A Texan Looks at Lyndon

Photograph by Wyatt McSpadden

The battle over the recently passed Texas budget was one of the fiercest political fights in memory, replete with name calling and bitter accusations. But when it comes to feuds, no Texas political figure carried a vendetta further than J. Evetts Haley, a conservative Democrat of the old school who took on no less a personage than Lyndon B. Johnson. Eight years after Haley ran for governor (and lost) in 1956, Johnson was running for president, and Haley used the occasion to publish an incendiary book attacking Johnson. It was the most controversial book ever written about a Texan, and although it fell quickly into obscurity, it became a cause célèbre of the 1964 election

Titled A Texan Looks at Lyndon: A Study in Illegitimate Power, the 254-page self-published paperback–Haley says no publishing house would touch it–portrayed Johnson as a vain and vicious man whose climb to the presidency was wrought with malevolence on every rung of the ladder. Haley quoted with obvious relish a description of the National Youth Administration, of which Johnson had been a state director, as “a disloyal, subversive organization, under the domination of Russia.” He contended that Johnson was a congressman who supported farm programs “conceived by the Communist cell in agriculture.” He alleged that as vice president, Johnson “accepted second place for money.” In his most outrageous claim, Haley insinuated that Johnson was involved with the Kennedy assassination. The problem was that Haley’s polemic lost touch with reality. While he made some good points about Johnson’s shadowy dealings–such as the peculiarity of 202 of his South Texas supporters voting in alphabetical order in the 1948 Senate race–they were buried waist deep in rumormongering and mad-dog ruminations.

The initial press run

Tags: THE CULTURE

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