of the earth from space. President Johnson mailed copies of this photo to dozens of heads of state and government. In July 1969, half a year after leaving the White House, Apollo 11 took three people to the moon and back again. Johnson and his successor Richard Nixon were also present when the rocket was launched at Cape Canaveral ( Florida ) . A famous photo shows Johnson with Nixon's Vice President Spiro Agnew during that launch. In honor of his efforts for the US space program during his presidency, the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, was named after Johnson in 1973 .

Foreign policy

Dark green colored countries Johnson visited during his presidency (light green USA)
Federal Chancellor Ludwig Erhard (right) with American President Lyndon B. Johnson after being presented with a cowboy hat, December 1963
President Lyndon B. Johnson (right) with Soviet Prime Minister Alexei Nikolaevich Kosygin (left) at the Glassboro , New Jersey
Conference in June 1967

Diplomatic relations

After traveling to Germany as Vice President after the Wall was built in August 1961 , he was a guest in Cologne and Bonn from April 23 to 26, 1967 , where he attended the funeral of Konrad Adenauer and held talks with Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger and other statesmen such as Aldo Moro and Charles de Gaulle led. He talked to Kiesinger about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty , the stationing of US troops in Germany, customs and trade issues, and he promised intensive consultations. Johnson received the German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard on his ranch in December 1963 . The visit got into the headlines mainly because the President presented Erhard with a cowboy hat as a gift, which Erhard immediately put on.

Johnson endeavored to continue the policy of détente with the Soviet Union begun in the early 1960s under Kennedy. In June 1967 he received the Soviet Prime Minister Alexei Nikolayevich Kosygin in New Jersey at the so-called Glassboro Summit Conference for talks about the global political situation and about disarmament. The conference attracted a lot of public attention and at the same time raised Johnson's polling figures in the USA.

On the morning of July 1, 1968, the American and Soviet leaders and other governments met in the White House to sign a nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Nuclear disarmament was contractually ratified between the two great powers and around 50 other nations. It was also agreed that states that are not yet in possession of nuclear weapons should not receive them either. During the Cold War, this was one of the most important agreements to avoid nuclear war. Shortly after taking office, President Johnson wrote to Moscow calling for such an agreement.

Chicken War

Johnson played a role in the so-called Chicken War in the early 1960s. France and Germany had introduced a tax on poultry from the United States. After diplomatic negotiations were unsuccessful, on December 4, 1963, two weeks after Johnson took office, a tax on goods from Europe was also introduced at the request of President Johnson. However, this tax also affected automobiles from Germany, particularly the VW T1 , which meant that fewer German cars were imported into the United States in the years that followed.

Six Day War

The Six Day War in June 1967 is also a proxy war in the context of the Cold War, although the United States was not involved militarily. However, Israel was supported by the US, while Egypt , Iraq , Jordan and Syria received support from the USSR. The hot wire set up in 1963 was first used after the six-day war that Israel won . The Soviet Prime Minister Kosygin immediately demanded President Johnson on the line, because an American reconnaissance ship , the USS Liberty , was not far (14 miles) from the coast, although the USA had announced that it would approach the fighting within 100 miles. The reason given is that there was an error in the chain of command. On June 8, 1967, the observation ship was attacked by Israeli forces, killing 34 US soldiers and injuring 173. According to the Israeli government, it was an oversight. In a later briefing, Johnson accused Israel of a deliberate attack because the ship had heard of the imminent attack from Syria and the execution of captured Egyptian soldiers over communications. The Pentagon agreed not to disclose the incident, according to the then Rear Admiral Lawrence R. Geis, Johnson wanted to prevent Israel from being shamed.

