Lyndon Johnson (1908-1973) was the 36th president of the United States. Born in Texas, Johnson worked his way through Southwest State Teachers College and taught for two years near Houston. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1937 but took a leave of absence during World War II to serve in the Navy. He returned to the House in 1942 and served until 1949 when he was elected to the United States Senate. In 1960, he was selected to join presidential nominee John F. Kennedy on the Democratic ticket. He was elected vice president on 8 November 1960, and succeeded to the presidency when John Kennedy was assassinated on 22 November 1963.
As president, Johnson successfully implemented and expanded Kennedy’s domestic agenda. A skilled politician with almost two decades of congressional experience, Johnson secured passage of a vast array of social programs labeled the “Great Society.” These programs included Medicare, Medicaid, VISTA, Head Start, the Job Corps, and the Office of Economic Opportunity. Johnson also pushed the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 through Congress.
Convinced that a communist victory in South Vietnam would lead to red domination of all of Southeast Asia, Johnson escalated America’s involvement in Vietnam. After massive bombing campaigns proved unsuccessful in deterring communist advances in South Vietnam, Johnson increased American ground forces. By 1968, close to 600,000 Americans had been deployed in the country and more than 30,000 had been killed. When the Tet Offensive demonstrated that North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces were still strong, Johnson froze his policy and announced that he would not seek re-election.