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The Years of Lyndon Johnson

The Years of Lyndon Johnson

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The Years of Lyndon Johnson is a biography
Biography
A biography is a detailed description or account of someone's life. More than a list of basic facts , biography also portrays the subject's experience of those events...

 of Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...

 by the American writer Robert Caro
Robert Caro
Robert Allan Caro is an American journalist and author known for his celebrated biographies of United States political figures Robert Moses and Lyndon B. Johnson...

. Three volumes have published, running to more than 2,000 pages in total, detailing Johnson's early life, education, and political career. A fourth and fifth volume will deal with Johnson's vice presidency
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 and presidency
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

. The series has been published by Alfred A. Knopf
Alfred A. Knopf
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. is a New York publishing house, founded by Alfred A. Knopf, Sr. in 1915. It was acquired by Random House in 1960 and is now part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group at Random House. The publishing house is known for its borzoi trademark , which was designed by co-founder...

.

Book One: The Path to Power (1982)


In the first volume, The Path to Power, Caro retraced Johnson's life by temporarily moving to rural Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 and Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, to better understand Johnson's upbringing and to interview anyone who had known Johnson. This volume covers Johnson's life through his failed 1941 campaign for the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

. This book was released on November 12, 1982. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award
National Book Critics Circle Award
The National Book Critics Circle Award is an annual award given by the National Book Critics Circle to promote the finest books and reviews published in English....

.

Book Two: Means of Ascent (1990)


In the second volume, Means of Ascent, Caro detailed Johnson's life from the aftermath of Johnson's first Senate bid to his election to the Senate in 1948. Much of the book deals with Johnson's bitterly-contested Democratic
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 primary
Primary election
A primary election is an election in which party members or voters select candidates for a subsequent election. Primary elections are one means by which a political party nominates candidates for the next general election....

 against Coke R. Stevenson
Coke R. Stevenson
Coke Robert Stevenson was the 35th Governor of Texas from 1941 to 1947. He was the only 20th century Texan politician to serve as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, as Lieutenant Governor, and then as governor...

. This book was released on March 7, 1990.

Book Three: Master of the Senate (2002)


In the third and most-recently published volume, Master of the Senate, Caro chronicles Johnson's rapid ascent in the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

, including his tenure as Senate Majority Leader
Party leaders of the United States Senate
The Senate Majority and Minority Leaders are two United States Senators who are elected by the party conferences that hold the majority and the minority respectively. These leaders serve as the chief Senate spokespeople for their parties and manage and schedule the legislative and executive...

. This 1167-page work examines in particular Johnson's victorious battle to pass a landmark civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 bill. Although its scope was limited, the ensuing Civil Rights Act of 1957
Civil Rights Act of 1957
The Civil Rights Act of 1957, , primarily a voting rights bill, was the first civil rights legislation enacted by Congress in the United States since Reconstruction following the American Civil War.Following the historic US Supreme Court ruling in Brown v...

 was the first such legislation since Reconstruction. This book was released on April 23, 2002.

It won the 2003
2003 Pulitzer Prize
-Journalism awards:-Letters, Drama and Music Awards:-External links:* . The New York Times.* . The New York Times.* . The New York Times....

 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography
Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography
The Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography has been presented since 1917 for a distinguished biography or autobiography by an American author.-1910s:* 1917: Julia Ward Howe by Laura E...

, the 2002 National Book Award for Nonfiction, and the 2002 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography.

Forthcoming volumes


In November 2011, it was announced that the fourth volume, tentatively titled The Passage of Power, would be released in May 2012, covering LBJ's life from 1958 to 1964, and that the full project had expanded to five volumes, with the fifth volume requiring another two to three years to write.

Themes of the series


Throughout his books, Caro examines the acquisition and use of political power in American democracy, from the perspective both of those who wield it and those who are at its mercy. In an interview with Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was a 20th century American writer. His works such as Cat's Cradle , Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions blend satire, gallows humor and science fiction. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association.-Early...

, he once said: "I was never interested in writing biography just to show the life of a great man," saying he wanted instead "to use biography as a means of illuminating the times and the great forces that shape the times—particularly political power."

Caro's books portray Johnson as alternating between scheming opportunist
Opportunism
-General definition:Opportunism is the conscious policy and practice of taking selfish advantage of circumstances, with little regard for principles. Opportunist actions are expedient actions guided primarily by self-interested motives. The term can be applied to individuals, groups,...

 and visionary
Visionary
Defined broadly, a visionary, is one who can envision the future. For some groups this can involve the supernatural or drugs.The visionary state is achieved via meditation, drugs, lucid dreams, daydreams, or art. One example is Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century artist/visionary and Catholic saint...

 progressive
Progressivism
Progressivism is an umbrella term for a political ideology advocating or favoring social, political, and economic reform or changes. Progressivism is often viewed by some conservatives, constitutionalists, and libertarians to be in opposition to conservative or reactionary ideologies.The...

