Hubert H. Humphrey: "The class of 1948, so called, meaning those that were serving their first term in Congress, included besides Johnson and myself, Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, Paul Douglas of Illinois, Robert Kerr of Oklahoma, and Clinton Anderson of New Mexico, in the Senate; and I remember in the House Gene McCarthy and Gerald Ford. A very interesting group of newcomers, but as always Lyndon stood out."
Johnson of course, was not truly a Washington newcomer; he already had spent 12 years in the House of Representatives.
Walter Jenkins, longtime aide; "Mr. Johnson took to the Senate as if he'd been born there. From the first day on it was obvious that it was HIS place."
Bobby Baker, then a Senate page: first met Johnson in December of 1948. He had just been elected to the Senate, and I was 20 years old and had been in Washington as a Senate page boy since just after 14. Johnson called me and said, "I understand you know all the senators, and I'd appreciate it if you'd come by my office and talk to me." Lyndon and I became very close very quickly because we both knew how to count and he was very quick to learn all there was to know about each and every senator."
Johnson's maiden speech in the Senate was straight down-the-line anti-civil rights diatribe that placed him squarely in the middle of the Southern bioc.
And yet there were still the isolated cases where the old Lyndon, the Lyndon who had bought baseballs and bats for the Mexican-American children and had spearheaded an Austin housing project appeared.
Humphrey: I always felt that he was a lot more liberal than he ever acted. I felt that early."
Paul H. Douglas, a leading liberal senator: Johnson was an intensely ambitious man, anxious to get power and hold on to it, a rather curious mixture of pragmatism and idealism. He had a progressive background, and I think this had entered into his spirit and was fundamental feature of his character."
Humphrey: "Early on in our Senate days, Lyndon started inviting me up to his office, and we'd talk. From the very beginning he understood the most intricate workings of the Senate. He was like a novelist, a psychiatrist. He was like a novelist, a pyschiatrist. He didn't stop until he knew how to appeal to every single senator and how to win him over."
Warren Magnuson, senator from Washington: "He just paid attention to every little thing. He was very accommodating to people. He put a lot of IOUs in the bank, and when he needed them for something he really wanted, he could pull them out."
Johnson was about to pull some of the IOUs out very soon.
In the November elections of 1950, the Senate majority leader, Scott Lucas of Illinois, lost heavily. The Democratic whip also was defeated. The routine duties of those posts made it difficult for senators who held them to spend much time campaigning, and the result was often sadly predictable. Also they held no power.
When the Democrats met after the election to replace Lucas, Ernest McFarland of Arizona was finally persuaded to take the post. As for whip, Robert Keer, the rich reactionary from Oklahoma, wanted Johnson to consider it. True, it was not a position of power, but it was the next step to power, and Lyndon was never not aware of the next step.
So, on January 2, 1951, Johnson was chosen as whip -- by acclamation.
On November 4, 1952, Adlai Stevenson was roundly defeated by Dwight Eisenhower. There had not been a Republican in the White House for 20 years, and that change was profoundly to affect the career of the senator from Texas.
McFarland, the majority leader, also was defeated and for the third time in six years the Democrats were without a leader.
Ralph Huitt, political scientist and professor: "The liberals began musing on whom they were going to support. Long before they ever got around to doing something, Johnson had the job nailed down."
In 1953 the Democrats became the minority party in the Senate and Lyndon the minority leader. The immediately realized that the situation offered him the possibility of becoming the most visible Democrat in the country. He would, he planned, deal with the new president, possibly the most idolized and beloved man in the country, by allying himself and his Democratic minority as firmly in the Eisenhower camp as possible.
Then, in the 1954 elections, the 48-to-47 Republican majority in the Senate exactly reversed itself to the Democrats, and at 47, Lyndon Johnson took his front row, center aisle seat as the youngest majority leader in the history of the Senate.
He soon demonstrated his genius for taking a position of small power and building from it his own position of enormous power. How he managed that came to be known as the "Johnson method" or "system," and the "Johnson treatment."
Through his method or system, Lyndon controlled, for example, who was put on what committee and who was not, decided when a bill should come to the floor and when it should come up for the vote. He decided which of president's bills the Democrats should back and which not, and he decided when a bill was worth risking defeat on.
Then there was the "Johnson treatment."
