U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson Description and Personality Part 1

About the U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, his physical and description and personality and behavior.

36th President


His Person: Johnson was 6 ft. 3 in. tall, and his massive bone structure and long, powerful limbs made him seem even taller. As a youth, LBJ was "slim as a willow wand," but in later years he became self-conscious about his paunchy midsection, and his weight was never publicly announced. Johnson had a long nose, enormous fleshy ears, and leathery skin. He was notoriously vain about his appearance and insisted that no likeness really did him justice. On one famous occasion, the painter Peter Hurd spent weeks preparing a portrait of Johnson, only to hear the President declare, "That's the ugliest thing I've ever seen." In 1964, after Johnson saw a medallion with his likeness prepared by the world-famous sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, he graciously observed, "Looks like I've been dead three weeks, and maybe ought to be." Johnson also stubbornly insisted that his left side was more attractive than his right, and he commanded all White House photographers to use only his left profile.

Johnson loved southern cooking, and he could consume huge quantities of fried chicken, steak, or barbecue with record-breaking speed. His nervous eating habits sometimes troubled those who watched him. On one occasion, at opening day of the baseball season, witnesses saw the President eat one hotdog per inning for all nine innings of the game. Johnson was never a particularly heavy drinker, but he liked to relax every day with Cutty Sark scotch, stirred into tall, watery highballs. Before his heart attack, he smoked three packs of cigarettes a day, but then gave up the habit under doctors' orders.

Johnson's energy and stamina were phenomenal, and he always drove himself to the limit. As Lady Bird observed, "Lyndon acts as if there is never going to be a tomorrow." In the White House, he began every day with a bedroom conference at 6:30 A.M., and then worked straight through until 2:00 in the afternoon, when he relaxed, had lunch, and took a quick nap. By 4:00 he was ready to go again. "It's like starting a new day," announced the delighted President, and he kept working all night until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. This Johnsonian "double day" amazed the press and left many of his aides frustrated and exhausted. His assistant Jack Valenti offered the opinion that LBJ had "extra glands" that "give him energy that ordinary men simply don't have. He goes to bed late, rises early, and the words I have never heard him say are 'I'm tired.'"

Not surprisingly, Johnson had difficulty in relaxing. In the spring of 1964, he tried his hand at golf, but the game bored him. He smacked the ball "like he was killing a rattlesnake," according to one of his companions. He tried bowling, but he couldn't be happy unless he made a strike. "You know I do everything intensively," he said. He did swim regularly in the White House pool, but he turned each dip into a political conference. In the pool at the LBJ Ranch, he had a floating telephone installed so he could work in the water. Occasionally he played dominoes with his brother Sam Houston Johnson in the wee hours of the morning when his weary staff had finally gone to bed, but LBJ only enjoyed the game when he won.

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