U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson Career Before Presidency Part 2

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

36th President



In 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Johnson as Texas director of the National Youth Administration. After that, LBJ always referred to Roosevelt as "my political daddy." Awarding loans and part-time jobs to an estimated 100,000 students, Johnson used the NYA to build up a formidable political base in his home state. After 18 months on the job, he resigned to run for Congress when the seat in his home district opened up in 1937. He financed his campaign with $10,000 of his wife's money. Running as the spokesman of FDR's New Deal, Johnson handily defeated seven other liberal opponents by capitalizing on their hesitancy to endorse Roosevelt's "court-packing" policy. Shortly thereafter, the 28-year-old congressman was honored by a special invitation to accompany his "political daddy" on a tour across Texas. Back in Washington, Roosevelt's continued approval provided Johnson with choice committee assignments and special prestige in the House of Representatives. In 1941 LBJ was ready for bigger and better things, and once more he campaigned as a champion of liberalism against the reactionary "Pappy" O'Daniel in a race for the U.S. Senate. Johnson lost by the hairbreadth margin of 1,311 votes, and afterward he began moving conspicuously to the right, as he came to terms with his state's powerful and conservative oil interests. Two days after Pearl Harbor, Congressman Johnson was commissioned as a lieutenant commander in the navy; he was the first member of Congress to enlist in the service in W.W. II. His service assignment was to "assess American morale" in the Pacific combat zone. In June, 1942, he was a passenger on a B-26 that narrowly escaped enemy fighters. Afterward, the navy contrived to reward the congressman-commander with a Silver Star for his "marked coolness in spite of the hazard involved." After serving in the navy for less than a year, Johnson returned to Washington when FDR ordered all congressmen serving in the armed forces to return home. Nevertheless, LBJ's war record proved a valuable political asset and helped him during his second race for the Senate in 1948.

Johnson faced an archconservative opponent, Coke Stevenson, so he tempered his liberal appeal with some old-fashioned southern thinking on the race issue. He attacked President Truman's enlightened civil rights program as "a farce and a sham--an effort to set up a police state in the guise of liberty." In the decisive Democratic primary, Johnson beat Stevenson by the unbelievably slim margin of 87 votes--out of a total of 900,000 votes cast. This narrow victory won Johnson the nickname Landslide Lyndon, but the widespread cries of fraud and the threatening court challenges were no laughing matter. It was only through the help of a friend, the brilliant attorney Abe Fortas, that Johnson was able to take his seat in the Senate after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black halted the investigation.

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