Fast Forward to LBJ

Happy new year to all! I just spent a few days in Austin and San Antonio, Texas, with a detour to Johnson City and the boyhood home of Lyndon Johnson. It was a cold, rainy day, right in between Christmas and New Year's Day--apparently not peak time to learn about the Great Society and War on Poverty. What else could LBJ have accomplished if not for the Vietnam War? Perhaps the same could be said for Lincoln...or maybe Lincoln became great because of the war. I will leave that for others to debate.

Johnson--rural southern congressman turned vice president turned president--realized, when elected in a landslide in 1964, that he had a short opportunity to accomplish his agenda.

He did not realize how short the time was, but more than 200 pieces of legislation passed in 1964-1965, including several that directly stemmed from the legacy of the Civil War. Of course, they did not percolate in a vacuum but were influenced by the civil rights movement around him. Still, he did stake his political capital on fighting poverty and inequality, to the consternation of some of his white advisors.

A few notable acts, many of which we take for granted now:

  • Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbade discrimination on the basis of race or sex in hiring, promoting, and firings.
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed practices that prevented African Americans, especially in the South, from voting
  • Legislation that created Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Head Start, and the National Endowments of the Arts and the Humanities
  • Appointed Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court.

The center displays some wonderful photos and recordings of Johnson cajoling, pleading, flattering, strong-arming, and totally invading the physical space of others as he tried to gather support for the causes he supported.



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