The LBJ Enigma

LBJ in his office

There is no U.S. president that I have more mixed feelings about than Lyndon Baines Johnson. LBJ assumed the presidency in 1963 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I was 13 at the time. He would remain president for most of my teenage years. I was approaching the age of 18, which at the time meant conscription, the draft, a possible unwanted tour of Vietnam. LBJ inherited that war but he perpetuated and escalated it. I hated him for it. At protest marches against the war we would chant, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

It took quite awhile for me to appreciate the things that LBJ did. His presidency included more landmark progressive legislation than anyone else I can think of. He signed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. During his administration Medicare and Medicaid were created, legislation was passed addressing fair housing, immigration reform, clean air and clean water.

The LBJ Museum and Library on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin addresses the enigma of LBJ, albeit in an ever so gentle way. The war is presented from the viewpoint of the president. More than once I saw the quote, “I can’t win it, and I can’t get out.” It’s the latter part of that sentence than many of us would take issue with.

LBJ did this:

LBJ's legislation

He enabled this:

LBJ accomplishments

But then there’s this:

Vietnam War
Vietnam War era cartoon
Washington Post headline

And yet this quote is as appropriate today as it was in 1965:

LBJ quote
LBJ's limo
LBJ’s limo

From start to finish:

LBJ as a school teacher
LBJ's last speech
The LBJ library
The LBJ library

The campaigns:

LBJ's hat

LBJ the cartoon:

LBJ with kids

LBJ statue
LBJ and Lady Bird
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10 Responses to The LBJ Enigma

  1. Thanks for this informative post about President Lyndon Johnson. How tragic that his great legacy would always be intertwined with the Vietnam War!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. sportsdiva64 says:

    I loved this post. Just like you , I had mixed feelings about LBJ. I remember feeling happy about his stand on Civil Rights and he was a Southerner, just like my family . I loved his family, in fact my beagle puppy was named after his daughter, Luci Baines. But then there was Vietnam and how can you forget that . He was a very compassionate man, and it’s a shame our politicians today are nothing like him.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Pam Lazos says:

    Thanks for the history lesson, Ken. I really had no Modena he did that much for a more progressive society!๐Ÿ™

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Caro Ramonde says:

    Great post, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. nitinsingh says:

    Informative thnx to share, indianmedia potrate lbj a negative image j.f.k a hero

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent overview of LBJ, Ken. He was incredibly effective as a career politician who knew how to influence a reluctant Congress to support sweeping constructive reforms.

    Liked by 1 person

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