Blackwell Companions to American History

Title Page


Notes on Contributors



Part I: Pre-Presidential Years

Chapter 1: The Changing South


Chapter 2: LBJ in the House and Senate

The Participant-Observers

The Political Landscape

The Legislative Pragmatist



Further Reading

Chapter 3: The Vice Presidency



Further Reading

Part II: Lyndon B. Johnson's White House

Chapter 4: Lady Bird Johnson

Contemporary Media Coverage

Biographies and Memoirs

First Lady Literature



Chapter 5: Management and Vision


Further Reading

Part III: Domestic Policy

Chapter 6: The War on Poverty


Further Reading

Chapter 7: African-American Civil Rights



Further Reading

Chapter 8: Mexican Americans


Further Reading

Chapter 9: Women's Issues

Sex Discrimination in Employment

The War on Poverty and the Mobilization of Poor Women

Federal Promotion of Birth Control

Women and the Antiwar Movement


Further Reading

Chapter 10: Health Care

Policy is Personal

The War on Disease

The Capstones: Medicare and Medicaid

The Post-1965 Period

Historiography: Standard and Revisionist

Summing Up Johnson and Health Care



Further Reading

Chapter 11: Environmental Policy

The Modern Environmental Movement

The Johnson Administration

Key Players in the Johnson Administration

New Conservation in Congress

Agent Orange



Chapter 12: American Immigration Policy

Before Reaching the National Stage

Immigration Reform during the Johnson Presidency




Chapter 13: LBJ and the Constitution



Chapter 14: The Urban Crisis


Chapter 15: Education Reform

Enactment of the ESEA

Implementation of the ESEA

Impact of the ESEA



Chapter 16: Domestic Insurgencies

Lyndon Johnson and the Domestic Insurgencies

Movements of the Excluded

The Revolt of Privileged Youth




Chapter 17: LBJ and the Conservative Movement



Part IV: Vietnam

Chapter 18: Decisions for War



Chapter 19: Fighting the Vietnam War


Chapter 20: The War at Home


Chapter 21: The War from the Other Side


The Vietnam War in Vietnam

Works in English


Part V: Beyond Vietnam

Chapter 22: Latin America

Setting the Tone with Personnel Changes

The Alliance for Progress and the Commitment to Development

Intervention and Coup Support


Secret Financing of Elections: Chile and the Dominican Republic

Moderation: Mexico and Cuba

The Waning of the Monroe Doctrine



Chapter 23: Europe

The Nuclear Issue: From the MLF to the NPT

The Alliance Issue: Charles de Gaulle and the Trilateral Negotiations

International Finance and Trade: Special Drawing Rights and the Kennedy Round

Eastern Europe, Bridge-Building, and Czechoslovakia

The Cyprus Crisis and the Greek Coup

1968, Social Movements, and Impact of Vietnam


Chapter 24: LBJ and the Cold War

LBJ, the Communist Powers and the Kennedy Legacy

U.S.–Soviet Relations, 1963–9

The U.S.S.R., China, and the Vietnam War

U.S.–China Relations, 1963–9

LBJ: Father of Nuclear Arms Control?



Chapter 25: The Middle East


Chapter 26: LBJ and the New Global Challenges








Part VI: Final Reckonings

Chapter 27: How Great was the Great Society?

“Flawed Giant”: LBJ as a Reform President

The Great Society and American Liberalism

How Did the Great Society Affect American Politics?

Whither the Great Society



Chapter 28: Lyndon B. Johnson and the World


Chapter 29: The Legacy of Lyndon B. Johnson





Blackwell Companions to American History

This series provides essential and authoritative overviews of the scholarship that has shaped our present understanding of the American past. Edited by eminent historians, each volume tackles one of the major periods or themes of American history, with individual topics authored by key scholars who have spent considerable time in research on the questions and controversies that have sparked debate in their field of interest. The volumes are accessible for the non-specialist, while also engaging scholars seeking a reference to the historiography or future concerns.


