Lyndon Johnson Senate Campaign Flyer, 1941
The young politician learned a lesson he would never forget
In April 1941, U.S. Senator Morris Sheppard of Texarkana died at the age of 65. He had held the Senate seat since 1913, and his passing set off a fierce scramble to replace him. More than 30 candidates declared for the race, but the top contenders soon boiled down to Texas attorney general Gerald C. Mann, Congressman Martin Dies of Lufkin, and the sitting governor, W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel.
Coming in as a long-shot was Congressman Lyndon Baines Johnson of Austin. As this flyer shows, the 32-year-old campaigned aggressively throughout the state, touting his record of support for the popular New Deal programs of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and circulating a photo of FDR shaking his hand at a Galveston rally. By the day of the special election at the end of June, most political observers—and Johnson himself—thought he was sure to win.
Johnson's 24-year-old campaign manager, future governor John Connally, made the mistake of calling election officials for final vote totals early in the evening, letting Governor O'Daniel's team know exactly how many votes separated him and LBJ. Using fraudulent methods, O'Daniel then came up with late election returns from East Texas, besting Johnson by 1,311 votes. LBJ vowed never again to allow himself to be outsmarted by a political rival.
National Archives & Records Administration, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum, Austin
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