Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973) - American EducationThirtysixth president of the United States and lifelong champion of education as the most fundamental means to achieve racial and social equality and economic productivity. After a year of teaching high school following his college graduation, the Texas-born Johnson entered government service in 1931 and served variously as Texas director of the NATIONAL YOUTH ADMINISTRATION for two years, as a member of the House of Representatives for 11 years, as a Navy officer during World War II, as a senator for 12 years, as vice president of the United States for three years and as president for five years. Johnson’s election as Senate Democratic majority leader in 1955 during the administration of Republican President Dwight David Eisenhower could have produced political gridlock in Washington. Instead, Johnson established one of the most effective bipartisan working relationships in American history, working cooperatively with Eisenhower to secure passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, and supporting Eisenhower’s use of troops in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957 to enforce desegregation in the Democratic south.
Laying claim to the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1960, he had to settle for the vice presidential spot after a bitter convention battle with John F. Kennedy. After Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson picked up the presidential reins and won passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which Kennedy had proposed a year earlier. A landmark act in the history of both civil rights and education, it empowered the attorney general to take legal action to achieve school desegregation. It specifically outlawed discrimination in any program receiving federal aid, and it ordered an end to all federal aid to programs and schools guilty of discrimination of any kind. It barred discrimination is most public accommodations and barred discrimination in most employment, including teaching.
Elected by a large majority in 1964, Johnson continued on his crusade for educational reforms, sending to Congress and winning passage of four of the most far-reaching bills ever to affect education. Ostensibly marking the declaration of an “unconditional war on poverty,” the first of the four bills was the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which created programs to educate millions of undereducated, disadvantaged poor children through Head Start, the Job Corps and the Neighborhood Youth Corps.
The following year, Johnson won passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which authorized federal assistance to economically disadvantaged school districts, and the Higher Education Act of 1965, which authorized creation of a huge loan program for students attending two-year and four-year colleges. To cap off his efforts, he won passage of the NATIONAL FOUNDATION ON THE ARTS AND HUMANITIES Act of 1965. The act stated that “a high civilization must not limit its efforts to science and technology alone but must give full value and support to scholarly and cultural activity.” It proceeded to do just that with federal funding for the arts and humanities.