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The Legacy of LBJ

LBJ: The Student

LBJ in College
LBJ when he attended Southwest Texas State Teachers College

Today, Texas State students know that academic success is key. Lyndon Baines Johnson was noted to be most successful when his coursework and passions intersected. The things he learned in his co-curricular experiences enhanced his education in the classroom. His focus was on being a social and political leader, promoting civil rights through change and inspiring civic engagement through civic responsibility among his peers. 

In 1929, LBJ participated in founding the White Stars, also known as Alpha & Omega. This organization became the medium through which he inspired excellence and involvement; in doing so, he orchestrated collaboration and service and stimulated stewardship and empowerment across campus. 

Throughout his college years he only seemed satisfied when he was immersed in numerous demanding commitments simultaneously. His insatiable hunger for a more educated, well-rounded society drove him to keep doing more. 

LBJ: The Educator

LBJ Graduation Speech
LBJ Speaking at a Graduation Ceremony

"Here the real purpose of education is found - the growth of the individual to his highest possibilities, his broadest services and the greatest ultimate good. Here men and women are made. Here inspiration is sown, ambition is enlisted, energy is aroused... along with the zest of living, the joy of working, the hope of achieving."       -- Lyndon B. Johnson 

Upon completing his first year in college, LBJ took a teaching position in Cotulla, Texas. He knew that the fifth, sixth, and seventh graders he taught were poor but eager to learn. The impact that these students made on LBJ is reflected in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which committed the federal government to helping local schools, and Head Start, which provides funding and meals for preschoolers. LBJ also created additional legislation that provided financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants and work-study programs. The legislation has helped innumerable students to date and exemplifies LBJ's passion for education and helping students. 

LBJ: The President

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LBJ Signing the Higher Education Act in the old Strahan Gym (now the music building)

LBJ believed in making a personal impact through action. He devoted his time to going door-to-door petitioning for votes in the student government election, he was a founder of an organization that sought to engage with other students and encourage them to get involved in campus social and political life and was never afraid to openly discuss issues with university administration. LBJ was able to gain real life practice in applying his passions to his administration. 

LBJ's debate teacher, Prof H.M. Greene, reflected on his time with the student leader, "I did not expect Lyndon to choose a career in teaching - though I felt and still feel he had been a success in Cotulla. My encouragement was toward politics. Clearly, there his superior talents lay. I never saw him beat. He was clearly the best student in government and politics I ever had the pleasure of teaching."

The influence of LBJ's alma mater was so significant that he, on several occasions, returned to San Marcos to speak at important community and campus events. He also established the Gary Job Corps in San Marcos, transferred the Federal Fish Hatchery property to the University and signed the Higher Education Act of 1965 in the old Strahan Gym (now the music building). 

LBJ: The Legacy

LBJ Statue
The LBJ statue on the Texas State University - San Marcos campus

When Lyndon Johnson graduated with his bachelor's degree, Southwest Texas State Teachers College President C.E. Evans told the audience, "Here's a young man who has so abundantly demonstrated his worth that I predict for him great things in the years ahead. If he undertakes his tasks in the future with the same energy, careful thought and determination that he has used in all his work in the classroom, on the campus picking up rocks, or as an assistant in the president's office, success to him is assured." 

Selflessness, perseverance and transparent character transcend a person's title into both a legacy and a magnificent and powerful influence for good. In describing Lyndon Johnson's personality, Irving Bacheller had this to say, "When I met him, I was looking down, and when I left him, I was looking up." 

The LBJ Civic Engagement award honors the students who embody LBJ's character and legacy.