cover image Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960 Volume 1

Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960 Volume 1

Robert Dallek. Oxford University Press, USA, $99 (752pp) ISBN 978-0-19-505435-4

Dallek sums up his subject, the 36th U.S. president, in this generous and touching sentence: ``If Lyndon Johnson demanded much and took much, he also gave much in return.'' In the initial book of this two-volume biography, Dallek ( Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945 ) reconstructs Johnson's Texas childhood, his 1937 election to the House, his war experiences as a Navy officer, election to the Senate in '49, his years as ``the greatest Senate majority leader in history,'' and finally his selection as John Kennedy's running mate in 1960. LBJ as wheeler-dealer is already a familiar figure, but Dallek, tracing the origin of the War on Poverty and the Great Society to Johnson's experiences and observations as a young man, reveals that much of the wheeling and dealing was an expression of Johnson's genuine interest in helping the disadvantaged. One of our least-admired presidents, Johnson (1908-1973) has been portrayed in recent years by Robert Caro and others as a monster of ambition, greed and cruelty. Dallek's LBJ is a somewhat more complicated, contradictory and sympathetic character, ``struggling with inner demons that drove and tormented him.'' Photos. 50,000 first printing; $60,000 ad/promo. (Aug.)