A Companion to the American Revolution
Edited by Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole

A Companion to 19th-Century America
Edited by William L. Barney

A Companion to the American South
Edited by John B. Boles

A Companion to American Indian History
Edited by Philip J. Deloria and Neal Salisbury

A Companion to American Women's History
Edited by Nancy Hewitt

A Companion to Post-1945 America
Edited by Jean-Christophe Agnew and Roy Rosenzweig

A Companion to the Vietnam War
Edited by Marilyn Young and Robert Buzzanco

A Companion to Colonial America
Edited by Daniel Vickers

A Companion to 20th-Century America
Edited by Stephen J. Whitfield

A Companion to the American West
Edited by William Deverell

A Companion to American Foreign Relations
Edited by Robert Schulzinger

A Companion to the Civil War and Reconstruction
Edited by Lacy K. Ford

A Companion to American Technology
Edited by Carroll Pursell

A Companion to African-American History
Edited by Alton Hornsby

A Companion to American Immigration
Edited by Reed Ueda

A Companion to American Cultural History
Edited by Karen Halttunen

A Companion to California History
Edited by William Deverell and David Igler

A Companion to American Military History
Edited by James Bradford

A Companion to Los Angeles
Edited by William Deverell and Greg Hise

A Companion to American Environmental History
Edited by Douglas Cazaux Sackman

A Companion to Benjamin Franklin
Edited by David Waldstreicher

In preparation

A Companion to American Urban History
Edited by David Quigley

A Companion to American Legal History
Edited by Sally Hadden and Alfred L. Brophy

A Companion to World War Two (2 volumes)
Edited by Thomas Zeiler

A Companion to the History of American Science
Edited by Mark Largent

A Companion to Supreme Court History (2 volumes)
Edited by John Vile

A Companion to American Sports History
Edited by Steven Riess



A Companion to Franklin D. Roosevelt
Edited by William Pederson

A Companion to Richard M. Nixon
Edited by Melvin Small

A Companion to Thomas Jefferson
Edited by Francis D. Cogliano

A Companion to Lyndon B. Johnson
Edited by Mitchell Lerner

A Companion to Theodore Roosevelt
Edited by Serge Ricard

In preparation

A Companion to Abraham Lincoln
Edited by Michael Green

A Companion to George Washington
Edited by Edward G. Lengel

A Companion to Harry S. Truman
Edited by Daniel S. Margolies

A Companion to Andrew Jackson
Edited by Sean Patrick Adams

A Companion to Woodrow Wilson
Edited by Ross A. Kennedy

A Companion to Dwight D. Eisenhower
Edited by Chester J. Pach

A Companion to Ronald Reagan
Edited by Andrew L. Johns

A Companion to James Madison and James Monroe
Edited by Stuart Leibiger

A Companion to John Adams and John Quincy Adams
Edited by David Waldstreicher

A Companion to the Antebellum Presidents, 1837–61
Edited by Joel Silbey

A Companion to the Reconstruction Presidents, 1865–81
Edited by Edward Frantz

A Companion to Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter
Edited by V. Scott Kaufman

A Companion to Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover
Edited by Katherine A. S. Sibley

Title Page

Notes on Contributors

Pierre Asselin is Associate Professor of History at Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu. He is the author of A Bitter Peace: Washington, Hanoi, and the Making of the Paris Agreement (2002); “Choosing Peace: Hanoi and the Geneva Agreement on Vietnam, 1954–1955” in Journal of Cold War Studies (2007); and “The Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the 1954 Geneva Conference: A Revisionist Critique” in Cold War History (2011). His current book project examines Hanoi's revolutionary strategy in the period 1954 to 1965.

Edward D. Berkowitz is Professor of History and Public Policy and Public Administration at the George Washington University. His books include biographies of Johnson-era policy-makers Robert Ball and Wilbur Cohen and books on the welfare state, disability policy, health care, and the 1970s. His recent book is Mass Appeal: The Formative Era of Movies, Radio, and Television (2011).

Lisa M. Burns is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT. She is the author of First Ladies and the Fourth Estate: Press Framing of Presidential Wives (2008). She has also published scholarly articles on first lady media coverage in various journals and has been widely quoted in the local and national media regarding coverage of women in politics.

Larry DeWitt is a public historian at the U.S. Social Security Administration. A recognized authority on the history of the Social Security program, he is the author of numerous articles and essays on the subject and is the principal editor of Social Security: A Documentary History.

John Dumbrell is Professor of Government at Durham University, United Kingdom. He is a graduate of Cambridge and Keele Universities. Among his books are President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Communism (2004: winner of the 2005 Richard E. Neustadt book prize for the best book on an American political subject by a UK-based author), A Special Relationship: Anglo-American Relations from the Cold War to Iraq (2006), and Clinton's Foreign Policy: Between the Bushes (2009). He is currently working on a book for Palgrave/Macmillan to be entitled Rethinking the Vietnam War.

