A Unique President At A Pivotal Time In History

Sunday January 22,2023 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Lyndon Johnson, our country’s 36th President. Many people my age remember the time when he was our President. To say that he was a unique character as well as a controversial President is an understatement. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the LBJ Ranch and National Historic Site near Stonewall Texas in the hill country about an hour’s drive west of Austin as well as the LBJ Library and Museum on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin. Since President’s Day is this month, here is some information about our 36th President.

Lyndon Johnson grew up rather poor in the Texas hill country. He attended the Texas State Teacher’s College and became a teacher. The first school where he taught during the Great Depression was in a poor part of Texas. He witnessed the effects of poverty and the lack of education for many people living in poverty,

It was clear that he was very ambitious. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1937 at the age of 28. He served in the House until he was elected to the Senate in 1948. His Senate victory was by only 87 votes, earning the derisive nickname of “landslide Lyndon”. He soon became the leader in the Senate Democratic caucus and became the chair of that caucus in 1953  during his first term in the Senate.

In 1960, the Democratic party’s nominee, John F Kennedy asked Lyndon Johnson to be his Vice President mostly to “balance the ticket” so he would win the votes from southern Democrats. Also, JFK knew that LBJ was a force in the Senate who could help enact legislation. Lyndon Johnson was in the motorcade in Dallas when JFK was assassinated in 1963. We all remember the photo of him taking the oath of office on the airplane back to Washington DC with Jackie Kennedy at his side,

As President, Lyndon Johnson was able to get the Civil Rights Act, that had been stalled in the Senate passed and enacted. That was one of the most important pieces of legislation passed in the 20th century as it prohibited discrimination because of race, ethnicity, religion and gender in hiring, housing, public transit and accommodation across the nation. Also in 1964, LBJ was able to get the food stamp program enacted. That was started by JFK who was influenced by the fact that many poor were going hungry in the United States while farmers were complaining about low crop prices. To this day, the food stamp program, now called SNAP, has been part of the Agriculture Department.  

In 1964, running for a full term, LBJ won in a landslide over Barry Goldwater, the Republican candidate. On the heels of that landslide victory, in 1965 saw a flurry of important legislation enacted into law. Among the legislation enacted were federal aid to education, the Head Start Program, the Voting Rights Act the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid, public television and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1968 the Fair Credit and Housing Act was enacted that prohibited certain discriminatory practices in the granting of mortgages and credit.

But what Lyndon Johnson’s presidency is most remembered now is that he got the United States deeply involved in the War in Vietnam. When LBJ became President in November 1963, there were only about 20,000 American troops stationed in Vietnam. Three weeks before JFF’s assassination, the government of South Vietnam was overthrown in a military coup and the family of the President were assassinated. At the time, JFK was questioning why we were propping up such an unstable and corrupt government.

Following an incident in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964, LBJ asked and the congress passed with only two dissenting votes in the Senate a resolution granting the President authority to take whatever action he deemed necessary to deal with the North Vietnamese. That Gulf of Tonkin resolution was a de facto declaration of war against North Vietnam, according to many historians.  

From that time, draft calls and combat casualties, including deaths, began increasing until in 1968, there were over 500,000 combat troops stationed in Vietnam and over 14,000 Americans were killed in 1968 alone. Ultimately over 58,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam, including 15 from Valley Forge High School and four from my gradating class of 1966.

Things started to unravel for LBJ as American casualties mounted in Vietnam. At first, they were simple protests for peace. But in November 1967, almost a quarter million people marched for peace in Vietnam. It was becoming very clear that in the election of 1968, Vietnam would be the big issue. On March 31,1968, Lyndon Johnson announced on national television that he would not be a candidate in 1968. Four days later Martin Luther King Jr would be assassinated in Memphis.

He left office on January 20,1969 and retired to his LBJ ranch in Texas until his death at the age of 64. He is buried on that ranch in a grove of trees along side of his wife “Lady Bird” Johnson, who died in 2007 at the age of 95. The LBJ Ranch is now a National Historic site and on that site are the first school where LBJ taught in 1934 as well as the church where the first Head Start program was established. I strongly recommend visiting the LBJ Ranch and National Historic Site if one is in the vicinity of Austin Texas. It is also a working ranch just as it was when LBJ lived on the property.

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

Volume 15, Issue 2, Posted 8:15 AM, 02.01.2023