Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Death of LBJ


Stonewall, Texas (JFK+50) Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy's Vice-President from 1961-1963 and 36th President of the United States from 1963-1969, passed away 41 years ago today, January 22, 1973 at the LBJ Ranch.

                  Lyndon Baines Johnson
                             August 1972
                       LBJ Library Photo

The date of LBJ's death was just two days after the end of President Richard M. Nixon's first term, the term that LBJ might have completed.

Mr. Johnson made the decision in March 1968 to not seek the renomination of the Democratic Party for the Presidency.

The former president had suffered three major heart attacks.

The first came in 1955, but despite warnings from his physicians, LBJ reportedly continued chain smoking, overeating, and drinking too much.

LBJ was in his bedroom at the time of the last heart attack and was pronounced dead at 4:33 p.m. (CST).

In his last days, Mr. Johnson was said to be "tormented"  by the failure of the Vietnam War. 

Historian Michael Beschloss writes...

"Feeling like an unappreciated outcast, (LBJ) often depressed, repeatedly listened to Simon and Garfunkel's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'.*

*'Bridge Over Troubled Water', written by Paul Simon & sung by Art Garfunkel, was recorded on Jan. 26, 1970. Within 2 days it was #1 on the charts and stayed there for 6 weeks.

Part of the song was heard for the 1st time on a CBS TV special, broadcast in Nov 1969.  It was heard in the background as video clips of JFK, RFK and MLK were shown.

Elvis recorded the song in Nashville on June 5, 1970.  Rolling Stone magazine rated it #47 in the '500 Greatest Songs of All Time'.

When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
And friends just can't be found

If you need a friend

I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge
Over troubled water
I will ease your mind

There has been a debate about whether or not JFK would have kept LBJ on the ticket in 1964.  Evelyn Lincoln, JFK's personal secretary, wrote in her book 'Kennedy and Johnson' that the President discussed the issue just three days before his death.

JFK was sitting in a rocker in Mrs. Lincoln's office when she asked...

 'Who is your choice as a running mate (in 1964)?'

The President answered without hesitating....

"I am thinking about TERRY SANFORD of North Carolina.  But it will not be Lyndon."

Mrs. Lincoln said she was not shocked by his answer.


"LBJ Agonized Over His Legacy," by Michael Beschloss,, December 4, 2012.

"Kennedy and Johnson," by Evelyn Lincoln, Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, New York, 1968.