Vietnam War

President Johnson signed the
Tonkin resolution on August 10, 1964
President Johnson visits American soldiers in Vietnam (October 1966)
In November 1967, Johnson (right) met General Westmoreland in the Oval Office for a meeting
View of the cabinet room in 1968: Secretary of State Dean Rusk in the back, President Johnson in the middle and Secretary of Defense
Robert McNamara in front

Johnson's presidency was decisively shaped by the Vietnam War . Even under his predecessors Eisenhower (1953–1961) and John F. Kennedy, military advisers to the armed forces were active in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam in South Vietnam . Since 1954 Vietnam was divided into a communist north and an anti-communist south, which was initially intended as a temporary arrangement. In the context of the Cold War , however, the conflict soon threatened to escalate, especially since communist uprisings were increasingly taking place in the north, so that from 1960 onwards the US government considered it necessary to “advise” the south militarily. There was increasing mobilization of the armed forces in the north as well as individual attacks and attacks in Saigon , which were primarily directed against Americans. The north received advisory support from the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China . This later also included numerous deliveries of weapons in the course of the conflict.

There was no doubt for Johnson that a tough stance towards the communist north of the country was necessary. Johnson wanted to prevent "Vietnam from taking the same route as China", that is, from coming completely under communist leadership. In addition, since the 1950s the US government has warned against the so-called domino theory , which said that if one country in Southeast Asia “fell victim” to communism, others would also become communist. Therefore, the US must absolutely prevent Vietnam from coming under communist leadership.

Through the Tonkin incident on August 2 and 4, 1964, an attack by North Vietnamese forces on an American warship, essentially faked by the US, and the subsequent Tonkin resolution of both Houses of Congress , the President was formally authorized to send troops . However, there were doubts within the government as to whether the Tonkin incident occurred at all or to the extent indicated. Even President Johnson later indicated that he could not rule out the possibility that the incident did not even occur or that the course of events could not have taken a different course than initially reported. In 2005, documents were released that actually confirm that the second attack did not take place. Among other things, reports from the ship's crew in the US Department of Defense were reinterpreted before they were presented to Johnson. After the second report of an attack on August 4, 1964, Johnson gave permission to respond militarily to the incident after refusing to intervene in the first August 2 incident. First, North Vietnamese oil stores were bombed by American fighter jets as part of a limited operation.

As communist forces increasingly attacked American military bases, the US government felt it was more and more necessary to attack the enemy by bombing the north. Operation Rolling Thunder began in March 1965. It initially envisaged a bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail , but then continued in an increasingly widening air offensive within southern Vietnam. Above all, the violent air raids were seen as a means of pressure to persuade the north to give in. On March 8, 1965, at the urging of General William Westmoreland , the commander in chief in Vietnam, the first combat troops landed in Da Nang . Their task was initially to protect the bases of the air force and to operate within a certain radius around their base. Westmoreland warned the president in June 1965 that without a doubling of troops and more war material, the US would lose the war. Johnson gave his approval for such a step because all investigations had come to the conclusion that the South Vietnamese would by no means have been able to wage the war on their own. Before the President decided to take ground troops to fight the communists in Vietnam, he ordered that all civilian citizens of the United States in Vietnam, especially women and children, should leave the country. Johnson feared communist attacks on US facilities in South Vietnam, as had happened several times in the past. At the end of the year, 184,000 US soldiers were stationed in Southeast Asia. When the military situation, contrary to expectations, did not develop favorably, Johnson on the one hand refused to withdraw from the commitment, on the other hand he protested against the generals' proposals to force victory by increasingly intensive bombing of North Vietnam. He and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara reserved the personal decision on all bombing targets at this stage. In the course of the war, the President ordered several times that the bombing of Vietnam should be stopped. He hoped this would move the communist leadership to peace talks. Johnson announced several times that he expected the enemy to cease fighting in order for the bombing to cease permanently and for peace talks to take place. Johnson's offers were vehemently rejected by the Hanoi leadership until 1968. Dialogues could only take place with a definitive cessation of all American acts of war and the complete withdrawal of US troops. Hanoi did not agree to a reduction in communist fighting. So the area bombing and large-scale defoliation of forests and agricultural areas with the herbicide and poison agent Orange continued.

