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View Full Version : How did Lyndon Johnson get rich?


syncrolecyne
02-16-2004, 11:31 PM
While looking at an article that claimed that if John Kerry were the president, he'd be the third richest man to ever hold that office, I was far more surprised by Lyndon Johnson's high showing.

From what I know, he was briefly a school teacher, and then he became a congressional aide and then a congressman. During World War II he recieved a Naval commission and then entered the senate after the war. He eventually became his party's leader in the senate, Vice President in 1961 and .. the rest is history. Surely that would account for a comfortable life, (he did have a sizeable ranch) but Forbes magazine has him ahead of the Bushes and the Roosevelts? What did he do? Charge a million dollars per bribe in the senate?

Only Andrew Jackson, John F. Kennedy, and George Washington are ranked higher. Of course 18th and 19th century wealth is hard to compare with modern wealth - but LBJ is apparently far richer than I would have ever imagined.

The article: http://forbes.com/2004/02/13/cx_da_0213kerry.html

Earl Snake-Hips Tucker
02-16-2004, 11:34 PM
Maybe someone can supply the exact details, but I believe it was in the radio business.

Earl Snake-Hips Tucker
02-16-2004, 11:35 PM
Radio station business, that is. Didn't mean to imply that LBJ was selling AM transistor radios.

syncrolecyne
02-16-2004, 11:40 PM
I since found out (from a link on the article) that he had the only TV station in the Austin market for quite some time...still that doesn't explain to me how he could be in plutocrat territory.

Years ago I recall someone calling into a program (Larry King?) claiming he made a 'killing' from the armaments industry while escalating the Vietnam War; but it sounded like a crackpot conspiracy.

Nametag
02-17-2004, 12:24 AM
Lyndon Johnson made his fortune by turning his small Austin radio station into a regional powerhouse. In time, the Texas Broadcasting Company owned, at least in part, nine radio and television stations as well as interests in cable television. The Wall Street Journal won a Pulitzer Prize in 1965 for documenting the unusually long series of favorable FCC decisions that made him a multi-millionaire.

SmackFu
02-17-2004, 12:26 AM
More info ("http://dustbury.com/archives/000771.html) on the radio stations. The company was worth $105 million when the family sold it last year. And that was after they sold off the TV station to Fox for presumably big bucks.

Renob
02-17-2004, 02:27 PM
You should check out Robert A. Caro's Years of Lyndon Johnson volumes. There are three out there right now: Path to Power, Means of Ascent, and Master of the Senate. I can't say for sure how much Caro gets into this (I only finished the first volume yesterday), but I'm sure he does. His first volume was amazingly detailed and researched, and it paints a far-from-flattering portrait of Johnson and his rise to political power.

handsomeharry
02-17-2004, 04:19 PM
a quicker picture may be found in 'A Texan looks at Lyndon', from the 60s. in short, his point was that lbj created a monopoly with his friends in the FCC bykeeping others from buying licenses or revoking the ones they did have. lbj went in and bought cheap.

kunilou
02-17-2004, 04:27 PM
If I recall correctly, all the business holdings were in his wife's name, so technically it was family, not personal wealth.

Not that it much matters. A lot of Kerry's wealth comes from his wfe, too.

ralph124c
02-17-2004, 04:38 PM
In addition to the radio stations, Johnson benefitted enormously from the contracts awarded by NASA (to build the Houston Manned Speceflight Center-which originally was going to be in Cambridge, MA), and the Vietnam War (general Dynamics made billions in aircraft contracts). Johnson's family became near-billionaires as the result of these.
However, Lyndon drank himself to death in 1968..presumably he had a guilty conscience.

Airman Doors, USAF
02-17-2004, 04:43 PM
He didn't die in 1968, he died in 1973. Unless I'm missing something here.

cornflakes
02-17-2004, 06:19 PM
LBJ died in '73. He only died politically in '68.

Along with KLBJ/KNOW and NASA, LBJ surely got kickbacks from the infrastructure work done in Texas from the '30s to the '60s, stuff like rural electrification, dam building and road work. I think Caro documents LBJ's relationship with (George?) Brown of Brown and Root, the company that got the bids for a lot of this work.

Billdo
02-18-2004, 07:48 AM
I think Caro documents LBJ's relationship with (George?) Brown of Brown and Root, the company that got the bids for a lot of this work.

Would the Brown and Root you're discussing be related to the Haliburton subsidary Kellogg Brown & Root that currently has many of the reconstruction contracts in Iraq?

Achernar
02-18-2004, 07:50 AM
In addition to the radio stations, Johnson benefitted enormously from the contracts awarded by NASA (to build the Houston Manned Speceflight Center-which originally was going to be in Cambridge, MA)Do you know where I can read more about this in particular? It sounds interesting. Thanks.

cornflakes
02-18-2004, 08:21 AM
Would the Brown and Root you're discussing be related to the Haliburton subsidary Kellogg Brown & Root that currently has many of the reconstruction contracts in Iraq?No idea....

plnnr
02-18-2004, 08:28 AM
The communication businesses were in Lady Bird's name is because it was her family that started the businesses in the first place (IIRC, her maiden name was Taylor). Johnson only became involved in the communications business when he married into an already wealthy family.

