Baylor University Poage Library

About Lyndon Johnson

JOHNSON, LYNDON BAINES (1908–1973). Lyndon Baines Johnson, president of the United States, the eldest of five children of Samuel Ealy Johnson, Jr., and Rebekah Baines Johnson,qqv was born on August 27, 1908, on a farm in the Hill Country near Stonewall, Texas. His father had served in the Texas legislature, and young Lyndon grew up in an atmosphere that emphasized politics and public affairs. Lyndon's mother encouraged her son's ambition and sense of striving. In 1913 the Johnsons moved to nearby Johnson City. Lyndon was educated in local schools in the area and graduated from high school in Johnson City in 1924. During the next several years he tried various jobs in California and Texas without success. In 1927 he entered Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Texas State University–San Marcos), where he was a history and social science major active in campus politics. He earned his elementary teacher's certificate in 1928 and for one year was a principal and teacher at Cotulla. His work with the destitute Hispanic students there had an important effect on his attitude toward poverty and the role of government. Johnson received his B.A. degree in 1930. He had already taken part in several political campaigns. Late in 1931 he became the secretary to Congressman Richard M. Kleberg of Texas. During the four years he held the position he gained valuable contacts in Washington. On November 17, 1934, he met and married Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor, daughter of Thomas Jefferson Taylor IIqv, a prosperous planter and store owner in Marshall. Two daughters were born to the Johnsons, during the 1940s. Mrs. Johnson proved to be an effective political partner. Her business acumen was an important element in the success of the radio station that they acquired in Austin in 1943.

Johnson's first important political position was as director of the National Youth Administration in Texas from 1935 to 1937. Construction of his system of roadside parks put young Texans to work and quietly introduced the participation of African Americans in some NYA programs. When the incumbent congressman of the Tenth Congressional District died in 1937, Johnson entered the race as a devoted supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. He spent eleven years in the House and became intimately familiar with the legislative process. He was a supporter of Roosevelt's programs and policies and a close ally of majority leader (later speaker of the House) Sam Rayburn. He was the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1940 and helped the Democrats retain control of the House. In 1941 he ran for the Senate from Texas but was narrowly defeated in a special election.