Lyndon Johnson: Childhhod

Figure 3.--Lyndon was photographed at 4 or 5 years in 1913. Boys still commonly wore sailor tunics, note the characteristic belt. Boys during the summer, especially in the South, commonly went barefoot--even for dressy occassions. This was not common before the turn of the century. Notice the long stockings snd hair ribbons that the girls are wearing.

The Johnson household was a loud-boisterous Texas family with Texas-sized passions. Dinner was loud as the children gulped down and their father who they loved dearly would klike nothing better to stir them with a good discussion or debate. A family friend writes, "They loved their father. When I see that family in my mind, I see him laughing, laughing with the kids. It was harum-scarum--not klikemy houser, where everything was decorum. But it was fun. We had such hilarious good times together. I see them as a warm, happy family." Johnson's biographer adds, "On this point, the people who know--the people who were there, who were in the Johnson home with the Johnsons--agree. As a score of them, and a score agree: it was a warm, happy family. Except, they also agree, for one of its members: the eldest son."

Birth and Infancy

Lyndon was born on August 27, 1908, by the Perdanales in central Texas, not far from family name sake Johnson City, which his family had helped settle. He was a politican from the begiining. When his father took him to picnics, people would hurry over to "Mr. Sam"--Lyndon rather than shying away would reach out to them. He was an enomrmously restless baby and as a toddler would wonder off. His mother was terrified by snakes.


As a little boy, the adjective most used for Lynson was bossy. He always had to be at the center or making the decissions. He didn't much like to play with boys his age, but often boys much older. He took a liking to one boy, Ben Crider, at the Junction School he began attending at 4 years of age. Ben's father refused to sendhim to school, saying "I ain't gonna have no educated sonofabitch in my family." Ben finally defied him and staered school at 14. Ben was a big, gruff farm boy, but he and Lyndon became friends. All of Lyndon's friends were older and it wasn't just a case of a little boy tagging along. Lynson was often leading the group.

Home Life

At home mother was always reading to the children and telling stories from the classics. After firing up the the children with heated discussions over dinner, their father would line up the children and conduct spelling and math bees. The little ones would particvipate as soom as they could stand up. Often he would have the children debate an issue, but other times somehing that might interest them to hone their debating skills, such as which is sweeter, honey or tobacco.

Interest in Politics

Lyndon from early childhood was enamored by politics. His father began taking him to the state legislature when thr boy was 10. The trips became more frequent as he got older. The only thing he like better was being out on the canmpaign trail with his dad.

Father's Decline

Sam lost the ranch in 1922, overcome by debt. His health failed in 1923, broken by years of back-breaking work. He lost his political touch, becoming bitter and started to drink heavily. People stopped flocking to him at public events. He tried a real-estate and insurance business, but couldn't make a go of it. Jobs awaited many retired legislators, but usually not the honest ones.


Lyndon was always a difficult child and after his father lost the farm he became more difficult to deal with. He often would refuse to do his homework which caused friction with both his parents. His father who didn't have the opportunities Lyndon did was paricularly disturbed.


Lyndon as a young teenager after his father lost the ranch felt the pinch of rural poverty when his father lost the farm and times got tough. It was a bitter pill to take as the family had once been propsperous and still had pretensions. The Johnsons and their pretensions, especially the mother's pretensions, became the laughing stock of Johnson City. The chiodren were often not properly fed. Without the money to afford help and not much of a house keeper herself, ther Johnson home was a mess and the children and their fgancy clothes often not washed, let along pressed.


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Created: 1:35 AM 10/7/2005
Last changed: 1:35 AM 10/7/2005