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LBJ’s Neglected Legacy

LBJ’s Neglected Legacy
How Lyndon Johnson Reshaped Domestic Policy and Government

Leading experts from many disciplines investigate the extraordinary range and extent of LBJ’s influence on American public policy and administration, a legacy that makes him one of America’s most effective, if controversial, leaders.

July 2015
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493 pages | 6 x 9 |

During the five full years of his presidency (1964–1968), Lyndon Johnson initiated a breathtaking array of domestic policies and programs, including such landmarks as the Civil Rights Act, Head Start, Food Stamps, Medicare and Medicaid, the Immigration Reform Act, the Water Quality Act, the Voting Rights Act, Social Security reform, and Fair Housing. These and other “Great Society” programs reformed the federal government, reshaped intergovernmental relations, extended the federal government’s role into new public policy arenas, and redefined federally protected rights of individuals to engage in the public sphere. Indeed, to a remarkable but largely unnoticed degree,Johnson’s domestic agenda continues to shape and influence current debates on major issues such as immigration, health care, higher education funding, voting rights, and clean water, even though many of his specific policies and programs have been modified or, in some cases, dismantled since his presidency.

LBJ’s Neglected Legacy examines the domestic policy achievements of one of America’s most effective, albeit controversial, leaders. Leading contributors from the fields of history, public administration, economics, environmental engineering, sociology, and urban planning examine twelve of LBJ’s key domestic accomplishments in the areas of citizenship and immigration, social and economic policy, science and technology, and public management. Their findings illustrate the enduring legacy of Johnson’s determination and skill in taking advantage of overwhelming political support in the early years of his presidency to push through an extremely ambitious and innovative legislative agenda, and emphasize the extraordinary range and extent of LBJ’s influence on American public policy and administration.


List of Tables

List of Figures


Part I. Reconsidering LBJ's Domestic Policies

Chapter 1. Understanding Lyndon Johnson's Neglected Legacies (Norman J. Glickman, Laurence E. Lynn Jr., and Robert H. Wilson)

Chapter 2. Remembering LBJ: One Historian's Thoughts on Johnson's Place in the Pantheon of Presidents (Robert Dallek)

Part II. Defining Citizenship and Immigration

Chapter 3. Ending Jim Crow, Attacking Ghetto Walls (Gary Orfield )

Chapter 4. Expansion and Contraction in LBJ's Voting Rights Legacy (Jorge Chapa)

Chapter 5. An Unexpected Legacy: The Positive Consequences of LBJ's Immigration Policy Reforms (Frank D. Bean, Susan K. Brown, and Esther Castillo)

Part III. Education, Health, and Social Welfare Policy

Chapter 6. Head Start: Growing beyond the War on Poverty (Elizabeth Rose)

Chapter 7. Lyndon Johnson and American Education (Gary Orfield)

Chapter 8. The Health Care Legacy of the Great Society (Paul Starr)

Chapter 9. LBJ's Legacy in Contemporary Social Welfare Policy: Have We Come Full Circle? (Cynthia Osborne)

Part IV. Cities, the Environment, and Science Policy

Chapter 10. Lyndon Johnson and the Cities (Norman J. Glickman and Robert H. Wilson)

Chapter 11. The Past and Future of the Johnson Administration's Water Quality Policies (David J. Eaton)

Chapter 12. LBJ, Science, Technology Policy, and Lessons for the Future (Gary Chapman)

Part V. Improving Public Management

Chapter 13. Reform of the Federal Government: Lessons for Change Agents (Laurence E. Lynn Jr.)

Chapter 14. Constructing Effectiveness: The Emergence of the Evaluation Research Industry (Peter Frumkin and Kimberly Francis)

Part VI. Conclusions

Chapter 15. Fifty Years Later: Legacies and Lessons of LBJ's Domestic Policies (Laurence E. Lynn, Jr., Norman J. Glickman, and Robert H. Wilson)





Robert H. Wilson is the Mike Hogg Professor of Urban Policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research.

