Lyndon Johnson's Obituary
page 1 of The New York Times, January 23, 1973]
[With grateful thanks to Michael
Elsner for transcription!]
Lyndon Johnson, 36th President, Is Dead;
Special to the New York Times.
Was Architect of 'Great Society' Program
SAN ANTONIO, Tex., Jan. 22--Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th
President of the United States, died today of an
apparent heart attack suffered at his ranch in Johnson
The 64-year-old Mr. Johnson, whose history of heart
illness began in 1955, was pronounced dead on arrival
at 4:33 P.M. central time at San Antonio International
Airport, where he had been flown in a family plane on
the way to Brooke Army Medical Center here.
A spokesman at Austin said that Mr. Johnson's funeral
would probably be held Thursday at the National City
Christian Church in Washington. He said the body would
lie in state at the Johnson Library in Austin from
noon tomorrow until 8 A.M. Wednesday, with an honor
guard, and then would be taken to Washington, where it
will lie in state at the Capitol rotunda until the
funeral. Mr. Johnson will be buried at the L.B.J.
Death came to the nation's only surviving former
President as the nation observed a period of mourning
proclaimed less than a month ago for former President
Harry S. Truman.
A Legacy of Progress
Although his vision of a Great Society dissolved in
the morass of war in Vietnam, Mr. Johnson left to the
nation a legacy of progress and innovation in civil
rights, Social Security, education, housing and other
programs attesting to his fundamental affection for
his fellow Americans.
At Fort Sam Houston, where Brooke Army Medical Center
is situated, flags were hoisted to full staff and then
immediately lowered again in respect for the Texan who
was thrust into the Presidency on Nov. 22, 1963, when
an assassin's bullet took the life of President
Kennedy in Dallas.
Ironically, Mr. Johnson died in what appeared to be
the waning days of the Vietnam war. The man who won
election in 1964 to a full term as President with the
greatest voting majority ever accorded a candidate was
transformed by that war into the leader of a divided
Amid rising personal unpopularity, in the face of the
lingering war and racial strife at home, Mr. Johnson
surprised the nation on March 31, 1968, with a
television speech in which he announced, "I shall not
seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party
as your President."
Stage Set for Defeat
He thus renounced an opportunity to cap with a second
full term a career in public life that began in 1937
with his election to Congress as an ardent New Dealer
and led to the majority leadership of the Senate and
to the Vice-Presidency and the Presidency. His
renunciation set the stage for Democratic defeat at
the polls in 1968.
Two days before Mr. Johnson's death, Richard M. Nixon,
the Republican who was elected in 1968, took the oath
of office for his second term as President. Mr. Nixon
telephoned Mrs. Johnson today at the hospital here to
express his sympathy.
At a news briefing tonight in Austin at KTBC, the
Johnson family's television and radio station, Tom
Johnson, executive vice president of the station, who
was also a long-time aide to Mr. Johnson, gave the
following account of the former President's death:
At 3:50 P.M., while in his bedroom for his regular
afternoon nap, Mr. Johnson called the ranch
switchboard and asked for Mike Howard, the head of his
Secret Service detail, who was out in a car.
Bill Morrow, the switchboard operator, tried to call
Mr. Howard and other Secret Service agents.
The first agents he reached were Ed Nowland and Harry
Harris. They raced to the bedroom with a portable
They found Mr. Johnson lying beside his bed. They said
later he had already turned dark blue and appeared to
Nevertheless, they began trying to revive him. Mr.
Nowland administered mouth-to- mouth resuscitation.
Two physicians were telephoned, Col. George McGranahan
of Brooke Hospital and Dr. David J. Abbott of nearby
Placed Aboard Plane
Mr. Howard reached the bedroom at 3:55 P.M. and began
an external heart massage.
At 4:05 P.M., Mrs. Johnson was called while riding in
a car about a block from the L.B.J. Library in Austin,
where she has an office. She flew by helicopter from
the library to San Antonio.
At 4:19 P.M., Mr. Johnson was placed aboard a family
plane, a Beech King Air. Also aboard the twin-engined
plane were Dr. Abbott; Mr. Nowland; Mr. Harris; Mrs.
Dale Malechek, wife of the ranch foreman, and the
pilot, Barney Hulett.
The plane arrived at 4:33 in San Antonio, where Dr.
Abbott pronounced the former President dead. At 4:45
P.M., Mrs. Johnson arrived from Austin, about 70 miles
away. The ranch is about 45 miles from San Antonio.
At about the same time, Colonel McGranahan arrived at
the airport and confirmed the death.
Mrs. Johnson, the former Claudia Alta Taylor, known as
Lady Bird, returned to Austin in the company of Mr.
Howard, arriving at 6:45 P.M. local time and going to
her penthouse apartment at the family broadcasting
A short time later, she was joined by Brig. Gen. James
Cross, Air Force, retired, a family friend and former
pilot of the Presidential plane, Air Force One.
The Johnsons' two daughters, Mrs. Patrick J. Nugent
and Mrs. Charles S. Robb, accompanied by their
husbands, later met their mother at the ranch. Also
present was J. C. Kellam, the general manager of the
family business interests.
While they discussed funeral plans, the body of the
former President was taken from Brooke Army Medical
Center to Austin by the Weed-Corley Funeral Home of
Mr. Johnson had always made it clear that he wanted to
be buried on the family ranch in Johnson City, in a
small, walled burial plot about 400 yards from the
ranch house, where his father, mother and other
relatives had been laid to rest.
Colonel McGranahan said tonight that the former
President's death was apparently caused by a coronary
An autopsy performed by Col. L. R. Hieger, chief of
pathology at Brooke General Hospital, showed that Mr.
Johnson had been suffering from severe coronary
arterial disease. Two of three major arteries
supplying the heart were completely occluded, Colonel
Heiger said, and the third artery was 60 per cent
occluded. Further evaluation will be made later, he
At a news briefing tonight Tom Johnson said Mrs.
Johnson had told him that the former President's
health had not altered recently, although she
mentioned that he had been quieter than usual.
One of Mr. Johnson's last formal appearances took
place last Tuesday in Austin, where he attended the
inauguration of Gov. Dolph Briscoe and Lieut. Gov.
William P. Hobby. On the ceremonial platform outside
the capitol, Mr. Johnson, looking thin, seemed to be
enjoying an opportunity to see old friends and shake
hands with well-wishers who flocked around him.
Later that day, he took Walter Heller, the former
chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers, to
Southwest Texas State University, Mrs. Johnson's alma
mater, in San Marcos, for a talk to a group of
During the question-and-answer session, Mr. Johnson
said to the audience, "Come on, now, make your
questions quicker, and Walter, you make your answers
In a discussion of food and meat prices, Mr. Heller
predicted a rise of 6 to 7 per cent in meat prices.
"I can tell you what's happening with cattle," Mr.
Johnson said. "I paid my dealer $92 a ton for feed.
The bill went to $110 a ton and now it's costing me
$156 a ton for food."
Last Saturday, joining Mrs. Johnson in her
beautification work, the former President went to
Ranch Road 1, which runs across the Pedernales River
from the L.B.J. Ranch, and planted a redbud tree, a
Texas tree that blooms with red flowers. The tree was
the first of 100 to be planted along the road.
On that occasion, Mr. Johnson told a friend that he
was not feeling very well and said that that was why
he had not gone to Washington for the inauguration of