Should LBJ Be Ranked Alongside Lincoln?

Robert Caro, the esteemed biographer of Lyndon Baines Johnson, talks on the Shakespearean life of the 36th president

Caro’s hunt for the soul of LBJ has become a thrilling race against time. (Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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“I loved him. I thought he’s teaching me. On Election Day, however, he rode the polls with a police captain, a real son-of-a-bitch, and I knew he was a son-of-a-bitch because I covered the Justice of the Peace Court, and you used to be able to hear the cells...and you could hear them beating up people. And at every poll, out would come a policeman and tell him how things were going, you know. And they were having trouble with the black voters. I don’t remember if they had a black candidate or what. So...the captain would say something and they’d arrest people. And I couldn’t stand it.

“We got to this one polling place and there was a large group of black people. And this police sergeant or whatever came over and talked to them about how these people were really giving him trouble, which I guess meant having an honest vote instead of letting...I didn’t know. And the policeman on duty escorted these people into the back of this paddy wagon.

“This was ’57, it was like they expected it. And I got out of the car. And this was a moment that changed [my life].

“I just got out and left. I knew I wanted to be out with them, with the people there, instead of in the car.”

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