. Caro argued, for example, that Johnson's victory in the 1948 runoff for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate was achieved through extensive fraud and ballot stuffing
Ballot stuffing
Ballot stuffing is the illegal act of one person submitting multiple ballots during a vote in which only one ballot per person is permitted. The name originates from the earliest days of this practice in which people literally did stuff more than one ballot in a ballot box at the same time...

. Caro also highlights some of Johnson's campaign contributions, such as those from the Texas construction firm Brown & Root; in 1962 the company was acquired by another Texas firm, Halliburton
Halliburton
Halliburton is the world's second largest oilfield services corporation with operations in more than 70 countries. It has hundreds of subsidiaries, affiliates, branches, brands and divisions worldwide and employs over 50,000 people....

, which became a major contractor in the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. Despite these criticisms, Caro's portrayal of Johnson also notes his struggles on behalf of progressive causes such as the Voting Rights Act.

Influence of the series


Politicians in particular have responded most strongly to The Years of Lyndon Johnson:
  • Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle
    Tom Daschle
    Thomas Andrew "Tom" Daschle is a former U.S. Senator from South Dakota and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader. He is a member of the Democratic Party....

     once told the Capitol
    United States Capitol
    The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall...

     newspaper Roll Call
    Roll Call
    Roll Call is a newspaper published in Washington, D.C., United States, from Monday to Thursday when the United States Congress is in session and on Mondays only during recess. Roll Call reports news of legislative and political maneuverings on Capitol Hill, as well as political coverage of...

    after reading Master of the Senate that "I think the thing you learn from reading that magnificent book is that every day, this body makes history."
  • Former Vice President
    Vice President of the United States
    The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

     Walter Mondale
    Walter Mondale
    Walter Frederick "Fritz" Mondale is an American Democratic Party politician, who served as the 42nd Vice President of the United States , under President Jimmy Carter, and as a United States Senator for Minnesota...

     described Master of the Senate as a "superb work of history".
  • Former British Prime Minister
    Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
    The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

     Gordon Brown
    Gordon Brown
    James Gordon Brown is a British Labour Party politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 until 2010. He previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government from 1997 to 2007...

    , said of the series: "It's a wonderfully written set of books. The stories are quite breathtaking... These books challenge the view of history that politics is just about individual manoeuvring. It's about ideas and principled policy achievements. That's what makes it one of the great political biographies."
  • Former UK Conservative Party
    Conservative Party (UK)
    The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

     leader William Hague
    William Hague
    William Jefferson Hague is the British Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State. He served as Leader of the Conservative Party from June 1997 to September 2001...

     nominated Means of Ascent as the book he would most like to have with him on a desert island, in the BBC Radio 4
    BBC Radio 4
    BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

     programme Desert Island Discs
    Desert Island Discs
    Desert Island Discs is a BBC Radio 4 programme first broadcast on 29 January 1942. It is the second longest-running radio programme , and is the longest-running factual programme in the history of radio...

    . He later wrote: "I explained that it was the best political biography of any kind, that I had ever read. I said it conveyed more brilliantly than any other publication what it really feels like to be a politician... When a fourth volume finally completes the set, this will be nothing short of a magnificent history of 20th century America." Michael Howard
    Michael Howard
    Michael Howard, Baron Howard of Lympne, CH, QC, PC is a British politician, who served as the Leader of the Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition from November 2003 to December 2005...

    , another former Conservative Party leader, encountered the series after swapping houses with Robert Caro for a holiday. He said: "For Caro, writing a biography is writing a thriller - in Johnson's case, a Western
    Western fiction
    Western fiction is a genre of literature set in the American Old West frontier and typically set from the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth century. Well-known writers of Western fiction include Zane Grey from the early 1900s and Louis L'Amour from the mid 20th century...

    . You can't stop turning the pages. He doesn't like Johnson, but the facts are there so you can make your own judgments. I can't recommend this book highly enough."


Lisa Simpson
Lisa Simpson
Lisa Marie Simpson is a fictional main character in the animated television series The Simpsons. She is the middle child of the Simpson family. Voiced by Yeardley Smith, Lisa first appeared on television in The Tracey Ullman Show short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987. Cartoonist Matt Groening...

 was shown reading Master of the Senate in The Simpsons
The Simpsons
The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical parody of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its family of the same name, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie...

episode "Treehouse of Horror XVI
Treehouse of Horror XVI
"Treehouse of Horror XVI" is the fourth episode of the seventeenth season of The Simpsons, as well as the sixteenth "Treehouse of Horror" episode. In this year's installment, The Simpsons replace Bart with a robot son after Bart falls into a coma in "B.I.: Bartificial Intelligence," Homer and...

."
Goat was shown reading Master of the Senate in Pearls Before Swine on 13 December 2008.

External links