Lyndon Johnson demanded Jackie Kennedy be present for famous swearing-in pic after her husband’s assassination
New book details how Lyndon Johnson took charge and swept Kennedy clan wishes aside after killing
Johnson was also keenly aware that JFK was likely to maneuver to have his brother Robert succeed him in 1968 and that Johnson might not even survive on the 1964 ticket as VP. However, the assassination changed everything.
Johnson heard the shots from the car he was in a few hundred yards behind the president. A secret service agent jumped on top of him and pinned him to the floor while the car was gunned to Parkland Hospital where Kennedy had been taken.
There Johnson was led to a secure room and kept there while the president fought for his life.
Caro describes a man transformed when the news that Kennedy had died reached him.
Both he and the Secret Service were fearful that the assassination was also an attempt to take out the top layer of the American government and that he too was in mortal danger. Johnson instanced the Lincoln assassination when attempts were made on the lives of key cabinet members also.
From being the fumbling, ineffectual Vice President, Johnson became immediately a figure of great authority and decisiveness Caro writes.
Secret service agents wanted to rush him to the plane but he insisted they wait for Mrs Kennedy and the president’s body.
That book details how the morning of November 22nd morning LBJ woke up as a deeply frustrated vice president but by nightfall was sworn in as the nation's 36 president, following JFK's murder in Johnson's home state of Texas.
'Even in this first hour after John F. Kennedy's death, Lyndon Johnson seems to have had feelings that would torment him for the rest of his life,' Caro writes. 'Feelings understandable in any man placed in the Presidency not through an election but through an assassin's bullet, and feelings exacerbated, in his case, by the contrast, and what he felt was the world's view of the contrast, between him and the President he was replacing; by the contempt in which he had been held by the people around the President; and by the stark geographical fact of where the act elevating him to office had taken place.'
Caro has been at work on his prize-winning LBJ biography for more than three decades. The website Politico summarized Caro's presentation of the JFK assassination as follows:
Caro presents a portrait of a man on the verge of transition. The day began for Johnson with the belief - the fear - that he might not be on the ticket with J.F.K. in the coming election. That very day, back in Washington, a witness was providing Senate Rules Committee staffers with evidence that he said linked Johnson to Robert G. (Bobby) Baker, the subject of a scandal that had been exploding in the capital, and Life magazine was mapping out an investigation into the sources of Johnson's wealth.
'The Vice-President's trip to Texas wasn't going well: he had failed to heal the bitter rift between two major Texas Democrats, Governor John B. Connally and Senator Ralph Yarborough; the previous day, in San Antonio, Yarborough had refused even to ride in the same car with Johnson. "Given what the President was seeing for himself in Texas - that Johnson was no longer a viable mediator between factions of his party in his home state - and what was happening at that very minute in the Old Senate Office Building, the President's assurances that he would be on the ticket might start to have a hollow ring,' Caro writes.
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