Contrary to the suggestions of some of the military, Johnson refused any approval for the use of nuclear weapons , as he did not want to provoke a nuclear war with the Soviet Union or China. In the course of the war, the American people's understanding of military engagement waned, which resulted in a considerable loss of confidence in the entire government. The war polarized not only society, but also increasingly the political parties. The war was also permanently present, especially through the media in the USA, more than in previous wars. The opponents of the war asked why the US armed forces should be involved in a conflict between communist North Vietnam and South Vietnam , an ally of the US . Johnson, and great with it parts of the government and the proponents of war, justified the use with the containment of communism ( containment policy ), a principle which as early as 1945 after the Second World War under Harry S. Truman had been distributed and marked . This policy was also actively pursued by Truman's successors, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy , and continued in the administration of Johnson and his successor. According to the containment policy, one would disregard one's own principles and show weakness if one left the field to the communists. Eisenhower had already sent military advisers to Vietnam in the 1950s. Under Kennedy, this commitment to protect South Vietnam from the communists was decisively intensified.

As the Vietnam War increased, there were more and more demonstrations against the military involvement in the USA, such as here in Washington in October 1967

From 1967 onwards, mainly left-wing riots against the Vietnam War broke out across the USA (and in some cases in Europe). The war opponents chanted the slogan at demonstrations: "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" (Hey, hey, LBJ, how many children did you kill today?) To make matters worse, the Vietnam War in many ways was a failure of the USA, even though they were clearly superior militarily. Even if the losses of the American armed forces were far lower than those of the North Vietnamese, they were still unable to bring about a victory in the ground war, which is justified in particular by the following main factors: The North Vietnamese waged the war with extreme vehemence and also mostly knew the battle area much better than they did US troops. In general, it was very difficult for the American armed forces to locate the enemy at all, as many communist fighters hardly differed from the civilian population. Because of this, the attacks by the US Army and its allies were often directed against the civilian population of Vietnam, whereupon they often began to support the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong mostly moved their infrastructure underground, which gave them another advantage. In addition, the forces of South Vietnam, allied with the United States, were significantly less motivated than the communist fighters. Often the South Vietnamese quickly lost an area conquered by the US soldiers after they should have occupied it. At the beginning of 1968 more than 500,000 US soldiers were stationed in Vietnam, and some conscripts were drafted ( conscription in the USA was only abolished in 1973). In early 1968, General Westmoreland asked for another 200,000 soldiers to be drafted into Vietnam - a request that Johnson rejected. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara resigned from his post in January 1968. He was succeeded by Clark M. Clifford , a longtime companion and advisor to Johnson. As recently as December 1967, a victory was expected in the near future. "The enemy has not yet been defeated, but he has already found his master in the field," announced Johnson during a visit to a military base. However, a final attack by the communist units was expected on the American side.

This actually began on January 31, 1968: As part of the Tet offensive , the North Vietnamese attacked Saigon and other larger cities. The fighting in Saigon was particularly fierce. The belief in an early end to the war and a victory was a long way off. Even if the USA won this conflict militarily (not a city could be held by the communists), the event was a psychological disaster. With the attack, the North Vietnamese wanted to prove that they definitely wanted to win this war, even if they lost about half of their troops in the Tet Offensive. They even managed to capture parts of the American embassy in Saigon and occupy it for several hours before US units recaptured the area and shot the attackers. The Tet Offensive was considered a turning point in the Vietnam War, as it documented not only the vehemence of the enemy, but also the fact that the war could not be victorious for the United States in the foreseeable future, even though this was done before the Tet Offensive on the part of the US government and generals were stressed in public.

After sustained protests in the USA, the president stopped the large-scale bombing raids on North Vietnam. To this end, he demanded that North Vietnam begin peace negotiations, which began in May 1968. Johnson appointed Westmoreland Commander in Chief of the Land Forces in the spring of 1968, which amounted to a dismissal in the middle of the war.