Renob
04-05-2004, 10:24 AM
The communication businesses were in Lady Bird's name is because it was her family that started the businesses in the first place (IIRC, her maiden name was Taylor). Johnson only became involved in the communications business when he married into an already wealthy family.

Actually, this isn't true. I just finished Caro's second volume on the life of Lyndon Johnson, Means of Ascent, and in it he extensively documents Johnson's dealings with this station. His wife bought a low-power radio station (though it's clear she only did this because Lyndon himself didn't want his name on it; Lyndon was behind the whole deal and was very involved in its inner workings), and after the Johnsons owned it, the FCC suddenly approved its long-stalled application to increase its power and move down the dial (which meant it could reach more areas of Texas and be accesible to more listeners). CBS (I think) made it an affiliate after Johnson visited their headquarters in New York and the station made a lot of revenue from advertising bought by LBJ's friends in the district.

In short, Lady Bird's family did not start the business and it succeeded solely through Johnson's political connections. If he hadn't been a Congressman, he would never have been able to get the FCC to approve the petitions, get CBS to give make the station an affiliate, or to get the amount of advertising for the station. Basically, Johnson abused the powers of his office to make himself rich.

paperbackwriter
04-05-2004, 12:18 PM
Would the Brown and Root you're discussing be related to the Haliburton subsidary Kellogg Brown & Root that currently has many of the reconstruction contracts in Iraq?

Yes, see, for example, here (http://globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/gao/d03695.pdf) or here (http://halliburton.com/gov_ops/sl0258.jsp):
KBR Government Operations provides a diverse range of services to all branches of the United States military...We became military contractors in 1942 when Brown Shipbuilding Company built the first of 359 ships for the US Navy at our Greens Bayou Fabrication Yard, Houston, Texas.

Diceman
04-05-2004, 12:36 PM
OK, so LBJ made his money by monopolizing the Texas radio market and by arranging for fat government contracts to be awarded to companies he was affiliated with.

It's generally accepted that the Kennedys made their money by bootlegging during Prohibition.

What about other first families? Where did the Bush family's money come from?

Walloon
04-05-2004, 02:37 PM
It's generally accepted that the Kennedys made their money by bootlegging during Prohibition.No, that is not generally accepted by historians. Joseph Kennedy was a very successful securities trader in the 1920s, back when many things that are illegal today in securities trading were still legal. Ask Cecil. (https://academicpursuits.us/classics/a3_159.html)

Renob
04-05-2004, 02:52 PM
OK, so LBJ made his money by monopolizing the Texas radio market and by arranging for fat government contracts to be awarded to companies he was affiliated with.

It's generally accepted that the Kennedys made their money by bootlegging during Prohibition.

What about other first families? Where did the Bush family's money come from?

Are you trying for some sort of moral equivalence? Even if the Kennedy family did make its money during Prohibition, there's no moral equivalence between JFK and LBJ. For one, JFK was simply living off family money that may have been gained illegally, but not by him. JFK didn't abuse his government position to make himself rich, like LBJ did. In fact, I can't really think of any President who did this. Bush's family has long been rich, but Bush 41 made a lot of money in the oil fields of Texas before he got into politics. He didn't use his government positions to enrich himself.

kelly5078
04-05-2004, 03:40 PM
I'm having a hard time believing LBJ and Jackson were wealthier than the Roosevelts. Do we think this list is accurate?

paperbackwriter
04-05-2004, 03:54 PM
It is difficult to compare personal wealth across historical periods, but below is our best estimate of the relative net worths of the richest five U.S. presidents. The rankings are based on our own calculations and extensive interviews with presidential historians.

If the authors were more straightforward in their writing, they'd have said "It is almost meaningless to compare personal wealth...." and, "...Our best guess..." Even so, they acknowledge that it's hardly an authoritative ranking.

Diceman
04-05-2004, 07:09 PM
Are you trying for some sort of moral equivalence?
Not really. I'm mostly just curious as to how our country's leads came into their positions of power.

Loach
04-05-2004, 07:55 PM
Maybe someone can prove or disprove this. I heard that Johnson (again using Lady bird as a front). Made a killing off of Bell helicopter. This was told to me as an explaination as to why the Hughes OH-6 was replaced by the Bell OH-58. The OH-6 was considered to be the superior aircraft in performance and survivability by the pilots. This theory was told to me by a Nam OH-6 pilot and he gave no proof. However it is true that the three most widely used Army aircraft by the end of the war were all made by Bell, the UH-1 Huey, the AH-1 Cobra and the OH-58 Kiowa. At this point I have not formed an opinion and I hope someone has some info.

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