Lyndon Baines Johnson (August 27, 1908 – January 22, 1973), also known as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States, serving from 1963–1969 (Figure 2). Johnson had served as Vice President in the Kennedy administration and assumed the presidency upon Kennedy's death on November 22nd, 1963. Johnson was reelected in a landslide in 1964 but did not seek reelection in 1968 on account of his declining popularity. Johnson was renowned for his domineering personality, and, relatedly, his great skill in persuading congressmen and other politicians to support him. Johnson accomplished an ambitious domestic agenda, enacting the "Great Society" and "War on Poverty," a collection of programs related to civil rights, economic opportunity, education, healthcare, environmental protection, and public broadcasting. Historians argue that the Great Society and War on Poverty mark the peak of liberal policy in the United States, the culmination of the New Deal era. Johnson is rated highly by many historians because of his success enacting domestic policies.
Johnson escalated American involvement in the Vietnam War, reversing Kennedy's policy of disengagement. Under Johnson, American troop presence went from 16,000 American advisors/soldiers in 1963 to 550,000 combat troops in early 1968. American casualties soared during this time. The war stimulated a large, angry antiwar movement based especially on university campuses in the U.S. and abroad. At the same time, race riots broke out in many American cities, beginning in 1965. These riots, combined with rising crime rates, sapped support for Johnson's liberal civil rights and anti-poverty policies and strengthened right-wing calls for "law and order." The Democratic Party split into four factions, and after an embarassingly poor peformance in the 1968 New Hampshire primary, Johnson ended his bid for reelection. Republican Richard Nixon was elected to succeed him. Republicans would dominate the presidency, winning five out of the next six presidential elections, until the election of Bill Clinton in 1992.
Johnson was sworn in as President on Air Force One at Love Field Airport in Dallas on November 22, 1963, two hours and eight minutes after President Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza in Dallas. He was sworn in by Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes, a family friend, making him the first President sworn in by a woman. He is also the only President to have been sworn in on Texas soil. Johnson did not swear on a Bible, as there were none on Air Force One; a Roman Catholic missal was found in Kennedy's desk and was used for the swearing-in ceremony. Johnson being sworn in as president has become the most famous photo ever taken aboard a presidential aircraft.
In the days following the assassination, Lyndon B. Johnson made an address to Congress: "No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the Civil Rights Bill for which he fought so long." The wave of national grief following the assassination gave enormous momentum to Johnson's promise to carry out Kennedy's programs. Johnson created a panel headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, known as the Warren Commission, to investigate Kennedy's assassination. The commission conducted hearings and concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination. Not everyone agreed with the Warren Commission, and numerous public and private investigations continued for decades after Johnson left office.
Johnson's cabinet included several members of Kennedy's cabinet. Johnson retained Dean Rusk as secretary of state, Robert McNamara as secretary of defense, as well as Kennedy's secretaries of Agriculture and the Interiror, all for the duration of his presidency. Former presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson continued as Johnson's ambassador to the United Nations, until Stevenson's death in 1965. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, with whom Johnson had a notoriously difficult relationship, remained in office for a few months, leaving in 1964 to run for the Senate. Robert F. Kennedy called LBJ "mean, bitter, vicious—[an] animal in many ways...I think his reactions on a lot of things are correct... but I think he's got this other side of him and his relationship with human beings which makes it difficult unless you want to 'kiss his behind' all the time. That is what Bob McNamara suggested to me...if I wanted to get along."