Historian writes biography on LBJ

LBJBookKevin Fernlund, associate professor of history and secondary education at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, was only four years old when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Seeing the news unfold on the black-and-white television in his family’s living room in Aurora, Colo., and the introduction of Lyndon B. Johnson as the new president were his earliest news memories.

“[Johnson’s] name meant nothing to me, of course, but his large frame struck me, as did that somber face, burdened with responsibility,” Fernlund wrote in his new book, “Lyndon B. Johnson and Modern America,” which was published nearly 46 years from the fateful day when the 36th U.S. president was hastily sworn in aboard Air Force One.

For the Johnson biography, Fernlund focuses on the president’s liberal agenda being linked to the West. The book follows the president from being born in a Texas Hill Country farmhouse to his stint as Houston schoolteacher to the western sensibility he later brought to the White House.

“I knew Johnson played up his Texas roots, but I didn’t know how much of that was just political theater, or if there was something more substantial to it,” he said. “But the more I learned about Johnson, the more I realized how important where he came from was. Texas really grounded him, shaped his view of the world and influenced what it was he wanted to accomplish in Washington.”

University of Oklahoma Press released “Lyndon B. Johnson and Modern America” on Oct. 30. It’s volume 25 in the Oklahoma Western Biographies Series.

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