The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro
As we embark on the eve of Election Day, it’s an opportunity to reconsider one of the most powerful twentieth century American political figures, President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
Of all the authors that have written about the controversial thirty-sixth president, no one has come close to doing a more exhaustive job than two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Caro in his epic series, The Years of Lyndon Johnson.
Caro’s first volume, The Path to Power, focuses on LBJ’s roots and his meteoric rise in Texas politics. A standard book review for this tome would normally be about 2,500 words and rest assured it has been done many times over. I have no desire to rehash what has already been said.
But I wanted to point out a particularly interesting episode, about how a piece of advice from a father to a son may have altered the course of our nation’s history.
In 1937, during the Great Depression, twenty-eight-year-old Lyndon Johnson, who was then overseeing Texas’ National Youth Administration, was in a predicament.
The longtime Congressman in Johnson’s home district, James P. Buchanan, had died unexpectedly.
With a special election schedule, it was presumed that the deceased lawmaker’s widow would announce her intention to run for her husband’s seat. There were few other serious contenders, including Johnson, but all of them immediately backed off once word spread that Mrs. Buchanan was running and would be a lock for the seat.
Author Robert Caro
Since his days in college, Johnson had been positioning himself for an opportunity like this one—working closely with local politicians, making connections with wealthy businessmen in his district, and building up an army of campaign volunteers. But Johnson’s closet political confidantes advised him not to run—he’d lose and might not be able to recover for a while. It looked like his dream of being a member of the House would be, at the very least, postponed.
The day before Mrs. Buchanan was planning to officially announce her candidacy, Johnson visited his father, Samuel Ealy Johnson, Jr., a former state legislator.
The son explained his predicament.
Samuel wasn’t having it and was surprised that his overeager son was acting so docile.
“‘She’s an old woman,’” Samuel told him. ‘“She’s too old for a fight. If she knows she’s going to have a fight, she won’t run. Announce now — before she announces.’”
And so Johnson announced his candidacy and, sure enough, the following day, the widow declared she would not run. All of the prospective candidates, who were on the fence, immediately jumped into the race. In a hard-fought battle, Johnson emerged victorious and that election launched a long and very successful congressional career that would eventually carry him all the way to the White House.
Although Caro’s Path to Power is close to 800 pages, don’t allow the length to dissuade you from reading this masterfully told tale about a man’s obsession for acquiring power.
A couple of weeks ago, my family and I visited Minneapolis to meet my wife’s relatives. While there I took the opportunity to connect with my editor, Amy Quale, and her colleague, Dara Beevas, who is the author of Indie Author Revolution: An Insider’s Guide to Self-Publishing. We met for breakfast at a local café and chatted for 90 minutes. They will soon be publishing Beyond the Book, a book designed for indie writers. We also spoke about upcoming conferences in the book publishing industry (look for them at PubSmart in Charleston, SC), and
discussed their thriving business, WiseInk, which serves writers (both indie and traditional) from all genres..….Recently, I have hired a narrator to be the voice for the audiobook version of Alex Haley’s Roots. Release date will be January 2015……Finally, two weeks ago, I had my first book talk and signing in Walnut Creek, California. More than 60 people attended and I autographed 39 books! All in all, it was an exciting and successful evening. If you are interested in having me speak about Alex Haley, contact me at email@example.com.