University of Arkansas history professor Randall Woods has published a new biography of Lyndon Johnson, "LBJ: Architect of American Ambition," and it will be the first to utilize Johnson's recently released White House recordings.
This is welcome news to anyone who read Woods' biography of J. William Fulbright, which was nominated for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and which won the 1996 Robert H. Ferrel Prize for Best Book on American Foreign Relations and the 1996 Virginia Ledbetter Prize for Best Book on Southern Studies.
"The tapes are a biographer's dream," Woods said in a press release about his new book. "They are just unbelievable as a resource. You see all the shades of Johnson's personality and the complexities of the legislative process. The Great Society comprised a thousand pieces of legislation, and a lot of those votes were very close. So he had to work out these deals. He'd get Southerners to vote for an urban transit bill and Northerners to vote for a wheat subsidy bill. The poverty programs were in many ways civil rights programs. A lot of the Southerners who were segregationists would show their support for the civil rights movement by voting for the poverty programs. And Johnson would take that to Northern liberals and get them to compromise on the civil rights bills. It was a very complicated process, and he used that taping system in large part to keep up with the details."