Two native sons of Texas have served as president of the US. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969), the 34th president, was born in Denison, but his family moved to Kansas when he was two years old. Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908–73), the 36th president, was the only lifelong resident of the state to serve in that office. Born near Stonewall, he occupied center stage in state and national politics for a third of a century as US representative, Democratic majority leader of the US Senate, and vice president under John F. Kennedy, before succeeding to the presidency after Kennedy’s assassination. Reelected by a landslide, Johnson accomplished much of his Great Society program of social reform but saw his power and popularity wane because of the war in Viet Nam. His wife, Claudia Alta Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson (b.1912), was influential in environmental causes as First Lady.
Another prominent federal officeholder from Texas was Jesse H. Jones (1874–1956), who served as chairman of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and secretary of commerce under Franklin D. Roosevelt. Oveta Culp Hobby (1905–95), publisher of the Houston Post, became the first director of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II and the first secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Eisenhower. John Connally (1917–1993), a protégé of Lyndon Johnson’s, served as secretary of the US Navy under Kennedy and, as governor of Texas, was wounded in the same attack that killed the president; subsequently, he switched political allegiance, was secretary of the treasury under Richard Nixon, and had been active in Republican Party politics. Other federal officials from Texas include “Colonel” Edward M. House (1858–1938), principal advisor to President Wilson, and Leon Jaworski (1905–82), the Watergate special prosecutor whose investigations led to President Nixon’s resignation. Lloyd Bentsen, a senator and a secretary of the treasury, was born 11 February 1921 in Mission, Texas.
The state’s most famous legislative leader was Sam Rayburn (1882–1961), who served the longest tenure in the nation’s history as speaker of the US House of Representatives—17 years in three periods between 1940 and 1961. James Wright (b.1922) was Democratic majority leader of the House in the 1970s and early 1980s, and Barbara C. Jordan (1936–96) won national attention as a forceful member of the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment deliberations in 1974.
Texas’s other native vice president was John Nance Garner (1868–1967), former speaker of the US House of Representatives. George Bush (b.Massachusetts, 1924), who founded his own oil development company and has served in numerous federal posts, was elected vice president in 1980 on the Republican ticket and reelected in 1984, then elected to the presidency in 1988. Tom C. Clark (1899–1977) served as an associate justice on the US Supreme Court from 1949 to 1967; he stepped down when his son Ramsey (b.1927) was appointed US attorney general, a post the elder Clark had also held.