Johnson was born on Aug. 27, 1908, close to Johnson City, Tex., the eldest son of Sam Ealy Johnson, Jr., and Rebekah Baines Johnson. His father, a struggling farmer and cattle speculator in the hill nation of Texas, provided only an uncertain income for his loved ones. Politically active, Sam Johnson served 5 terms in the Texas legislature. His mother had varied cultural interests and placed higher worth on education she was fiercely ambitious for her youngsters. Johnson attended public schools in Johnson City and received a B.S. degree from Southwest Texas State Teachers College in San Marcos. He then taught for a year in Houston ahead of going to Washington in 1931 as secretary to a Democratic Texas congressman, Richard M. Kleberg. In the course of the subsequent 4 years Johnson created a wide network of political contacts in Washington, D.C. On Nov. 17, 1934, he married Claudia Alta Taylor, identified as “Lady Bird.” A warm, intelligent, ambitious lady, she was a good asset to Johnson’s profession. They had two daughters, Lynda Byrd, born in 1944, and Luci Baines, born in 1947. In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt entered the White House. Johnson tremendously admired the president, who named him, at age 27, to head the National Youth Administration in Texas. This job, which Johnson held from 1935 to 1937, entailed helping young people get employment and schooling. It confirmed Johnson’s faith in the positive possible of government and won for him a group of supporters in Texas.
In 1937, Johnson sought and won a Texas seat in Congress, exactly where he championed public works, reclamation, and public power applications. When war came to Europe he backed Roosevelt’s efforts to aid the Allies. Through Planet War II he served a brief tour of active duty with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific (1941-42) but returned to Capitol Hill when Roosevelt recalled members of Congress from active duty. Johnson continued to support Roosevelt’s military and foreign-policy applications. During the 1940s, Johnson and his wife created profitable business ventures, such as a radio station, in Texas. In 1948 he ran for the U.S. Senate, winning the Democratic celebration primary by only 87 votes. (This was his second attempt in 1941 he had run for the Senate and lost to a conservative opponent.) The opposition accused him of fraud and tagged him “Landslide Lyndon.” Even though challenged, unsuccessfully, in the courts, he took office in 1949.