Lyndon Johnson: Triumph and Tragedy

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Lady Bird Johnson ...
Herself - as First Lady Ladybird Johnson (archive footage)
Himself - as President John F. Kennedy (archive footage)


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Lyndon Baines Johnson a Born Leader
27 June 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

If you remember the report regarding President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) at an airfield, about to board a helicopter, when a serviceman intervenes, saying, "This isn't your helicopter, Mister President," and points to a more fashionable one and adds, "This is your helicopter," to which LBJ looks him in the eye and replies, "Son, they're all my helicopters." Well, according to this episode, LBJ is very much like that, direct, authoritative and concise.

This episode, premiering on Presidents' Day, February 17, 1997, follows LBJ from his 1908 birth, in Stonewall, Texas, eldest of five children born to Rebekah Baines Johnson and Samuel Ealy Johnson, Jr., who is said to bully young Lyndon and his city-educated mother, who has high expectations of success for her eldest, and if when he doesn't perform satisfactory enough in school, she makes believe that he no longer exists until he shapes up, thus learning from his parents the skills of perfection and bullying.

Samuel, LBJ's father, eventually is elected to a seat within the Texas legislature, representing their native Texas Hill Country as well as the capital city of Austin, which Lyndon visits, which causes an impression on the child, who completes high school by age of 16, and working on Texas highway construction by age 17. As his father champions civil rights, Lyndon makes this a cause to support, as he develops a dedication for helping the unfortunate.

In 1930, Lyndon receives a teaching position at Sam Houston High School, coaching its debate team, and in 1931, he journeys to Washington, D.C., to visit the U.S. House of Representatives, which also creates an impression, for Lyndon to seek public office.

In 1932, LBJ accepts a position with Congressman Richard M. Kleberg, managing his office efficiently, and forging a friendship with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the process.

In 1934, LBJ meets Claudia Alta Taylor, AKA Lady Bird, in September and marries her 10 weeks later, in November. He approaches life and career with equal directness and decisiveness.

In 1944, LBJ campaigns for a seat in the U.S. Senate, but the campaign of his opponent, Harry O'Daniel, is discovered stuffing ballot boxes, to outperform Johnson illegally, but LBJ decides not to press charges because "there will be other elections" -- which there are, and Johnson's campaign is likewise charged with stuffing Texas ballot boxes after his very close victory to the U.S. Senate opposite Coke Stevenson, in 1948.

When he become Senate Majority Leader in 1953, at age 44, he becomes the youngest Senate Majority Leader in U.S. history. During this period, Democrat LBJ and Republican U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower work very harmoniously on many bi-partisan projects, leading LBJ to eye a campaign for the U.S. presidency.

In 1960, LBJ campaigns for the Democratic nomination for the presidency and outperforms other candidates throughout the South, but loses the overall delegate count to Senator John F. Kennedy, who subsequently requests LBJ as his running mate. LBJ ponders the notion and eventually accepts the nod.

But after the tragic 1963 assassination, LBJ is thrust into the White House, of which he says is certainly not the way he has wished. But he manages to pull the country forward, and to receive a landslide win during the 1964 election cycle.

LBJ's presidency is marked by his tireless schedule of supporting civil rights, his War on Poverty, The Great Society, Medicare, Medicaid, and many supportive programs to benefit millions of otherwise helpless Americans.

He is said to persevere 18-hours a day, which includes luncheon and dinner meetings on a regular basis, and inviting his staff and committees into the White House bedroom to continue their meetings while Lady Bird lies sleeping.

But the conflict in southeast Asia mars the LBJ presidency, with escalating war and American involvement, civil unrest, protest marches and rioting Stateside, and the mounting popular voice to pull American troops from the war-torn region, leading to his 1968 decision against running for re-election.

Afterward, LBJ founds the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, near the campus of The University of Texas at Austin, and is said never to express happiness unless he is able to help others in need.

Interview Guests for this episode consist of Lady Bird Johnson (Wife), Luci Baines Johnson (Daughter), Stella Glidden (Childhood friend), Liz Carpenter (LBJ Aide), Doris Kearns Goodwin (Biographer: "Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream"), Robert Dallek (Biographer: "Lone star rising: Lyndon Johnson and his times, 1908-1960"), Ben Crider (Childhood friend), George Christian (LBJ Press Secretary), Joseph A. Califano, Jr. (LBJ Domestic Aide), Richard N. Goodwin (LBJ Special Assistant), and Jack Valenti (LBJ Special Assistant), with Jack Perkins (Host) and John Martin (Narrator).

Still Photographs include Lyndon Baines Johnson, Rebekah Baines Johnson (Mother), Samuel Ealy Johnson, Jr. (Father), Rebekah Johnson (Sister), Josefa Johnson (Sister), Lucia Johnson (Sister), Sam Houston Johnson (Brother), Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor Johnson (Wife), Harry O'Daniel (Political opponent), Coke Stevenson (Political opponent), and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Archive film footage includes U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson, U.S. First Lady Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor Johnson, Linda Bird Johnson, Luci Baines Johnson, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, U.S. First Lady Jackie Kennedy, Caroline and John Kennedy Jr., U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Ethel Kennedy, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, U.S. First Lady Pat Nixon, U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater, and Ted Koppel.

Film and Television Clips include scenes from LBJ's campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Presidency, as well as scenes from the Kennedy years, the Vietnam Conflict, Civil unrest, Congressional hearings, television news coverage and interviews, and the LBJ Library and Museum dedication.

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