Lyndon B. Johnson wouldn’t have chosen how he became President of the United States in the way that it happened. He became the first President to take the oath of office on an airplane and it was also the first time a woman initiated the oath. This was because of the tragic events of 1963 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. He was a colorful individual, not afraid of controversy, and it was a career that almost didn’t happen.
1. A Fateful Moment to Pee
Johnson served in the US military during World War II while he was still a Congressman. He was part of the Naval Reserves and took part in just 1 bombing run in total. He was on board the plane, ready to go, and suddenly had to pee. Johnson ran off the plane, used the restroom, and then boarded another plane since the one he’d been on had already taken off. That fateful moment saved his life. The plane that he’d been on first crashed on the mission and all lives on board were lost.
2. He Changed Senate Leadership Roles
In just his second term as a US Senator, Johnson was elected as the minority leader since his Democrats had lost the majority to the Republicans. He would become the majority leader just 2 years when Republicans were voted out of office. Johnson would work to promote the role as a powerful one, promoting Civil Rights laws and winning support for the space programs. He could persuade politicians on both sides of the aisle in a way that Washington hasn’t seen very often.
3. A Shocker of a Pick
Johnson had a very bitter primary campaign against Kennedy in 1960. It was actually pretty shocking that Kennedy would go on to choose LBJ as his vice president because of this. Many believe Johnson decided to take on the role of VP because he saw it as a way to be even more influential over in the Senate. When he tried to take on his anticipated powers as VP, however, his party stopped him because they saw his actions as a violation in the separation acts of the US government.
4. Lots of Ups and Downs
Johnson’s presidency is remembered for two primary things: the Great Society and the Vietnam War. He actively pursued the war while he was also actively pursuing human rights. One of his greatest accomplishments was the system of Medicare that is still active in the US today. His pursuit of war, however, made him an unpopular Democrat and he refused to run for the 1968 elections because he didn’t feel like he could win the election.
5. A Common Man In Many Ways
Johnson was one of the most relateable politicians that America has ever known. When he and his wife got married, they used a ring that cost $2.50 from the local Sears store. One of his favorite foods was canned green peas. If there was one vice that LBJ had, it was a love for Fresca. He loved the soft drink so much that he had a water fountain installed in the Oval Office that would distribute it.
LBJ was an interesting, influential, and straightforward figure of American politics that is loved by some, hated by some, buy respected by all. That’s the greatest compliment a politician can receive.