In Depth: 1946-1953

Timeline: LBJ and the Nation

1908-1919 1920-1929 1929-1940 1941-1945 1946-1953 1954-1960 1960-1963 1963-1969 1969-1973


The guns were barely stilled before America was locked in a cold war with its former ally the Soviet Union, who had revealed its determination to enlarge the Communist empire through infiltration if possible, or aggression if necessary. It was a struggle that would last for half a century, until the Soviet Union's eventual collapse. The United States undertook a massive aid program to help the recovery of former wartime allies and enemies alike.

In Korea, America proved its determination to hold the line against Communist expansion during the early years of the Cold War at the cost of 54,000 American lives. World War II leader Dwight D. Eisenhower took office in 1953, presiding over the America of the 1950s with Richard M. Nixon as vice president.

Johnson launched a successful Senate campaign in 1948 and, in 1952, was picked as minority leader for the Democratic Party. Lady Bird Johnson was deeply involved in Senate auxiliary events throughout her husband's tenure.


  • Post-war Berlin, lying inside the Soviet zone in Germany but occupied by all four of the Allied powers, became a tension point when the Soviets blocked access by road. The U.S. overcame the blockade by airlifting food and supplies to the isolated Berliners. After eleven months, during which the U.S. Air Force flew sorties around the clock, the Russians lifted the blockade and the threat of war receded.
  • The cold war turned hot in Korea, which was divided into two states at the end of World War II. In 1950, Communist North Korea invaded the south. The U.S., as part of a United Nations force, sent troops to block the invasion. The fight lasted for three years, claiming 54,000 American lives and ending in an armed truce which still exists.
  • The rigid color barrier in American society began to break when the Brooklyn Dodgers recruited Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play ball in a major league. Levittown, a community of prefabricated houses on Long Island, New York, was the prototype of a new kind of suburb spreading across the land. A hero of the time was Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed a vaccine that bought an end to the scourge of poliomyelitis.

Lyndon Baines Johnson

1948 Senate Campaign 1948 Senate Campaign
credit: Unknown

After the unsuccessful effort to move to the United States Senate in 1941, Johnson launched another campaign in 1948. He introduced the new phenomenon of the helicopter as a campaign instrument, using it to carry him to communities in every part of the state.

In the final days of the campaign for the Democratic nomination, Johnson held a slim lead over his opponent, former Governor Coke Stevenson. He won with a margin of eighty-seven votes, earning the soubriquet "Landslide Lyndon." The winning votes from box thirteen in a precinct in South Texas were challenged by the Stevenson forces, who claimed they were fraudulent. The dispute went to Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, whose decision was favorable to Johnson.

Assigned seats on the Senate Armed Forces and Foreign Relations Committees, the new senator began an association with Army Chief of Staff General Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1952 the Democrats picked Johnson as their Senate Minority Leader, although he had served only four years in that body, and at forty-four, he was the youngest Democratic leader in party history.

The ranch owned by Lyndon Johnson's aunt and uncle, a quarter-mile from the house where he was born, was acquired by Johnson in 1951. Christened the LBJ Ranch, it became a magnet for many of the nation's leaders through the 1950s.

Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird's first activity as a senator's wife was to join a Senate Ladies' chapter of the Red Cross. She was deeply involved in Senate auxiliary events throughout her husband's tenure.