Donna R. Gabaccia is the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History and Director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota. She is author of many books and articles on immigrant life in the United States, on gender, class, and labor (recently, co-edited with Vicki Ruiz, American Dreaming, Global Realities: Rethinking U.S. Immigration History, 2006), and on Italian migration around the world (recently, co-edited with Loretta Baldassar, Intimacies across Borders: The Italian Nation in a Mobile World, 2010).

Kent B. Germany is Associate Professor of History at the University of South Carolina. He is the author of New Orleans After the Promises: Poverty, Citizenship, and the Search for the Great Society (2007), editor of Lyndon B. Johnson and Civil Rights (2010), and co-editor of The Kennedy Assassination and the Transfer of Power (2005), Toward the Great Society (2007), and Mississippi Burning and the Passage of the Civil Rights Act (2011).

Peter L. Hahn is Professor of History and Department Chair at Ohio State University. He is the author of five books on U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East, recently Missions Accomplished?: The United States and Iraq since World War I (2011) and Crisis and Crossfire: The United States and the Middle East since 1945 (2005). Professor Hahn is also the Executive Director of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. He earned his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University and his B.A. summa cum laude, at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Susan M. Hartmann is Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor of History at the Ohio State University. Her books include The Home Front and Beyond: American Women in the 1940s (1982), From Margin to Mainstream: American Women and Politics since 1960 (1989), and The Other Feminists: Activists in the Liberal Establishment (1998); and she is a co-author of the textbook, The American Promise: A History of the United States (4th edn., 2008).

Andrew L. Johns is Assistant Professor of History at Brigham Young University and the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies. He is the author of Vietnam's Second Front: Domestic Politics, the Republican Party, and the War (2010), co-editor, with Kathryn C. Statler, of The Eisenhower Administration, the Third World, and the Globalization of the Cold War (2006), and editor of A Companion to Ronald Reagan (forthcoming).

Robert David Johnson is Professor of History at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Two recent books of his are All the Way with LBJ (2009) and Until Proven Innocent (2007, co-authored with Stuart Taylor).

Mark Atwood Lawrence is Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. He is author of Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam (2005) and The Vietnam War: A Concise International History (2008). He is now working on a study of U.S. policy-making toward the developing world in the 1960s.

Mitchell Lerner is Associate Professor of History at the Ohio State University. He is author of The Pueblo Incident: A Spy Ship and the Failure of American Foreign Policy (2002), and editor of Looking Back at LBJ (2005). He has held the Mary Ball Washington Distinguished Fulbright Chair at UC-Dublin, and been a fellow at the University of Virginia's Miller Center for Public Affairs.

Maddalena Marinari is an Assistant Professor of U.S. history at St. Bonaventure University and specializes in migration and ethnic history. She is currently revisinga manuscript that explores the impact of restrictive immigration policies on Italian and Jewish communities in the United States from 1882 to 1965. She has presented her work at numerous national conferences and received funding from several national organizations for her research.

Lawrence J. McAndrews is Professor of History at St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI. He is the author of Broken Ground: John F. Kennedy and the Politics of Education (1991) and The Era of Education: The Presidents and the Schools, 1965–2001 (2006).

Alan McPherson is Associate Professor of International and Area Studies and ConocoPhillips Chair in Latin American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of the prize-winning Yankee No! Anti-Americanism in U.S.-Latin American Relations (2003) and of Intimate Ties, Bitter Struggles: The United States and Latin America since 1945 (2006).

Martin V. Melosi received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas (1975). He is Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen University Professor and Director of the Center for Public History at the University of Houston. He has authored or edited 16 books and more than 80 articles. He specializes in environmental, urban, and energy history.

Sidney M. Milkis is the White Burkett Miller Professor of the Department of Politics and Assistant Director for Studies in Democracy and Governance at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. His books include: The President and the Parties: The Transformation of the American Party System since the New Deal (1993); Political Parties and Constitutional Government: Remaking American Democracy (1999); Presidential Greatness (2000), co-authored with Marc Landy; The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776–2011 (6th edn., 2011), co-authored with Michael Nelson; and Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressive Party, and the Transformation of American Democracy (2009). He is the co-editor, with Jerome Mileur, of thee volumes on twentieth-century political reform: Progressivism and the New Democracy (1999); The New Deal and the Triumph of Liberalism (2002); and The Great Society and the High Tide of Liberalism (2005).

