The Kennedy Assassination--24 Hours After: Lyndon B. Johnson's Pivotal First Day as President

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Riding in an open-topped convertible through Dallas on November 22, 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson heard a sudden explosive sound at 12:30 PM. The Secret Service sped him away to safety, but not until 1:20 PM did he learn that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Sworn in next to a bloodstained Jackie Kennedy at 2:40 PM, Johnson worked feverishly until 3:00 in the morning, agonizing about the future of both his nation and his party. Unbeknownst to him, his actions had already determined the tragic outcome of his presidency.

In November 22, 1963, historian Steven Gillon tells the story of how Johnson consolidated power in the twenty-four hours following the assassination. Based on scrupulous research and new archival sources, this gripping narrative sheds new and surprising light on one of the most written-about events of the twentieth century.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this fresh take on John F. Kennedy's assassination, history professor Gillon probes the chaos that surrounded Vice President Johnson's ascension to power as he coped with both the trauma of Kennedy's murder and the enmity of Kennedy's inner circle. At Parkland Hospital in Dallas, a battle of wills between Johnson and JFK's inner circle-including appointments secretary Kenneth O'Donnell and military aide Brigadier General Godfrey McHugh-contributed to the confusion then (and now) over the timeline of Kennedy's death and Johnson's assuming the presidency. Leading the anti-Johnson contingent was the president's brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who tussled with LBJ over the swearing-in details (both disagreed bitterly about the episode afterwards). Johnson faltered as he moved into the spotlight, trying in vain to adopt Camelot as his own by trying (unsuccessfully) to console Jackie and persuading (with varying degrees of success) Kennedy staffers to stay on. Gillon captures the two faces of Johnson-the insecure second-guesser and the brilliant politician-as well as the earliest signs of the Johnson presidency's eventual failure.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
The hours following JFK's assassination were a time of confusion, sadness, and fear, which Gillon (resident historian, History Channel) vividly describes in this companion book to a History Channel documentary airing this month. The author relies on both standard secondary sources and newly declassified documents to show that the Johnson era, with its Great Society triumphs and Vietnam failure, mirrored LBJ's combination of actions on that first harrowing day. Gillon credits LBJ for his calming leadership demonstrated through skilled use of television and for his sympathetic kindness toward the now-widowed Jacqueline Kennedy, but he also shows how Johnson's self-destructive insecurity, inflamed by Robert Kennedy's contempt for him, also manifested itself. Included is an intriguing discussion of the vulnerability of the United States during the 40 minutes between JFK's death and Johnson's learning of it. VERDICT This fast-paced book will appeal to general readers and historians who will likely have different opinions about how the first day following JFK's death set the course for the Johnson years. See Max Holland's The Kennedy Assassination Tapes for first-person transcripts of much of what's covered here.—Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465020362
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 10/12/2010
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 680,099
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven M. Gillon earned his PhD at Brown University, and taught for several years at Yale University and then at Oxford. He is currently a professor of history at the University of Oklahoma and the resident historian for The History Channel. He is the author of numerous books and articles on modern American history and politics, including Ten Days that Unexpectedly Changed America. He lives in New York and Oklahoma.

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