When, among other things, the Vietnam War was mentioned in an interview, Johnson gave the following statement on his actions as President:

“I knew from the start that I was bound to be crucified either way I moved. If I left the woman I really loved - the Great Society - in order to get involved in that bitch of a war on the other side of the world, then I would lose everything at home. All my programs. ... But if I left that war and let the Communists take over South Vietnam, then I would be seen as a coward and my nation would be seen as an appeaser and we would both find it impossible to accomplish anything for anybody anywhere on the entire globe . ”

“I knew from the beginning that no matter which way I went, I would be crucified. If I left the woman I really love - the Great Society - to get involved with that war whore on the other side of the world, I'd lose everything at home. All of my programs. ... But if I had ended the war and let the communists take over South Vietnam, then I would be seen as a coward and my nation as a middleman and we both would find it impossible to achieve anything for anyone, anywhere in the whole world. "

End of the presidency

Johnson in his televised address to the nation on March 31, 1968
July 1968: President Johnson (right) meeting in the White House with Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon

On March 31, 1968, Johnson announced on a television broadcast that he would not stand again for the upcoming presidential election (which would have been permitted since he had filled less than two years of Kennedy's tenure). "I am not looking to run for another term as president and I will not accept any nominations from my party," Johnson announced. This decision surprised not only the media and politicians, but also large parts of the US population. Johnson said he wanted to use the remaining ten months in office to make peace in Vietnam, or at least to lay a solid foundation for it by the time he changed office in January 1969, and not expose himself to the stress of the election campaign. In his opinion, which was shared by contemporary media, the offer to negotiate with the communist leadership in Hanoi appeared more credible, implying that the president was acting unselfishly and without thinking about his chances of re-election. At the time, it was not publicly discussed that Johnson's rejection of the 1968 election could be due to his poor health. He had already suffered a serious heart attack in 1955 and had to undergo two operations during his presidency (1965 and 1966) due to the formation of kidney stones . Johnson later wrote in his memoir that long before 1968 he planned to leave the White House in January 1969.

In the primary campaign, Senators Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy announced their candidacies, and the incumbent Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey announced his entry into the race. After the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968, Humphrey was finally able to assert himself as a Democratic presidential candidate at the nomination party convention in Chicago . Despite his withdrawal, which he announced at the end of March, Johnson had a brief moment in the face of the unrest at the chaotic Democratic party convention, in which anti-war demonstrators and the police had fought outside and where the fault lines within the Democratic Party could no longer be overlooked planned to fly to Chicago in person and re-enter the nomination race after the influential Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley assured him over the phone that he would have enough delegates to ensure Johnson's victory. However, after the Secret Service had made it clear to Johnson that in such a case one could not guarantee his safety at the party convention, this plan was rejected again. However, after the turbulent events in Chicago, Humphrey's polls fell far behind those of the challenger Richard Nixon .

From the summer of 1968 diplomatic talks took place in Paris between representatives of the US government under President Johnson and North and South Vietnamese diplomats. Johnson tried to end the war as quickly as possible, as he had to realize that the long-awaited "great victory" was not happening. On the one hand, by taking this step, he was anxious not to cause any further damage to his reputation as US president, on the other hand, he also wanted to increase Humphrey's chances in the presidential election in November against the Republican Nixon. After Johnson announced in October 1968 that all bombing attacks in Vietnam would be halted as part of the peace talks, Humphrey was able to catch up significantly in the election polls (so-called October Surprise ). Nixon also feared that Johnson could record diplomatic success in the final weeks of his presidency, which could cost him the election victory, as the Republican also promised to end the war quickly and with honor. Since a withdrawal of US troops protecting South Vietnam was not in the interests of the South Vietnamese, Nixon and his staff, including Henry Kissinger , held secret talks with the South Vietnamese under President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu about sabotaging the talks in the French capital . Nixon promised the South Vietnamese a better solution to the conflict if they delay the Johnson government negotiations and wait for Nixon to be president. After South Vietnam announced in early November 1968, despite Johnson's insistence, that it would not take part in the peace talks, Nixon narrowly won the election on November 5th. However, Johnson saw through this tactic of negotiation manipulation and immediately arranged a meeting in the White House with the Republican. Johnson did not want to fully publicize Nixon's machinations of obstructing negotiations, but he urged the newly elected president to withdraw all promises made by Nixon to the South Vietnamese. After taking office, Nixon decided to withdraw the US Army from Vietnam in stages, but at the same time extended the war to Cambodia and Laos before concluding a peace in 1973 when another 20,000 Americans had fallen (58,000 US soldiers came in the entire war. Soldiers killed).