Lorena Oropeza is an Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of ¡Raza Sí! ¡Guerra No!: Chicano Protest and Patriotism during the Viet Nam War Era.

Andrew Preston is Senior Lecturer in History and a Fellow of Clare College at Cambridge University. In addition to several journal articles and book chapters, he is the author of The War Council: McGeorge Bundy, the NSC, and Vietnam (2006) and co-editor, with Fredrik Logevall, of Nixon in the World: American Foreign Relations, 1969–1977 (2008).

Donald A. Ritchie is Historian of the United States Senate. He has published numerous articles on American political history and oral history, including “Oral History in the Federal Government,” which appeared in the Journal of American History. His recent books are The U.S. Congress: A Very Short Introduction (2010), Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932 (2007), and Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide (2nd edn., 2003). Other publications include The Senate (1988) and Press Gallery: Congress and the Washington Correspondents (1991). He also edits the Executive Sessions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Historical Series). A former president of the Oral History Association and Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region (OHMAR), he received OHMAR's Forrest C. Pogue Award for distinguished contributions to the field of oral history.

Jeff Roche is an Associate Professor of History at the College of Wooster. He is the author of Restructured Resistance and several essays on conservative politics. He is also the editor of The Political Culture of the New West and the co-editor of The Conservative Sixties. His forthcoming book examines the origins and evolution of American conservatism.

Doug Rossinow is Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His works include The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left in America (1998) and Visions of Progress: The Left-Liberal Tradition in America (2008). He is currently writing a history of America in the 1980s.

Nicholas Evan Sarantakes is the author of four books, including the recent Dropping the Torch: Jimmy Carter, the Olympic Boycott, and the Cold War (2011). A fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he has won five writing awards, including two for articles on Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Sean J. Savage is Professor of Political Science at Saint Mary's College. He is the author of Roosevelt: The Party Leader, 1932–1945 (1991), Truman and the Democratic Party (1997), and JFK, LBJ, and the Democratic Party (2004).

Edward R. Schmitt is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha. He is the author of President of the Other America: Robert Kennedy and the Politics of Poverty (2010).

Robert D. Schulzinger is the Director of the International Affairs Program at CU-Boulder, and a College of Arts & Sciences Professor of Distinction. He is the author or co-author of 12 books and over 60 articles on the history of U.S. foreign relations and recent American history. Among his books are The Wise Men of Foreign Affairs: The History of the Council on Foreign Relations; Henry Kissinger: Doctor of Diplomacy; A Time for War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941–1975; Present Tense: The United States since 1945; and A Time for Peace: The Legacy of the Vietnam War.

Thomas Alan Schwartz is Professor of History at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of the books America's Germany: John J. McCloy and the Federal Republic of Germany (1991) and Lyndon Johnson and Europe: In the Shadow of Vietnam (2003), and with Matthias Schulz, the edited volume, The Strained Alliance: US-European Relations in the 1970s (2009). He has received fellowships from the German Historical Institute, the Norwegian Nobel Institute, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the Social Science Research Center. He served on the Historical Advisory Committee of the Department of State, and was the President of the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations.

Marc J. Selverstone is Associate Professor and Assistant Director for Presidential Studies at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, where he transcribes and annotates the presidential recordings of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He is the author of Constructing the Monolith: The United States, Great Britain, and International Communism, 1945–1950, which won the 2010 Bernath Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

David Steigerwald is Associate Professor of History at the Ohio State University. He is the author of three books and a co-author of one. His essays have appeared in the Journal of American History and Labor History, among many other places.

Jeff Woods is an Associate Professor and Department Head of the History and Political Science Department at Arkansas Tech University. He is the author of two books, Black Struggle Red Scare: Segregation and Anticommunism in the South 1948–1968 (2004) and Richard B. Russell: Southern Nationalism and American Foreign Policy (2007).

Mary Ann Wynkoop is the Director of the American Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is the author of Dissent in the Heartland: Indiana University in the 1960s (2002) and teaches courses on the 1960s, women's history, and film and American culture.


