LBJ backers plan major civil rights summit to honor legacy
February 16th, 2014
03:32 PM ET
9 months ago

LBJ backers plan major civil rights summit to honor legacy

Washington (CNN) - The family and friends of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson will sponsor a major three-day civil rights summit to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act he signed – and hope this can help them broaden the image many have of the 36th president.

Some allies of Johnson feel the Vietnam War is the only prism through which the public now sees Johnson and his presidency and are working to make sure some of his major domestic achievements receive more recognition.

The Civil Rights Summit, to be held April 8-10 in Austin, Texas, is one part of that effort. It will “provide a definitive forum on the civil rights movement and the civil rights issues we face” today, Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Presidential Library, told CNN Sunday.

The signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 is considered the nation’s most important civil rights legislation as it prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Following that law, Johnson signed landmark civil rights bills including the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1966 Fair Housing Act.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton will attend the event, and organizers are confident former President George W. Bush, will come. President Barack Obama has been invited and hope he will put it on his calendar because having four Presidents there “would be a powerful moment,” as Updegrove put it.

Also speaking will be LBJ’s daughter Luci Baines Johnson and civil rights activists and icons, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, Rep. John Lewis and former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond.

“We want to show the seminal nature of the Civil Rights Act and its transformational nature while carefully looking at those issues that affect America and the world today,” Updegrove said.

During the summit, events will also highlight how LBJ and his administration dealt with education and immigration which helped minorities and how he interacted with Martin Luther King.

Also those close to LBJ can be expected to commemorate the 50th anniversary next year of such landmark measures as Medicare, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Higher Education Act and the Highway Beautification Act.

“We want people to know what this President did – what he got done and how it continues to affect us,” Updegrove said.

As to how her father might be ultimately regarded, “I think that’s something the historians will look at. But can you think of where we would be without Lyndon Johnson? If we had not passed a civil rights bill? Before Daddy, we didn’t have any federal aid to education. The immigration bill. Think of what we would be like if Daddy hadn’t signed that bill,” his daughter, Luci Baines Johnson, told the New York Times, which first reported details of the civil rights summit.

Regarding the Vietnam War, Baines Johnson told The Times “no matter how hard he tried, he didn’t to be able to get out of that quagmire. Not only did he not get out of it in his lifetime, but his legacy indeed has that weight of the world on it.”

After he took over as President following John Kennedy’s assassination, the U.S. dramatically increased the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam from 16,000 in 1963 to over 500,000 in 1968. But that increase could not stop the conflict from being a stalemate – and prompting major anti-war protests to erupt across the nation. LBJ saw his popularity plummet and surprised the nation when he announced he would not seek another term as president.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. just asking

    i certainly hope they will also be honoring the republican party that passed these laws as well. if had been up to the racist filled democrat party, these laws never would have been passed.

    February 16, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  2. Marie MD

    Here's a President who knew that by signing the Civil Rights Act, listen up idiot from KY and long lost Ayn Rand little brother, the Democrats would lose the South by he did what was right.
    The teaklans/repugs should learn something from Johnson.

    February 16, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  3. Sip That Kool Aid, It's All You're Good For.

    The republicans heads just exploded. Civil Rights? We don't need no stinking civil rights. All we need is more voting power for the wealthy. Then all will be right with the world. Democracy at it's best. Just ask one of the one per centers.
    .

    February 16, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  4. don in albuquerque

    Gee, and Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and the Supreme Joke should be guest's of honor.

    February 16, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  5. Thomas

    Great , we need to remember where we came from , and take corse to where we need to go !

    And we have a long way to go , education and understanding for respect and compassion .

    February 16, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  6. Finn MacDugan

    President Johnson did a lot to help civil rights legislation get passed, but that didn't remove the bigotry from very many, that's for sure. He was from Texas, though. That's almost a crime. Just kidding.

    February 16, 2014 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  7. Hector Slagg

    Some Information. It was of course the U.S. Constitution and the Framers that started the move for many Civil Rights a long time ago. Lyndon Johnson was a recipient of the U.S. Constitution.

    February 16, 2014 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  8. O'drama Ya Mama

    just asking

    i certainly hope they will also be honoring the republican party that passed these laws as well. if had been up to the racist filled democrat party, these laws never would have been passed.
    February 16, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
    _______________________________________________________________________________________________

    Democrats had control of both the Senate and House when they passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although it did require at least half the Republicans in the House to vote yes and only about 15 in the Senate it wasnt enough to give Republicans that much credit. JFK deserves the most credit IMO.

    February 16, 2014 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  9. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the repub/tea bag majority

    @just asking: "i certainly hope they will also be honoring the republican party that passed these laws as well. if had been up to the racist filled democrat party, these laws never would have been passed."

    While you're cracking that history book, just, let's break down the votes.

    1964 Civil Rights Act – Senate Version "aye" votes cast:

    House: 63% Democrats; 80% repubs
    Senate: 69% Democrats; 82% repubs

    Now let's break that down by region:
    House: 90% Union; 8% Confederacy
    Senate: 92% Union; 5% Confederacy

    At the time, southerners made up a larger percentage of the Democratic than the repub caucus, which created the initial impression that more repubs were more in favor of the act.

    BTW, you can also read about how all the Dixie-crats left the Democratic party (folks like Strom Thumond) and became repub, because that's where their racists views were welcome.

    Amazing what you can learn when you think for yourself and not just copy-paste Fox's drivel.

    February 16, 2014 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  10. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    What has the GOP ever done for civil rights to this day and not much of anything else!!!!!

    February 16, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  11. uncle tom

    What else he do but up the body count in Nam. Even obama ran for second term n won ....daddy this daddy that kennedy had the blueprint for him to follow.... He wasnt nothing to marvel over lol.........

    February 17, 2014 05:40 am at 5:40 am |