Later years and death (1969–1973)

Johnson in September 1972
Johnson's grave

When Johnson's tenure as president ended on January 20, 1969, he was flown to Texas on Air Force One that same day - the same plane in which he had been sworn in as president over five years earlier. He settled on his Texan estate, the LBJ Ranch near his birthplace Stonewall , on which he had stayed regularly during his presidency. The ranch is now a museum and National Historic Park . Johnson wrote his memoirs in the following period, the book The Vantage Point was published in November 1971 (title of the German-language edition My Years in the White House ). The book provides insights into Johnson's presidency, where he himself describes the events he experienced during his presidency. During his retirement there were also numerous appearances, especially many at universities and schools. In addition to the American engagement in Vietnam, he addressed issues of education policy and civil rights in his speeches, where he called for the integration of African Americans and further measures against racism. Johnson was particularly dedicated to establishing the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library , which opened in 1971. From 1969 to 1973 Johnson gave several interviews regarding his time as president. In September 1969, the well-known news reporter Walter Cronkite conducted a long interview with him for the broadcaster CBS .

In the context of the Democratic primary elections for the 1972 presidential election , Johnson initially spoke out in favor of Senator Edmund Muskie , who had run as Humphrey's running mate four years earlier . He was critical of the nomination of George McGovern , a leftist and critic of Johnson's Vietnam policy. In the opinion of the ex-president, the Democrats could only be successful against incumbent Nixon if they did not move too far to the left on the political spectrum . Johnson also considered McGovern's plans to withdraw from Vietnam immediately to be questionable. In the actual election campaign, he nevertheless expressed his support for McGovern out of loyalty to the Democratic Party. However, the former president did not play an active role.

In March 1970 Johnson was treated for a few days in a Houston hospital for angina , a precursor to a heart attack . After Johnson suffered a first heart attack in July 1955 , another followed in April 1972 when he visited his older daughter Lynda in Virginia . His health had generally deteriorated in recent years. On January 22, 1973, the 64-year-old suffered a third heart attack on his ranch. He called a Secret Service agent around 3:50 p.m. local time , who rushed to Johnson's bedroom. When the agent arrived a few minutes later, he found Johnson lying on the floor next to his bed. A little later, Johnson was put on a plane that was supposed to take him to a hospital in San Antonio . He was given medical attention on the way. When the machine arrived in San Antonio, doctors confirmed at 4:39 p.m. local time that Lyndon Baines Johnson had died of a heart attack. His wife, Lady Bird Johnson , who was driving at the time, arrived in San Antonio a few minutes later.

On January 25, 1973, he was buried near his ranch as part of a state ceremony. The funeral oration was delivered by Johnson's Secretary of State Dean Rusk , who had also maintained a long personal friendship with him. In addition to numerous other guests, the incumbent President Richard Nixon also appeared . After Johnson's death, no former president was alive until Nixon's resignation in 1974. Johnson's grave is not far from the house where he was born, on the grounds of his ranch.

A few days after Johnson's death, on January 27, 1973, a treaty was signed in Paris that ended the direct involvement of the United States in the conflict in Vietnam. Just one day after Johnson's death, President Nixon announced the peace agreement in a televised address and remarked in this context: "No one would have welcomed peace more than Lyndon Johnson."

Personality and leadership style

Johnson was considered by contemporary politicians to be open to discussion and, especially in the legislative process, to be committed and tireless. Often he had considerable knowledge of his counterpart, for example members of the Congress, whom he tried to win over for his legislative initiatives. His Diskutierfreude and his way to other, mostly political opponents or skeptics, "persuade", was in his time in the Senate, the Johnson-treatment (Engl. The Johnson-Treatment ) called. However, this became known especially during his presidency. Historians such as Johnson biographer Robert Dallek often describe the Johnson treatment as “loud and aggressive, but also pleading or mocking, persuasive. It can only last a few minutes or hours ”. He often tried to intimidate his opponents with his height of 193 cm. Evil insults against people and states on his part are also documented.


