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Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon Baines Johnson (August 27, 1908 – January 22, 1973), often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States (1963–1969), a position he assumed after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States (1961–1963). He is one of only four people who served in all four elected federal offices of the United States: Representative, Senator, Vice President, and President. Johnson, a Democrat from Texas, served as a United States Representative from 1937 to 1949 and as a Senator from 1949 to 1961, including six years as United States Senate Majority Leader, two as Senate Minority Leader and two as Senate Majority Whip. After campaigning unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 1960, Johnson was asked by John F. Kennedy to be his running mate for the 1960 presidential election.

36th President of the United States

Johnson succeeded to the presidency following the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, completed Kennedy's term and was elected President in his own right, winning by a large margin over Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election. Johnson was greatly supported by the Democratic Party and as President, he was responsible for designing the "Great Society" legislation that included laws that upheld civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, aid to education, and his "War on Poverty." Johnson was renowned for his domineering personality and the "Johnson treatment," his coercion of powerful politicians in order to advance legislation.

Meanwhile, Johnson escalated American involvement in the Vietnam War, from 16,000 American advisors/soldiers in 1963 to 550,000 combat troops in early 1968, as American casualties soared and the peace process bogged down. The involvement stimulated a large angry antiwar movement based especially on university campuses in the U.S. and abroad. Summer riots broke out in most major cities after 1965, and crime rates soared, as his opponents raised demands for "law and order" policies. The Democratic Party split in multiple feuding factions, and after Johnson did poorly in the 1968 New Hampshire primary, he ended his bid for reelection. Republican Richard Nixon was elected to succeed him. Historians argue that Johnson's presidency marked the peak of modern liberalism in the United States after the New Deal era. Johnson is ranked favorably by some historians because of his domestic policies.

Interest in Space

Of all the presidents, no president had a longer and more sustained interest in space than did Lyndon Johnson. His interest began as a Senator as he watched Sputnik 1 fly over on the day of its launch, as he stood along the banks of the Pedernales River that ran through his ranch.

Johnson clearly understood the importance of controlling technology involving outer space in light of the Sputnik launch. On January 7, 1958, as Senate Majority Leader, Johnson made a key political speech on the subject.

First, it is obvious that the Soviet valuation on the significance of control in outer space has exceeded that of our officials.

The sputniks now orbiting the earth are not military weapons, but have military potential.

Control of space means control of the world, far more certainly, far more totally than any control that has ever or could ever be achieved by weapons, or by troops of occupation.

The race we are in - or which we must enter - is not the race to perfect long-range ballistic missiles. There is something more important than any ultimate weapon. That is the ultimate position - the position of total control over earth lies somewhere out in space.

This is the future, the distant future, though not so distant as we may have thought. Whoever gains that ultimate position gains control, total control, over the earth for purposes of tyranny or for the service of freedom.

While a Majority leader in the Senate, Johnson sat on three space committees:

• The Investigating Subcommittee of the Committee on the Armed Services.
• The Special Committee on Space and Astronautics.
• The Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences.

Once he became the vice-president, Kennedy appointed him as the first vice-president chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council. This appointment came at a critical time for the space program in the race to put a man on the moon. The first rockets had just been launched, and now there was a race to the moon.

President Nixon ended up being the president in office when man finally walked on the moon. He was able to bring the Apollo astronauts to the White House for the important public relations spin-offs. Kennedy was the President who got credit for the decision to go to the moon. Johnson, on the other hand, was written up as the president of the most unsuccessful war in American history.

Even though Kennedy and Nixon got all the credit for the moon landing, there is no doubt, however, that Johnson as vice-president and then president was the essential White House force in putting a man on the moon. For a good portion on the sixties, NASA was the "number one government agency." Today, it wouldn’t even be in the top ten.



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