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July 21: The LBJ Tapes IV
July 21: The LBJ Tapes III
June 30: Capitol Steps
June 12: Watergate Anniversary
Feb. 20: The LBJ Tapes II
Feb. 20: The LBJ Tapes
Feb. 4:State of the Union
Jan. 20: Inaugural 1997
The LBJ Tapes, Part IV
August 1964 was a high watermark in Lyndon Johnson's life. He had just signed the Civil Rights Act. An anti-poverty bill, the cornerstone of his administration's Great Society, became law. Johnson's decisive action against North Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in early August sent his poll ratings shooting upward.
His strategy of playing to the center was working, but the president was tiring of the struggle.
There was trouble among Democrats gathering in Atlantic City to nominate Johnson for a full term. African-Americans from Mississippi and Alabama, denied their votes at local Democratic conventions, demanded to be seated at the 1964 national convention. White Southerners threatened a walkout. Johnson's attempt to find a compromise angered both sides.
Frustrated and unsure about his own ability to bring the racially divided nation together, Johnson decided on the morning of Aug. 25, the day before be was to get the presidential nomination, that he would not accept it.
He read his statement to his press secretary.
A helicopter was on standby to take him to Atlantic City to make the announcement, he said.
There were other men who could do a better job, Johnson suggested.
The convention would nominate Robert Kennedy or Hubert Humphrey, he predicted. But Johnson was too tired to care.
A letter from the first lady changed his mind later that day. She told him to quit would be wrong for the country, and he could find peace and achievement amidst all the pain.
The next night, Johnson was nominated by acclamation. "Our problems are many and are great, but our opportunities are even greater," he told the convention.
History proved Johnson's political savvy correct. His next four years were filled with pain and anguish. Ultimately in 1968, he chose not to run for another term.
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