U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson Career Before Presidency Part 1

About the U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson, early life and career before the presidency, history and biography, physical description.

36th President

LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON

BEFORE THE PRESIDENCY

Career: At the age of 15, LBJ graduated from Johnson City High School as president of his class (no other member of the graduating class of six had wanted the job). Lyndon's mother urged him to go on immediately to college, but instead the boy ran away with some friends to California. They separated when their money ran out, and Lyndon picked fruit, washed dishes, and did other odd jobs before he gave up and hitchhiked back to Johnson City. There he got a job on a road gang, but at the end of one particularly cold and exhausting day, he told his mother that he was ready to try college. At Southwest Texas State Teachers College in San Marcos, Lyndon emerged as the star of the campus, both academically and politically. In order to pay for his education, he took a part-time job on the school's janitorial staff. He performed his duties with tremendous enthusiasm, which did not go unnoticed. Soon he worked his way up to the position of special assistant to the president's personal secretary. In this capacity young Johnson showed such a drive for power that the school's president later recalled: "Lyndon, I declare you hadn't been in my office a month before I could hardly tell who was president of the school--you or me." When Lyndon graduated at the age of 22, he got a job teaching public speaking and debate at a high school in Houston.

In 1931 he campaigned for Richard M. Kleberg, a wealthy conservative who was running for Congress. When Kleberg won, Johnson quit his teaching job to accompany him to Washington, where he served as the congressman's secretary for four years. He moved into the Dodge Hotel, where many congressional secretaries resided, and determined to learn as much as he could as fast as possible. During his first night in the hotel, he took no less than four showers in the communal bathroom, and the following morning he brushed his teeth five times at 10-minute intervals. Within 24 hours he had met nearly everyone living there. During this period, he dazzled his employer and many others on Capitol Hill with his energy, his ability, and his take-charge attitude. In 1933, at age 24, he was elected the youngest speaker in the history of "the Little Congress," an organization of congressional aides. One of the Johnson family's old friends, Congressman Sam Rayburn, watched Lyndon's progress with approval and helped to bring him to the attention of the national administration.

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