20 years ago today, L.B.J. died of heart attack in Texas

January 22, 1993|By Cox News Service

AUSTIN, Texas -- While Americans welcomed a new president this week, some people are remembering the passing of a former president: Lyndon B. Johnson, who died 20 years ago -- on Jan. 22, 1973.

To mark the event, the LBJ Library and Museum in Austin is showing a video of how the nation paid its last respects to Johnson.

That's not the only museum display with special relevance this week. As Bill Clinton was sworn in as the nation's 42nd president Wednesday in Washington, two holy books on display at the LBJ Library reminded visitors of when Johnson took his oaths of office:

After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Johnson took his first presidential oath in November 1963 aboard Air Force One. He was sworn in on the Kennedy family's Catholic missal, a book of prayers and rites.

Johnson took his vice presidential oath in 1961 and his second presidential oath in 1965 on the Johnson family Bible, which is sometimes taken off display when Lady Bird Johnson wants to record a family event.

But it's more than a vow that links Johnson and Clinton.

"Certainly there are similarities. You can start with the fact that they belong to the same party, and each one had a social agenda that they brought into office," said Harry Middleton, director of the LBJ Library.

"The differences are that when LBJ came in with his social agenda, he had a thriving economy that enabled him to pursue his with vigor," Mr. Middleton said. He said today's economy will "not provide the fuel for social reform that Johnson had."

Johnson died of a heart attack Monday, Jan. 22, 1973, at his ranch near Johnson City, about 60 miles west of Austin. The following day at 12:40 p.m., his flag-draped casket was carried into the museum's Great Hall. For the next 19 hours, Johnson's body lay in state.

"People came, and they stood in line out on the plaza and wound across the parking lot like a snake," said Gary Yarrington, curator the museum since its opening in May 1971. The museum's ledger shows that more than 32,000 people came to pay their respects to Johnson, the 36th president, who declined to seek re-election in 1968.

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