Lyndon B. Johnson

1963-1968

Ascent into Presidency

  • While riding in an open limousine on November 22, 1963 in downtown Dallas, President Kennedy was shot in the head by a concealed rifleman and died almost instantly.
  • Vice President Johnson was sworn in as president on a waiting airplane on his way to Washington with Kennedy’s body.
  • Johnson kept most of Kennedy’s advisers and did his best to honor the lost president.

Election of 1964

  • Headed the Democrats with the most liberal platform since Truman.
  • His opponent was one of the most conservative politicians to run for presidency.
  • Barry Goldwater attacked the federal systems created in the past decades supported by Johnson, while Johnson attacked Goldwater’s trigger-happy military ideals.

The Great Society


  • Johnson’s new domestic policy, aimed at transforming the american way of life to combat poverty
  • Gained high public support because about 20% of the population, and 40% of blacks, lived in poverty
  • Created 2 new cabinet offices, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Channeled educational aid to students, not schools, allowing parochial institutions a share of the money
  • Created a Medicare system to aid the elderly, then for the poor
  • Reformed immigration laws to eliminate many of the restrictions and double the total number allowed in per year
  • Many conservatives argued that Johnson wasted billions of dollars on “social engineering” that would not be effective in the long run, but poverty declined continually throughout the decade

The 24th Ammendment

  • Ratified January 23, 1964
  • outlawed the poll tax as a voting requirement in federal elections
  • This meant that voting ability had no connection to monetary situation, and thousands of blacks essentially gained the right to vote
  • Some critics of the legislation though the amendment did not go far enough to protect black voting rights in state and local elections.
  • exemplified “Jim Crow” laws, developed in the post-Reconstruction South, which aimed to disenfranchise black voters and institute segregation.
  • The poll tax as a whole was deemed unconstitutional in 1966

Conflict in Asia

Tonkin Gulf


  • Early August, 1962
  • US Navy worked with South Vietnam against North Vietnam, unbeknownst to the american public or Congress
  • US ships were fired upon by North Vietnamese, but it is highly likely to have been in self-defense
  • Johnson declared the attack unprovoked and ordered a small retaliation, without the intention of entering a larger combat situation.
  • Johnson used this incident to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, allowing him to use his own judgement and freely use further force in Southeast Asia if he chose.

Vietnam War

  • The conflict in Vietnam escalated, and Viet Cong guerrillas began to attack US bases, while the US initiated bombing raids against northern Vietnam.
  • Johnson originally believed that a gradual escalation of military involvement and attacks would quickly drive the enemy into submission, but the communist north vietnamese matched every increase in american involvement with more troops and more resistance
  • The war was at a stalemate with neither side progressing and had no end in sight
  • Many countries did not like the idea of a global superpower attacking an underdeveloped country, but the War dragged on
  • Public opposition rapidly increased of the conflict, and quickly became the longest and most unpopular struggle in US history.
  • The conflict raged on with futility, and drastically lowered the public’s support of Johnson, who was split between support of the public opinion and the requests of the army.
  • Eventually, the war played a large part in influencing the 1968 election, although not as large as had been expected, for Democrats and Republicans both wanted to finish out the war with an “honorable peace.”

Johnson's Civil Rights


  • Outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
  • The civil rights act of 1964 allowed the federal government to enforce desegregation in school and other public institutions.
  • As few as 5% of blacks were voting, due to intimidation and poverty
  • With the Voting rights act, blacks were finally able to vote freely, giving blacks a large power to make changes in society
  • Whites now had to court black votes as never before in order to guarantee victory

1968

  • A major communist offensive was launched in Vietnam, shattering all hopes for the war coming to an end soon
  • Johnson delivers his address to the nation in which he declares that he will not be running for the upcoming election.
  • The late president Kennedy’s brother , who was running for president, was assassinated on June 5th.
  • Martin Luther King, one of the most prominent social right leaders, was assassinated
  • The Soviet Union invades Czechoslovakia with over 200,000 Warsaw pact troops on August 20th, putting an end to the "Prague Spring," and beginning a period of enforced and oppressive "normalization," inspiring the work of a famous composer by the name of Karel Husa to compose his piece "Prague 1968.
  • On a more positive note, after stalling for months, the South Vietnamese government agrees to join in the Paris peace talks.
  • Apollo 8 took video of the Earth from the far side of the moon
  • 1968 Olympics oversaw Black Power come to a rise as riots ensued