Mitchell B. Lerner

A few minutes after 2:30 p.m. on November 27, 1963, President Lyndon Baines Johnson entered the chamber of the United States House of Representatives. A standing ovation from the collected dignitaries – congressmen, senators, Supreme Court justices, government officials, foreign representatives, and more – filled the room as LBJ, who had been president for less than a week since the assassination of John F. Kennedy, somberly made his way to the podium. Once the audience returned to its seats, LBJ opened the black notebook that contained his first presidential speech. “All I have,” he began, with words that would be remembered by generations, “I would have given gladly not to be standing here today” (Public Papers, 1964: 8). The 27-minute speech would be widely regarded as among the best he had ever given. The Washington Post called it “among the best of the state papers in American history,” and noted it was “hard to improve upon it by the alteration of a single sentence or a single sentiment” (Washington Post, November 28, 1963, p. A20). Although the speech made a few specific promises, above all else it called for its listeners to overcome the sense of crisis and affirm the promise of America. “This nation has experienced a profound shock,” LBJ declared, “and in this critical moment, it is our duty, yours and mine, as the Government of the United States, to do away with uncertainty and doubt and delay, and to show that we are capable of decisive action; that from the brutal loss of our leader we will derive not weakness, but strength; that we can and will act and act now.” For the next five years, as the authors of the 29 essays contained in this volume make clear, the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson would certainly “act and act now.”

Within 24 hours of the assassination, Johnson was envisioning a sweeping series of reforms that would reshape the country. His first night as president saw him summon his most trusted aides to his bedroom for a late night monologue about his plans:

I'm going to pass Kennedy's civil rights bill, which has been hung up too long in the Congress . . . After that, we'll pass legislation that allows everyone anywhere in this country to vote, with all the barriers down. And that's not all. We're going to get a law that says that every boy and girl in this country, no matter how poor or the color of their skin, or the region they came from, is going to be able to get all the education they can, by loan, scholarship, or grant, right from the federal government. And I aim to pass Harry Truman's medical insurance bill that got nowhere before.                            (Valenti, 2003: 37)

He would do it all, and more. The administration's signature effort at domestic reform was in the realm of Civil Rights, where he generally receives much praise for his critical role in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. More hotly contested, however, are his efforts, as he promised in a famous speech in 1964, to “enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization,” by creating a “Great Society.” LBJ launched a broad effort to expand programs focused on education, urban renewal, the environment, poverty, health care, and much more. These efforts made an incredible impact on the nation. It was during Johnson's presidency that the United States created Medicare and Medicaid, and dramatically increased efforts at medical research and disease prevention; by 1976 Medicare and Medicaid combined to pay for medical services for 20% of the American population (Matusow, 1984: 228). It was during Johnson's presidency that federal spending on education exploded, increasing from approximately $36 billion to $55 billion; soon 25% of American college students were receiving federal financial assistance from LBJ's Higher Education Act (Bornet, 1983: 126; Dallek, 1998: 202). It was during Johnson's presidency that annual federal spending on the poor rose from nearly $12 billion to $27 billion; that the United States passed one of the most significant immigration laws in its history, one that dramatically and forever altered the number and backgrounds of those coming to America's shores; and that the United States passed more conservation and beautification laws (approximately 300) than had been passed in all of the nation's history combined (Matusow, 1984: 240; Melosi, 1987: 113).

There is, of course, much that is disputed about the results of these programs. Some claim that the Great Society was largely successful, pointing to a decline in poverty rates, improved environmental conditions, expanded health care and resources, and more. Others, particularly political conservatives, argue that the Great Society failed, insisting that its gains are overstated and that it fostered a large and inefficient federal government that drained resources from the private sector and fostered generations of dependency; one conservative columnist in 2005 called it “a subtle destroyer of the human spirit” (Buchanan, 2005). Still others find the programs wanting, but for very different reasons, arguing not that they did too much but that they failed to do enough to address fundamental wealth and power imbalances in American society; “This, then, may serve as the epitaph of the famous War on Poverty,” concluded one historian: “ ‘Declared but Never Fought' ” (Matusow, 1984: 270). Regardless of one's conclusions about the specific nature of its impact, however, most historians agree that the impact of Johnson's presidency on American society was among the most significant in the nation's history.

The international aspect of the Johnson presidency was equally momentous. Unsurprisingly, the Vietnam War has garnered the bulk of the attention, and is widely seen as Johnson's most significant foreign policy legacy. Even now, some five decades after LBJ fatefully ordered the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (the first deployment of battalion-sized U.S. combat units) to Da Nang, the nation struggles to come to grips with a war that cost 58,000 American lives, strained the country's finances and its international reputation, and divided the population like no other event since the Civil War. The passage of time has allowed for more dispassionate analysis of America's involvement, sparking a few defenses of Johnson's decision-making and some slight mitigation of his responsibility. Still, few have entirely absolved him of blame for one of the country's greatest foreign policy failures. It is no coincidence that two of the best works on America's descent into the Vietnam quagmire carry the same name: “Lyndon Johnson's War” (Berman, 1989; Hunt, 1997).

