Johnson took over the presidency as the nation was in mourning. He called for an investigation into Kennedy's death with the creation of the Warren Commission. At first, he had a hard time gaining backing for his programs, so he used many strong-arm tactics to get his legislation pushed through Congress.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS…
Johnson was known as a womanizer. Johnson once told the press: “I may go into a strange bedroom every now and then that I don't want you to write about, but otherwise you can write everything.” He had a long-term affair with Alice Glass, who also happened to be his friend's mistress. According to biographer Robert Caro, Johnson considered divorcing his wife and ending his political career to be with Alice.
Johnson espoused a group of programs that he called the “Great Society.” The point of these programs was to help the poor and provide important protections for Americans. The significant elements of Johnson's Great Society were:
• Antipoverty programs
• Civil rights legislation
• Medicare and Medicaid
• Environmental protection acts
• Consumer protection acts
Although the Great Society did not accomplish all of Johnson's goals, it has had far-reaching effects to this day.
Three significant civil rights acts were passed during the Johnson administration.
Civil Rights Act of 1964 — No discrimination for employment or the use of public facilities.
Voting Rights Act of 1965 — Discriminatory practices like literacy tests, which had kept minorities from voting, were outlawed.
Civil Rights Act of 1968 — No discrimination for housing.
Further, in 1964, the twenty-fourth amendment was passed, outlawing the charging of a poll tax before individuals could vote. Poll taxes were targeted at keeping blacks from voting in certain areas in the South.
In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray.
Literacy tests were used in the South to keep the poor and African Americans from voting. They included questions that were confusing and difficult — if not impossible — to answer. For example, one question from the Alabama literacy test was: “A U.S. Senator elected at the general election in November takes office the following year on what date? A. March 17th, B. January 3rd, C. January 1st.”
When Johnson took over the presidency from Kennedy, 16,000 advisers were in Vietnam but no official military action was being taken. However, during Johnson's presidency, America became deeply embroiled in the conflict. America continued to commit more troops to the region. In fact, troop levels, which had started at 3,500 in 1965, reached 550,000 by 1968.
America was deeply divided about the war. Many felt that American lives were being needlessly lost. In the end, America did not have a chance of winning due to the guerrilla fighting methods used by the Vietnamese and the fact that the administration did not want the war to escalate and involve other countries like China and the Soviet Union. In 1968, Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection. He said that he was going to spend his last months in office trying to get peace in Vietnam. However, peace would not be achieved until President Nixon's administration.