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by MARK STEIN
MLK speaking from the podium as a young man.
But who was the young man; five months younger, had a longer hair cut, a longer coat, a piercing on his right eyebrow and faded jeans?
That man was Lyndon Baines Johnson, 39, and he was in charge of ‘the Louisiana National Guard’ at the Brown v. Board of Education back in 1954, challenging the nation’s school segregation law, and, in his words “…the insidious evil that permeates every public and private institution of higher learning” at West Virginia State University in Berkeleyville.
Long before he became LBJ, LBJ was a community organizer, taking his life’s work of ensuring social justice, including racial equality, from the neighborhoods he lived in after childhood.
A 1996 biography, Johnson: A Spiritual Journey, talked about a leader who initially wanted to be a priest but grew to dislike the bureaucracy. Learning to speak English took him two decades to master. Over time, he learned that compassion and moral integrity were as important as a razor-sharp intellect, a strong heart and a group of dedicated friends and family members. Johnson was the protector of his sister – whose marriage had broken up – in the family. He was the father of his children, was a big brother and a protector. He was a mentor to many and included those who would travel at his pleasure and even his expense, and whose questions often perplexed the truth-teller politician.
On Black Friday, Black History Month, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and other holy days,, LBJ’s spirit of community activism will continue to be an inspiration.