Yet, as time has passed, historians have found much to evaluate beyond Vietnam. Johnson was in charge during a major war in the Middle East, one with potential consequences so severe that it sparked the first use of the hot-line, a teletype link established after the Cuban Missile Crisis intended to allow instantaneous communications between Soviet and American leaders in times of major crisis. He was in charge when North Korea captured the USS Pueblo, an American spy ship operating off the Korean coast in 1968, and held its crew of 82 men prisoner for a year of beatings, torture, and public humiliations. He was in charge when 23,000 American troops landed in the Dominican Republic, when military coups were launched in Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia, and when Panamanian riots began the process of revising the Panama Canal treaty. He was in charge when NATO members Greece and Turkey came to the brink of war, and when rivals India and Pakistan crossed that brink. He was in charge when the Chinese detonated their first nuclear device, and when Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the liberalization program directed by Party First Secretary Alexander Dubcek. He was in charge for a thaw in Cold War relations, which included the liberalization of trade and exchange programs, a treaty prohibiting the placement of nuclear weapons in outer space, and the creation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It was an incredibly tumultuous and often dangerous five years. If LBJ had ever lamented, concluded one historian, “that half a world had fallen on him, he would not have missed the truth by much” (Brands, 1995: 4).

Considering the number of major events that occurred during the Johnson presidency, it is no surprise that the sheer volume of scholarly writings has been almost equally overwhelming. Portraits of the president and analyses of his policies appeared en masse as soon as Johnson left the White House, and have continued ever since. New materials that have emerged over the past decade, most notably the declassification of almost a thousand hours of secretly recorded White House meetings and phone conversations, and the opening of the archives of many of the former Communist-bloc states, have brought the literature into almost unparalleled heights of quantity and often quality. What follows in these 29 chapters is an attempt to bring under the microscope the different interpretations of many of these important aspects of the Johnson presidency. It is a difficult task, and I admire the authors for rising above personality and polemic to produce a collection of balanced and nuanced assessments. Readers of this volume can follow LBJ's life from its origins on a small farm in Central Texas through his ascension to the pinnacle of American power. They can learn not just about great crises and famous accomplishments but also about the lesser known events and issues that marked the era. They can learn not just about Lyndon Johnson the president but also about Lyndon Johnson the person. And above all else, they can learn about America during a critical period in its history. At the 1971 opening of the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, Lyndon Johnson, less than two years before his death, admitted, “I do not know how this period will be regarded in years to come. But that is not the point. This Library will show the facts . . . not just the joy and triumphs, but the sorrow and failures, too” (University of Texas, press release). It is my hope that this collection will also “show the facts,” and in doing so will help readers understand exactly how history has come to regard the years of Lyndon B. Johnson.


Berman, Larry (1989). Lyndon Johnson's War. Norton.

Bornet, Vaughn Davis (1983). The Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. University Press of Kansas.

Brands, Henry W. (1995). The Wages of Globalism. Oxford University Press.

Buchanan, Patrick (2005). “ The Great Society: Failure of an Idea and a People,” Human Events September 14.

Dallek, Robert (1998). Flawed Giant. Oxford University Press.

Hunt, Michael H. (1997). Lyndon Johnson's War. Hill and Wang.

Matusow, Allen J. (1984). The Unraveling of America. Harper and Row.

Melosi, Martin V. (1987). “Lyndon Johnson and Environmental Policy,” in Divine, R. (ed.), Exploring the Johnson Years, Vol. 2. University Press of Kansas, 113–49.

Public Papers (1964). “Address before a Joint Session of the Congress, November 27, 1963” (1964). Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–64, Volume I. Government Printing Office, 8.

University of Texas Press Release (1971). May 22, 1971, “5/22/71, Remarks by Lyndon B. Johnson at the LBJ Library Dedication,” Statements File, Box 300, LBJ Library.

Valenti, Jack J. (2003). “Lyndon Johnson,” in Cowger, T.W. and Markman, S. (eds.), Lyndon Johnson Remembered: An Intimate Portrait of a Presidency. Rowan and Littlefield, 33–42.

Part I

Pre-Presidential Years