Lyndon Johnson had already been president for nearly a year when he was actually voted in, taking on the role in the wake of the assassination of President Kennedy. But the election of 1964, the results of which were announced on November 3, put him in office with a landslide of 61 per cent of the vote.
Remembered for escalating American troop levels in Vietnam, and also for “the Great Society”, his expansive programme of domestic legislation, he remained in the White House until 1968 when he chose not to stand for reelection.
LBJ was president when Israel fought the Six Day War and his support of the Jewish state has been well-documented. Perhaps less known is that the Texan politician, who entered congress in 1937 and became the youngest senate minority leader in 1953, had a role in helping Jewish victims of Nazi persecution.
His exact role has been disputed, but historians have claimed that LBJ helped European Jewish refugees by providing them with documentation – false passports and one-way visas - to enter Texas via Cuba, South America and Mexico.
According to Robert Dallek, his biographer, in Time magazine: “During 1938 and 1939, Johnson secretly helped Jewish refugees from Europe enter the U.S., through Galveston. I don't know of any other Congressman who did that.
“Out of 400,000 constituents, his district had only 400 Jewish voters. Something deep in this man's psyche, probably harking back to his Texas hill-country boyhood, made him identify with the underdog.”
At a speech at a dinner at the Congregation Agudas Achim in Austin, Texas, Jim Novy said: “As chairman of the [National Youth Administration] he authorised bringing refugees to Texas from countries under the Hitler regime. The State of Texas, however, was not allowed to finance the resettlement of these refugees.
“Therefore, President Johnson made arrangements for…the Joint Distribution Committee to carry the act of resettling the refugees.”
It is not the only connection between LBJ and the Jewish community. His granddaughter, Claudia Taylor Brod, married a Jew and converted to Judaism in 2003.
What the JC said about LBJ: He has on many occasions evinced a warm friendship for the Jewish people and has given unqualified support to Israel at crucial times when the State has needed it most. …Mr Johnson has always preferred to work behind the scenes, where he could hope for a greater degree of success. On the occasions when he has exerted influence on Israel’s behalf he has done so in the conviction that Israel’s cause is just.
See more from the JC archives here