Norman J. Glickman was Distinguished University Professor of Public Policy and Urban Planning at Rutgers University. He formerly served as the Director of Rutgers Center for Urban Policy Research.

Laurence E. Lynn, Jr., is the Sydney Stein, Jr., Professor of Public Management Emeritus at the University of Chicago. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Johnson presidency.



The centennial anniversary of the birth of Lyndon B. Johnson and the fif- tieth anniversaries of his signal legislative achievements—the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, and Economic Opportunity Act—have combined to stimulate renewed interest in the legacies of his extraordinary and con- troversial presidency. During and following LBJ’s years in office, significant literatures have explored the social, political, and economic consequences not only of those historic enactments but also of his strategies for the war in Vietnam. Because he was viewed as a larger-than-life political leader, much has been written as well about Lyndon Johnson the man and his consequen- tial life and political career. But there is more to the story.

Johnson’s legislative achievements reflected his ambition to transform the federal government into an institution that could fulfill the liberal prom- ise of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, Harry S. Truman’s Fair Deal, and John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier. Johnson’s Great Society encompassed a wide range of domestic policy initiatives, and many have been studied in depth—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Community Action Program—but the longer-term im- pact of his presidency on American politics and governmental institutions has received less scholarly attention.

Perhaps appropriately for a president of bold political ambitions and con- summate political skill, the polarized politics of the twenty-first century’s second decade gave rise to the war cry of conservative critics: America’s lib- eral government is LBJ’s fault. The nation’s conflicted politics coincided with scholarly interest in sober appraisals of what we term in this volume as Johnson’s “neglected political and institutional legacy”: the transformation of the American administrative state. The remarkable Civil Rights Sympo- sium held at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in April 2014, with the participation of three former presidents and the then- sitting president, provided additional evidence of the renewed attention be- ing given to LBJ’s policies and their long-term effects.

The genesis of the present volume occurred in the fall of 2008 when the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin organized a commemoration of the centennial of LBJ’s birth. That symposium assessed domestic policy legacies for contemporary public policy and administration and for the newly elected president, Barack Obama. The symposium attracted considerable attention, which inspired its organizers to identify a significant lacuna in the scholarship concerned with Lyndon Johnson’s presidency and its consequences for America. Soon after LBJ left office, there appeared significant studies on many policy initiatives, a num- ber of which have been subject to persistent analysis over the decades, such as civil rights, voting rights, and poverty. But rarely has analysis dealt with the still-unfolding consequences of the bulk of LBJ’s original legislative ini- tiatives. Moreover, no one has comprehensively analyzed the impacts of these initiatives on policy and the administrative state.

The intellectual excitement generated at the centennial symposium at the LBJ School led its organizers to enlarge the project to a volume of presiden- tial scholarship. We commissioned thirteen papers covering some of the do- mestic policy areas that most concerned President Johnson, although not addressing the full range of his legislative achievement. The authors come from wide-ranging fields, including public policy and management, eco- nomics, political science, sociology, history, environmental engineering, and urban planning. We believe the result of the effort advances the under- standing of an important but heretofore neglected legacy.

Norman J. Glickman, Princeton, New Jersey
Laurence E. Lynn Jr., Austin, Texas
Robert H. Wilson, Austin, Texas
May 2014


LBJ's Neglected Legacy . . . offers considerable insight into how the Great Society has endured despite fundamentally changed public expectations of—and confidence in—the federal government.”
Texas Monthly

"An important compendium of current scholarship on the successes and limitations of the most monumental domestic program in U.S. history."
Pacific Historical Review

“…provides a unique approach to evaluating the Johnson administration’s work.”
Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“One of the Great Society’s key legacies is that it has not disappeared but has become intertwined in what it means to exert governmental power in the modern United States. For serious students of modern U.S. governance, public policy, and politics, this book should be an invaluable resource.”
Kent Germany, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies, University of South Carolina, author of New Orleans after the Promises: Poverty, Citizenship, and the Search for the Great Society, and coeditor of The Presidential Recordings, Lyndon B. Johnson