Lyndon Baines Johnson was born August 27. 1908, in Stonewall Texas, on the Pedernales River.
Perhaps you might argue with my describing him as a great President. After all, he did preside over the expansion of the war in Vietnam. It is the one great black mark on his record.
But he did as much if not more than any President to expand opportunity in this country, and he did far more than FDR did to address questions of racial inequality.
Perhaps it was because he saw poverty and discrimination up close, teaching poor children of Mexican background when he first graduated from San Marcos State Teachers College.
I will not recapitulate his entire career. It is sufficient to list the legislative accomplishments of his 5+ years in the Presidency:
1964 Civil Rights Act
Revenue Act of 1964
Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (basis of War on Poverty)
Equal Opportunity Act
1965 Voting Rights Act
1965 Immigration Act
Fair Housing Act
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
Higher Education Act of 1965
Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965
Established the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities
Public Broadcasting Act of 1967
Gun Control Act of 1968 after assassination of Robert Kennedy
Neighborhood Youth Corp
Model Cities Program
and so on – that is NOT a complete list of his achievements
He established the Kerner Commission which informed the nation “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white-separate and unequal.” It pointed out the serious problem of white racism.
Johnson was far from a perfect President.
The list of accomplishments above is not his entire record, either positive or negative.
But I think it is fair to say his was a transformative Presidency, one that advanced an agenda first begun in the Progressive Era, advanced in the New Deal, and greatly advanced during Johnson’s time as our 38th President.
It seems appropriate as officially a Republican convention whose platform seeks to roll back and undue the advances of Johnson and FDR that we take a moment on this his birthday to remember his greatness.