by WES FERGUSON
Two events this weekend will celebrate the birth of the enigmatic 36th president of the United States.
Lyndon Baines Johnson, a son of the Texas Hill Country, is revered by many for orchestrating the “Great Society” of the 1960s. The sweeping legislation upheld civil rights, fought poverty and greatly expanded access to education while encouraging conservation and urban renewal.
Those domestic polices and other achievements have cemented his legacy as one of the United States’ greatest progressive visionaries.
But in a lifetime marked by the insatiable pursuit of power, Johnson also escalated the Vietnam War, stole elections and treated his wife and others with astonishing cruelty, according to “The Years of Lyndon Johnson,” an acclaimed biography by Robert Caro.
Johnson had a “hunger for power in its most naked form, for power not to improve the lives of others, but to manipulate and dominate them, to bend them to his will,” Caro writes in the biography’s first volume, “a hunger so fierce and consuming that no consideration of morality or ethics, no cost to himself – or to anyone else – could stand before it.”
But Harry Middleton, the former director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, has always disputed Caro’s unflattering assessment of Johnson.
“The biggest misconception about him is that it was just about ambition,” Middleton said in a newspaper interview three years ago. “He was a strong-willed person who was motivated by a desire to leave a mark on the country and improve the lives of Americans.”
Johnson was born Aug. 27, 1908, and died at age 64 in 1973, four years after the end of his presidency.
Several celebrations have been planned in celebration of LBJ’s birth:
First event: In the first celebration honoring Johnson’s legacy, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, will speak at the Hays County Democratic Party’s annual LBJ Birthday Bash in San Marcos.
The event will be 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the LBJ Student Center on the campus of Johnson’s alma mater, Texas State University.
Second event: In the second of this weekend’s birthday observances – a military honor guard will lay a wreath at the president’s grave on Saturday morning. The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. in the Johnson Family Cemetery at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Stonewall.
Guest speaker Benjamin Baron, a University of Texas graduate, represents students who have attended classes taught by former LBJ Library Director Harry Middleton.
“It is a great honor to be included at the ranch for this ceremony and share the legacy of President Johnson,” Baron said in a news release. “His stewardship should be our example.”Email | Print