LBJ’S NEGLECTED LEGACY: HOW LYNDON JOHNSON RESHAPED DOMESTIC POLICY & GOVERNMENT
Edited by Robert H. Wilson, Norman J. Glickman, and Laurence E. Lynn, Jr.
Published in 2015 by University of Texas.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando.
All the way, with LBJ? The editors of LBJ’s Neglected Legacy might rephrase the 1966 campaign slogan as “Half the way with LBJ!” as they contend that current history has not gone anywhere near all the way either in remembering or recounting the critical events and policies of the thirty-sixth President’s six years in office.
What do most of us remember? A solemn man raising his right hand taking the oath of office aboard Air Force One? Or perhaps, only months later, the inauguration of Operation Rolling Thunder bringing three years of bombs raining down on Vietnam—both North and South? The Tet Offensive? Or Headstart, Medicare, immigration reform, the beginning of the end of Jim Crow?
Probably few or none of the latter listed, yet 50 years later many of these continue to be present as part of our daily life, albeit considerably changed. In their comprehensive selection of essays, Richard H. Wilson, Norman J. Glickman and Laurence E. Lynn Jr. seek to change history’s emphasis. These scholars, from the University of Texas, Rutgers, and the University of Chicago respectively, are well qualified to do so. Additionally, Lynn brings firing-line experience; he was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Johnson years.
The editors’ introductory and concluding essays give succinct and convincing support to their premise. The doubter or the questioner will do well to read both before delving into the specifics discussed between the two.
These specifics divide well into the four sections. The first two sections consider direct social welfare policies ranging from Jim Crow and immigration through education and health care. The latter sections deal with general social issues—cities, water and public management. Readers with topic-specific interests will be able to cut easily to their own chase while students of the Johnson Administration or American history in general will want to pursue and to enjoy a page-by-page approach.
Books considering both Johnson’s life and his works are proliferating in this centennial year of his birth. For its focus, its scope, and its scholarly approach this one is a noteworthy addition. The man once mourned, “That bitch of a war killed the lady I really loved—the Great Society.” of LBJ’s Neglected Legacy brings the lady back to life.
Trilla Pando holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Houston; she taught in both Texas and Georgia. Her research focused on women in Texas and Houston. The Bainbridge (Georgia) Post-Searchlight published her weekly column on food and local history. She now lives and works in Houston.