Benjamin Bradlee, executive editor of The Washington Post: "When Johnson wanted to persuade you of something, when you got the Johnson treatment, you really felt as if a St. Bernard had licked your face for an hour, had pawed you all over. When he was in the Senate especially as majority leader, it was like going to the zoo. He never just shook hands with you. One hand was shaking your hand, the other hand was always someplace else, exploring your, examining you.
"And of course he was a great actor. At the same time he was trying to persuade you of something, sometimes something that he knew and I knew was not so, and there would be just the trace of a smile on his face. It was just a miraculous prformance."
William Jordan, diplomat: 'When he talked to somebody, Johnson used to get right up close and poke him in the chest, and at the same time he would drop his head and cock it to one side and really come in to talk to you with his head coming in under your face. And he would poke you in the chest with his finger and cock his head under and look up at you and talk, all of it at the same time."
Robert S. Allen, syndicated columnist: "Humphrey told me how johnson gave him pep talks and Humphrey demostrated saying, 'He'd grab me by the lapels and say, 'Now, Hubert, I want you to do this and that and get going', and with that he would kick him in the shins hard. Then Humphrey added, 'Look,' and pulled up his trousers leg, and, sure enough, he had some scars there. He had a couple of scars on his shins where Lyndon had kicked him and said, 'Get going.'"
Johnson now was smoking at least three packs of cigarettes a day, sometimes more. He never had lunch unless a legislative matter was being discussed. And his cook remembers that he missed dinner more often than not, and when he did make it home, usually as late as 10 or 11 p.m., he was almost never alone, and he sometimes scarcely touched the meal. He was drinking more than usual,. too, and despite his haphazard diet, he was putting on weight; he weighted 225 pounds.
In 1955, while traveling to Middleburg, Va., to spend part of a Fourth of July weekend with friends, he suffered a heart attack.
"I was an hour late, and I was trying to make it up, and there was this sense of pressure. My chest hurt, and I thought to myself, if only I hadn't eaten that cantaloupe at lunch," Johnson recalled.
"I was able to talk all right. I got out a cigarette, I remember, and the doctor at the house told me to put it away, but I said, 'Let me have just one more, and then I'll never have another.' So I had that cigarette, and it's the last I've ever had. When I got to the hospital, they [family] were all there. I gave Bird my keys and money out of my pocket."
Johnson went into shock and, during the night, he came close to dying.
But on Aug. 7, he was discharged. He had been an impossible, demanding patient, and many members of the hospital staff were relieved to see him go.
James H. Rowe Jr., lawyer and adviser: "He came back to Washington after his heart attack and what he did is typical Johnson, Vintage Johnson. He called me up and said he needed my help. He was just getting started and he desperately needed me. So I told him I'd give him a day a week He said, 'No, that's not enough, I need you all the time.' I said that that was just impossible.
"And he put on his act. He started weeping, and he said, "You know I am going to die. And nobody cares. You don't care. Nobody cares.' And so on.
"Finally, I said, 'All right, I'll do it.' And within seconds, the tears were gone. He straightened up in his chair, and he said, 'All right, but just remember I make the decisions, you don't."
In 1960 Eisenhower could not run again by law and there was little enthusiam anywhere for Richard M. Nixon, the vice president. It looked as if any acceptable candidate the Democrats put up would be a shoo-in.
Johnson told everybody who would listen that, although Jack Kennedy had said that he, Lyndon, was too most qualified candidate, he wasn't interested. Who would want to be president when he could be the Senate leader?
Still there were times, at the 1960 session went along, when Johnson doubted his own ability as a legislator. From the passage of the civil rights bill until July 3, when Congress adjourned for the national conventions, absolutely no significant legislation was passed.
With the end of an unpopular and unsuccessful August Senate "rump session," which he himself had engineered in hopes of improving his legislative record, Lyndon's years in the Senate were over -- although he wasn't quite sure of it yet. The nature of his personality and the often roughshod method of his leadership had earned him enemies, but most of his colleagues were friendly, and quite a few were actually friends.
It was one of his bitterest opponents who best summed up Johnson's Senate years.
Barry Goldwater: "I'll say this about him . . . In those days, at least you KNEW. When Lyndon Johnson said, 'This is going to be legislation, you knew you weren't going to leave until it WAS legislation, until it was finished. These days you never know what is going to happen."
As Lyndon was about to learn.