Johnson's official portrait in the White House

In May 1971, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum , a presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration , opened near his hometown of Stonewall . The library has more than 45 million pages of historical documents, around 650,000 photos, and footage of Lyndon B. Johnson, his family, and his collaborators. In the exhibition America: 1908–1973 , the museum shows photographs, letters, music and other media material about Johnson.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter Johnson posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom , the highest civilian honor in the United States. Johnson was also named Time Magazine's Person of the Year in 1964 and 1967 .

The name of the president is borne by NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (since 1973) and Lake Lyndon B. Johnson (since 1965) and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs (since 1970). In April 2012, the Secretary of State announced the Navy in US Department of Defense Ray Mabus that the next destroyers of the Zumwalt class Lyndon B. Johnson is hot.

The American historian Robert Dallek wrote in his 2004 biography of Johnsons:

“Posterity will be grateful to Lyndon Johnson for his social commitment. I think the Vietnam War will fade in the future and Johnson will be recognized for the efficient president he was. He really wanted to be the greatest president the country has ever had. If not great, then I would call Johnson close to being a great president, because there is no president, except perhaps Franklin D. Roosevelt, who has done more domestically than Lyndon B. Johnson. "

- Robert Dallek

The internal party Democratic primary in 2008 declared Hillary Clinton : "The dream of Dr. King began to fulfill a law enacted on human rights as President Lyndon Johnson 1964th (...) To achieve that, it took a president. ”Some African-Americans saw Martin Luther King as belittled as Clinton's adversary Barack Obama .

The film biography LBJ was created in 2016 under the direction of Rob Reiner . Woody Harrelson can be seen in the role of Johnson .


  • The vantage point. Perspectives of the Presidency 1963-1969. Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York et al. a. 1971, ISBN 0-03-084492-4 .


  • John Morton Blum: The Progressive Presidents: The Lives of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson Norton, New York 1980, ISBN 0-393-01330-8 .
  • Joseph A. Califano, The Triumph & Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson: The White House Years . Simon & Schuster, New York a. a. 1991, ISBN 0-671-66489-1 .
  • Lloyd C. Gardner, Pay any price: Lyndon Johnson and the wars for Vietnam . Dee, Chicago 1995, ISBN 1-56663-087-8 .
  • Irving Bernstein, Guns or butter: The presidency of Lyndon Johnson . Oxford University Press, New York, NY and a. 1996, ISBN 0-19-506312-0 .
  • Irwin Unger, Debi Unger, LBJ: A life . Wiley, New York et al. a. 1999, ISBN 0-471-17602-8 .
  • Jeffrey W. Helsing, Johnson's war / Johnson's great society: The guns and butter trap . Praeger, Westport, Connecticut et al. a. 2000, ISBN 0-275-96449-3 .
  • Thomas Alan Schwartz, Lyndon Johnson and Europe: In the shadow of Vietnam . Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts et al. a. 2003, ISBN 0-674-01074-4 .
  • Robert Dallek ,
    • Lone Star Rising. Lyndon Johnson and his Times, 1908-1960 . Oxford University Press, New York 1991.
    • Flawed Giant. Lyndon Johnson and his Times, 1961-1973 . Oxford University Press, New York 1998.
    • Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President . Oxford University Press 2004, ISBN 0-19-515921-7 (summary of the two biographies from 1991 and 1998).
  • Robert A. Caro , The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Alfred A. Knopf, New York City
  • Heiko Meiertöns: The Doctrines of American Security Policy. Evaluation of international law and its influence on international law. Nomos, Baden-Baden 2006, ISBN 3-8329-1904-X .
  • Kyle Longley: LBJ's 1968: Power, Politics, and the Presidency in America's Year of Upheaval . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2018, ISBN 978-1-107-19303-1 .

