Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon Baines Johnson was elected President of the United States in 1964, after succeeding to the office after John F. Kennedy's death in November 1963. Born in central Texas in 1908, Johnson attended Southwest Texas State Teacher's College and went to law school at Georgetown University. Johnson's passion, however, was not for teaching or the law, but for politics. In Washington, D.C., he was caught up in the New Deal energy of the Roosevelt administration and secured an appointment to head the National Youth Administration in Texas. Then Johnson ran for Congress in 1937 and won the election as a New Dealer. From his Congressional seat Johnson joined the Naval Reserve and actually flew a mission in the South Pacific on combat duty in World War II. Johnson eventually won a U.S. Senate seat in 1948 and quickly rose in the Senate to become Majority Leader in 1955. He worked to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and became the Democratic Vice-presidential candidate in 1960. In the campaign Johnson used his southern voice and his position as Democratic Party Majority Leader of the Senate to carry the party's theme of civil rights into the South. His emphasized that no person should be discriminated against because of the region they came from in stump speeches in Virginia where he blasted Republican candidate Richard Nixon for failing to understand the South. He was trying to get support from white southerners who might feel discriminated against and link their grievances to those being taken up more broadly by the Democratic Party. Johnson asked Virginians in Richmond what Richard Nixon "ever did for the South, for your country, for your aunts and your brothers and your sisters." Johnson mixed careful appeals to civil rights of everyone "regardless of the color of your skin" with hard-driving appeals based on his southern heritage. Johnson carried Virginia in 1964 with 54 percent of the vote, the only Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1948. Johnson campaigned by train both in 1960 and 1964 riding the LBJ Special. In 1960 and 1964 a small group of Democratic leaders broke from powerful U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd to support Johnson's Virginia campaign. They included Governor J. Lindsay Almond, Jr., state party chair Sidney Kellam, and gubernatorial candidate Mills Godwin. (New York Times, October 7, 1960)