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Lyndon B. Johnson - Early Life

Lyndon Johnson was born August 27, 1908, in a small dogtrot house on the land that belonged to his grandfather. he was driven by childhood demons, the humiliation and insecurity suffered when his father lost the family ranch in Texas.

He was the first of five children of Rebekah Baines and Sam E. Johnson, Jr. An open central passage, or "dogtrot," separated the two main rooms of the one-story frame house. President and Mrs. Johnson constructed, on the site of the original birthplace, a guesthouse similar to the house in which he was born. Thus, the LBJ Birthplace has the distinction of being the only presidential birthplace replica constructed, furnished, and interpreted by an incumbent chief executive.

The home is a five-room, Texas dogtrot house, typical of the late 19th century with stone foundation, frame construction, board-and-batten siding, and a wood-shingle roof. An open central hallway runs between two large rooms on the east and west sides. In the outer wall of each room is a stone fireplace with wooden mantel. A partially enclosed wooden porch extends across the front of the building with a nursery room extending out from the porch. An ell to the rear of the western room contains a dining room, an old kitchen, and a modern kitchen. To the east of the dining room are a back porch, a shed room, and a modern bath. Johnson family items and period pieces furnish the home.

Sam E. Johnson, Jr. moved his family to Johnson City in 1913, when Lyndon was five years old. The Johnsons purchased a handsome, one-story home the following year. The house consisted of the original five-room house built in 1901, plus a west wing addition with two more bedrooms and a “tubroom,” containing a tub and possibly a washstand. The house also had two L-shaped porches on the front, a screened porch in the back, and another open porch behind the west wing. Many people in Johnson City thought this was one of the nicest houses in town. Lyndon Johnson grew up in this house until he went away to college. It was his home from the age of five until he married at the age of 26, except for two years between 1920 and 1922 when the family returned to their farm.

Lyndon Johnson attended public schools in Johnson City, graduated from the Southwest Texas Teachers College at San Marcos (now known as Texas State University–San Marcos) and taught school to Mexican American children before he came to Washington as secretary to Representative Richard M. Kleberg (D-Texas). Energetic and ambitious, he rose to attention by winning election as Speaker of the "Little Congress," a congressional staff club.

In 1934, Johnson married Claudia “Lady Bird” Alta Taylor. By this time, he had already embarked on his political career. In 1931, he went to Washington, DC as secretary to Democratic Congressman Richard Kleberg and by 1935, was a successful administrator for the National Youth Administration in Texas. Johnson was appointed Texas director of the National Youth Administration – a New Deal agency designed to help young people get educations and jobs.

When Joseph Buchanan, his local congressman, died unexpectedly in 1937, Johnson jumped into the race. He returned to the front porch of his boyhood home to make his first political campaign speech in 1937, and won the special election to succeed him. He became a master of the legislative process and attracted the attention of powerful House Speaker Sam Rayburn, another Texan, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the House he aligned himself with the legendary Texas Representative Sam Rayburn and with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. Reelected five times, Johnson served in the House until 1948.

When the United States entered World War II, Johnson became the first member of Congress to enlist in the armed services, becoming a lieutenant commander in the Navy. His military service abruptly ended, however, when President Roosevelt ordered that members of Congress choose between serving in uniform or in Congress. Johnson resigned his active commission and returned to Capitol Hill. In 1941 he made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for the Senate. In 1948, he won a Senate seat in a hotly-contested race by a margin of 87 votes.

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Page last modified: 01-11-2017 19:29:14 ZULU