Web links

Wikisource: Lyndon B. Johnson  - Sources and full texts (English)
Commons : Lyndon B. Johnson  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  2. ^ A b Robert Dallek: Presidency: How Do Historians Evaluate the Administration of Lyndon Johnson?, accessed January 22, 2011 .
  3. ^ American Presidents Online History Blog
  4. Jürgen Heideking, Christof Mauch: History of the USA . 6th edition UTB, Tübingen 2008, ISBN 978-3-8252-1938-3 , pp. 332f.
  5. a b LYNDON B. JOHNSON'S ANCESTORS ( Memento from December 11, 2012 in the web archive )
  6. Original: Where I grew up, poverty was so common we didn't know it had a name . see. Robert Dallek: Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2004, ISBN 0-19-515920-9 , p. 1.
  7. a b c d Lyndon Johnson: Life before presidency ( Memento of July 8, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  8. Who is Who: Biography of Lyndon Johnson
  9. ^ Robert Dallek: Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President . Oxford University Press , ISBN 0-19-515921-7 , p. 20.
  10. ^ Hove, Duane T .: American Warriors: Five Presidents in the Pacific Theater of World War II . Burd Street Press, 2003, ISBN 978-1-57249-307-0 . Archive link ( Memento from 7 July 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  11. a b c d e f LBJ Library & Museum: Timeline of Lyndon B. Johnson (detailed curriculum vitae in English)
  12. a b Jack Shafter: The Honest Graft of Lady Bird Johnson . In: Slate , July 16, 2007.
  13. ^ Robert Caro: Means of Ascent. The Years of Lyndon B. Johnson . Alfred A. Knopf, New York 1990, ISBN 0-679-73371-X , pp. 375-396, quote from Salas, p. 395 (Original: If they were not for Johnson, I made them for Johnson ), and Robert Dallek: Lyndon B. Johnson. Portrait of a President . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2004, ISBN 0-19-515920-9 , pp. 171-189.
  14. ^ Robert Dallek: Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President . Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-515921-7 , p. 120.
  15. ^ Robert Caro: Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. , New York City 2002, ISBN 0-394-52836-0 , chapter 39.
  16. Frail Men in the White House . In: Der Spiegel . No. 12 , 1968 ( online ).
  17. David C. Whitney: The American Presidents: Biographies of the Chief Executives from George Washington to Barack Obama. Readers Digest, ISBN 978-1-60652-052-9 , p. 339.
  18. Washington Post: Another race to finish.
  19. ^ Robert Caro: The Passage of Power, 2012, ISBN 978-0-679-40507-8 , p. 173.
  20. ^ Caro, Robert: The Passage of Power, The Years of Lyndon Johnson . New York 2012, p. X .
  21. - The Washington Post. Accessed April 28, 2019 .
  22. ^ Robert Caro: The Passage of Power, 2012, ISBN 978-0-679-40507-8 , p. 205.
  23. ^ Robert Dallek: Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President . Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-515921-7 , pp. 135-140.
  24. The 36th In: Der Spiegel . No. 49 , 1963 ( online ).
  25. Transcript, Lawrence F. O'Brien Oral History Interview XIII, 9/10/86, by Michael L. Gillette, Internet Copy, Johnson Library, p. 23 (PDF) ( Memento of June 24, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  26. ^ Robert Dallek: Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President . Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-515921-7 , p. 146.
  27. Lyndon B. Johnson: My Years in the White House . Präger Verlag, ISBN 3-7796-8020-3 , p. 47.
  28. ^ Robert Dallek: Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President . Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-515921-7 , p. 147.
  29. Lyndon B. Johnson: My Years in the White House . Praeger Verlag 1985, ISBN 3-7796-8020-3 , p. 11.
  30. James D. Perry: Kennedy, John F. Assassination of. In: Peter Knight (Ed.): Conspiracy Theories in American History. To Encyclopedia . ABC Clio, Santa Barbara / Denver / London 2003, Volume 1, p. 393; Larry J. Sabato: The Kennedy Half-Century. The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy . Bloomsbury, New York 2013, p. 224.
  31. ^ "Kennedy was trying to get Castro, but Castro got him first". In: Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr .: Robert Kennedy and His Times. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York 1978, p. 649.
  32. both in terms of the number of electors and in terms of the popular vote. United States Presidential Elections ( Memento June 15, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  33. ^ Robert Dallek: Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President . Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-515921-7 , pp. 180 f.
