LEADERS: Lyndon Johnson: 1908-1973

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Moving to the Senate in 1948, Johnson gradually became the master of cloakroom intrigues, of late-night telephone calls and of political favors given and received—the master, in short, of the Senate itself. As Senate majority leader for six years, Johnson was the architect and deliverer of such Eisenhower legislation as the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. The 1,000 days of the Kennedy Administration were days of frustration for Vice President Johnson, who had been nominated primarily to balance the ticket and win Southern votes, and from that penumbra he emerged, President by accident, as a whirlwind of creative energy unleashed.

Becoming President in the wake of the Kennedy assassination, Johnson felt that his great mission was to unite the nation. He forever quoted Isaiah: "Come now, let us reason together." TIME'S White House correspondent, who was in Dallas, says that Johnson "pursued his goal with a single-mind-edness and skill that no other man in high office could have mustered. He somehow reached out and comprehended that incredible problem, surrounded it and mastered all the details. In the short view, at least, he produced a near miracle in a storm center of anguish."

In his first formal speech as President, Johnson told a joint session of Congress: "All I have I would gladly have given not to be standing here today." His memorial to the slain President was to ram through Congress the New Frontier bills and programs that had been so long delayed. In 1957 he had reversed a record of opposition to civil rights; now he made what the New York Times called the "deepest commitment to the Negro cause of any American President." In his March 15, 1965, speech he even included the black challenge: "We shall overcome!" To the end, his stand on America's most complex social problem was unwavering.

Franklin Roosevelt had been his idol and his model, and he set about to complete the New Deal. A cornucopia of liberal legislation—part Roosevelt New Deal, part Kennedy New Frontier, part Johnson's own Great Society —poured forth in housing, antipoverty programs, education, conservation, civil rights, Medicare. After his crushing defeat of Senator Barry Goldwater in 1964, Johnson pushed through such bills as the Highway Beautification Act and the Appalachian Regional Development Act. The $11.5 billion tax reduction had already aided a major economic surge, though his manipulation of the budget set the stage for the present inflation. By White House count, 252 measures were requested in four years and 226 passed, for an incredible presidential score of 90%.

Johnsonian law will shape American life for years to come, particularly in the areas of education, social welfare and civil rights. Yet the total impact on the national consciousness was curiously slight, partly because the Great Society was not a total concept but a medley of individual programs and ideas. In the exuberance of the moment, much of the legislation passed under his leadership was too hastily conceived—the product of good will more than of good planning. Perhaps he came to office out of time, operating on Depression-forged beliefs in Government spending that no longer applied in the America of the '60s.

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