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President Johnson Signs Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965)

Gordon Wilkison

Silent | 1965

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  •  President Lyndon B. Johnson arrives at the ceremony 
  •  Johnson’s childhood schoolteacher, Kate Deadrich Loney, sits next to the President during the ceremony. Upon introducing her to the crowd, Johnson told those gathered, “I started school when I was four years old, and they tell me, Miss Kate, that I recited my first lesson while sitting on your lap.” 
  •  The Johnson family departs 
  •  The President and First Lady attend Palm Sunday services at the First Methodist Church 
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This unedited news coverage captures President Lyndon Baines Johnson signing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in Johnson City in 1965. The ceremony took place outside of Johnson’s former one-room school, Junction Elementary School. The President’s childhood teacher, Kate Deadrich Loney, sat alongside him for the occasion. Notwithstanding the sequence of events in the footage, Johnson attended Palm Sunday services and visited the Pedernales Electric Cooperative before the ceremony. The guest list for the event included Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota and Representative Carl Albert of Oklahoma, both of whom Johnson thanked for helping to get the controversial bill through Congress. The legislation was a part of Johnson’s War on Poverty, and remains the most far-reaching federal legislation about education to be passed by the United States Congress. The act primarily serves to mandate funding for primary and secondary education, establishing standards and accountability. In emphasizing equal access and opportunity, the legislation also seeks to shorten achievement gaps between students. Originally authorized through 1965, the government has reauthorized the act every five years, including the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Johnson's Remarks on Signing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
Johnson City, Texas
April 11, 1965
I want to welcome to this little school of my childhood many of my former schoolmates, as well as some of my dear friends from the educational institutions of this area. My attorney general tells me that it is legal and constitutional to sign this act on a Sunday, even on Palm Sunday. My minister assured me that the Lord's day will not be violated by making into law a measure which brings mental and moral benefits to millions of our young people. So I have chosen this time and this place for two reasons.
First, I do not wish to delay by a single day the programs that strengthen this nation's elementary and secondary schools. Second, I felt a very strong desire to go back to the beginnings of my own education, to be reminded and to remind others of that magical time when the world of learning began to open before our eyes.
From our very beginnings as a nation, we have felt a first commitment to the ideal of education for everyone. It fits itself into our Democratic creed. For too long political acrimony held up our progress. For too long, children suffered while jarring interests caused stalemates in the efforts to improve our schools. Since 1946, Congress tried repeatedly and failed repeatedly to enact measures for elementary and secondary education. Now, within the past three weeks, the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed the most sweeping educational bill ever to come before Congress. It represents a major new commitment of the federal government, to quality and equality in the schooling that we offer our young people. By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness and hope for more than five million educationally deprived children. We put into the hands of our youth more than 30 million new books, and into many of our schools their first libraries.
We reduce the terrible lag in bringing new teaching techniques into the nation's classrooms. We strengthen state and local agencies which bear the burden and the challenge of better education, and we rekindle the revolution—the revolution of the spirit against the tyranny of ignorance.
As the son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is only valid in its passport from poverty, the only valid passport. As a former teacher—and I hope a future one—I have great expectations of what this law will mean for all our young people. As President of the United States, I believe deeply no law has signed or will ever sign means more to the future of America. We have established the law. Let us not delay in putting it to work. 
Thirty-sixth president of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson, was born on a hill country farm near Stonewall, Texas on August 27, 1908 to Samuel Ealy Johnson, a former Texas legislator, and Rebekah Baines Johnson. He attended Southwest Teachers College, now Texas State University, graduating with a degree in history and social science in 1930. LBJ spent one year as principal and teacher in Cotulla, educating impoverished Hispanic elementary school students. LBJ became the secretary to Texas Congressman Richard M. Kleberg in 1931; the four-year position helped him gain influential contacts in Washington. Johnson married Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor on November 17, 1934.
LBJ acted as Director of the National Youth Administration in Texas from 1935 to 1937. Johnson won his first legislative election in 1937 for the Tenth Congressional District, a position he held for 11 years. He was a firm supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal and in 1940 acted as Chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee. In 1948, following his service as a Lieutenant Naval Commander during World War II, LBJ ran as the Democratic nominee for Senate. In a cloud of controversy, he narrowly defeated former Texas Governor Coke Stevens and easily beat his Republican opponent in the general election. Before winning his second senate term, LBJ was elected Majority Whip in 1951, became the youngest ever Minority Senate Leader in 1953, and was voted Majority Leader in 1954. Johnson unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960 but was selected to be Vice President under John F. Kennedy. 
Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as Commander and Chief aboard Air Force One following President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963 and won reelection in 1964. President Johnson passed landmark legislation with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Debate over military efforts in Vietnam intensified in late 1963 when the President stated that the United States would not withdraw from Southeast Asia. Escalation of the war against North Vietnam brought disapproval from Democrats, claiming the efforts were misguided, and from Republicans who criticized the administration for not executing sufficient military vigor. Antiwar protests, urban riots, and racial tension eroded Johnson’s political base by 1967, which further dissolved following the Tet Offensive in January 1968. On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced that we would not seek a second presidential term.
After returning to Texas, Johnson oversaw the construction of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum on the University of Texas campus in Austin. Throughout his political career, LBJ was an influential figure in Texas affairs; his policies brought military bases, crop subsidies, government facilities, and federal jobs to the state. After suffering a massive heart attack, former President Johnson died at his ranch on January 22, 1973. In February of the same year, NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, in honor of one of the country’s most influential Texans. 
Gordon Wilkison began work as a cameraman at the local Austin television station KTBC (now FOX 7) during 1952, its first year of operation. At the time the station was owned by the Texas Broadcasting Company, which was owned by Senator Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson. This relationship would continue to shape Wilkison's career well into the next decades. During the Johnson administration, Wilkison covered the President's visits to Texas, preparing material for national and international news correspondents. 
A particularly notable moment is his career occurred on August 1, 1966, when Wilkison and KTBC reporter Neal Spelce risked their lives to capture footage of the Tower shooting at the University of Texas. 
Wilkison was also the General Manager of Photo Processors at the LBJ Broadcasting Corporation, which he later took over and renamed Cenetex Film Labs. In addition to his camera work and film processing, his work at the station also included direction of a number of television film productions.
Outside of KTBC, Wilkison shot, edited, and processed Longhorn football game footage for the University of Texas, a partnership that lasted nearly 30 years.    
Recognizing the historical value of film and news footage, Wilkison kept the material, later contributing hundreds of reels to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image's collection.