  34. ^ United States Presidential Election 1964
  35. David C. Whitney: The American Presidents: Biographies of the Chief Executives from George Washington to Barack Obama. Readers Digest 2012, ISBN 978-1-60652-052-9 , pp. 340–342 ('revised update' of the 1996 edition)
  36. not adjusted for inflation
  37. I live . In: Der Spiegel . No. 4 , 1969 ( online ).
  38. ^ Irving Bernstein: Guns or butter: The presidency of Lyndon Johnson . Oxford University Press, New York, 1996, ISBN 0-19-506312-0 , pp. 215-220.
  39. ^ Robert Dallek: Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President. Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-515921-7 , pp. 230 ff.
  40. ^ Text of the televised address given by President LB Johnson to both Houses of Congress on the website of the US Embassy in Germany
  41. ^ Robert Dallek: Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President . Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-515921-7 , pp. 234ff.
  42. ^ Robert Dallek: Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President . Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-515921-7 , pp. 230-235.
  43. Nick Kotz: Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Laws that Changed America , 2005, p. 61.
  44. Lyndon B. Johnson: My Years in the White House . Praeger Verlag, ISBN 3-7796-8020-3 , pp. 159-161.
  45. Thurgood Marshall: The Brain Of The Civil Rights Movement
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  47. Lyndon B. Johnson: My Years in the White House . Präger Verlag, ISBN 3-7796-8020-3 , p. 11.
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  52. David Frum: How We Got Here: The '70s . Basic Books, New York 2000, ISBN 0-465-04195-7 .
  53. ^ Three Decades of Mass Immigration. The Legacy of the 1965 Immigration Act
  54. The Space Review - LBJs Space Race
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  58. ^ Geoffrey Wawro: Quicksand: America's Pursuit of Power in the Middle East. Penguin Press, New York 2010, ISBN 978-1-101-19768-4 , p. 301.
  59. ^ John Crewdson: New revelations in attack on American spy ship. Chicago Tribune, October 2, 2007, accessed January 21, 2015 .
  60. James Bamford: The cover-up. In: The Guardian. August 8, 2001, accessed January 22, 2011 .
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  62. ^ National Security Service: The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, 40 Years Later
  63. ^ Thomas Alan Schwartz: Lyndon Johnson and Europe: In the shadow of Vietnam ; Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts 2003, ISBN 0-674-01074-4 , p. 55.
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  66. Niel Sheehan, Hedrick Smith et al. a .: The Pentagon Papers as published by the New York Times . Bantam Books, 1971, p. 397.
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  68. ^ Thomas Alan Schwartz: Lyndon Johnson and Europe: In the shadow of Vietnam. Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Mass. 2003, ISBN 0-674-01074-4 , p. 135.
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  70. Lyndon Baines Johnson remarks not to seek reelection ( Memento of December 3, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  71. Lyndon B. Johnson: My Years in the White House . Präger Verlag, ISBN 3-7796-8020-3 , pp. 335-340.
  72. David Taylor: Richard Nixon's Vietnam 'treason' . March 22, 2013 ( [accessed April 28, 2019]).
  73. Richard Nixon - Abysses of a President; Part 2
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  75. ^ A b The Atlantic The Last Days of the President
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  78. ^ Tom Wicker: Remembering the Johnson Treatment , The New York Times , May 9, 2002
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  80. Papa-what's-his-name : Georgios Papandreou from November 8, 1963 to December 30, 1963 Prime Minister Georgios Papadopoulos from 1959 to 1964 Liaison officer of the Ethniki Ypiresia Pliroforion to John M. Maury (* 1912 in Charlottesville ; † July 2, 1983)
  81. LBJ Library & Museum Guide (PDF, German)
  82. LBJ Library: Navy Names Zumwalt Class Destroyer USS Lyndon B. Johnson
  83. History: The US Presidents (1945–1977)
  84. Clinton and Obama smooth things over. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung. May 17, 2010.
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on October 18, 2015 .