Democratic Pres. Lyndon Johnson Won 1948 Election Lost By 20,000 Votes.

Reprinted from February 11, 1990 New York Times Book Review By Martin Tolchin.  Click Here For Original Online Story.

By Martin Tolchin, Special To the New York Times

A study of Lyndon B. Johnson provides new evidence that the 36th President stole his first election to the United States Senate, in 1948.

The book, ”Means of Ascent,” by Robert A. Caro, is the second volume of a projected four-volume study, ”The Years of Lyndon Johnson.” With a first printing of 250,000 copies, it is to be published on March 15 by Knopf, and excerpts have appeared in The New Yorker.

Mr. Caro maintains that although ballot fraud was common in the late 1940’s in some parts of Texas, the Johnson campaign of 1948 raised it to a new level. Mr. Caro supports his charge with an interview with Luis Salas, an election judge in Jim Wells County who said he acknowledged his role only after all others involved in the theft had died.

Determined to Win at All Costs

It has been alleged for years that Johnson captured his Senate seat through fraud, but Mr. Caro goes into great detail to tell how the future President overcame a 20,000-vote deficit to achieve his famous 87-vote victory in the 1948 Democratic runoff primary against a former Governor, Coke Stevenson. A South Texas political boss, George Parr, had manufactured thousands of votes, Mr. Caro found. Johnson died in 1973, Stevenson and Parr in 1975. Mr. Caro says the election showed Johnson’s determination to win at all costs as well as his coolness under fire and his ability to select gifted lieutenants, whom he then manipulated.

”The point is that the 1948 election shed light on Johnson’s character,” Mr. Caro said in an interview. ”People have been saying for 40 years, ‘No one knows what really happened in that election,’ and ‘Everybody does it.’ Neither of those statements is true. I don’t think that this is the only election that was ever stolen, but there was never such brazen thievery.”

Some Johnson loyalists refuse to accept Mr. Caro’s conclusions. For example, Horace Busby, who was a 24-year-old aide to the Johnson Senate campaign, said he agreed with the historian’s factual presentation but said it should be put in a broader context.

”I don’t disagree with the accuracy of anything Bob has in there,” said Mr. Busby, now a political analyst. But he went on, ”There was a lot of stealing in that election.”

Mr. Busby said: ”The irregularity in the voting was caused in most instances by the local races – for a county commissioner, sheriff and county judge. It was just incidental that there were also votes stolen for Johnson and Stevenson.”

”I don’t think that either Johnson or Stevenson were directing any of this,” Mr. Busby said. ”But if there had been no stealing, Johnson would have won that election by 5,000 votes.”

On primary night, a Saturday, the first tallies of the Democratic primary showed Johnson trailing his opponent by 20,000 votes. Still unreported, however, were the votes from San Antonio, where Stevenson had defeated Johnson 2 to 1 in the first primary. When those votes finally came in, Johnson had won a stunning victory, carrying San Antonio by 10,000 votes.

Later that evening, the rural counties in the Rio Grande Valley further eroded the Stevenson lead, which was reduced to 854 votes.

A Precinct Is ‘Discovered’

The next day, county officials ”discovered” that the returns from one precinct had not yet been counted, Mr. Caro said, and those votes went overwhelmingly to Johnson. On Monday, there were more new returns from the Rio Grande Valley.

But on Tuesday, the state’s Election Bureau announced that complete returns had given Stevenson a 349-vote victory, with 40 votes still uncounted.

There were no significant changes Wednesday, and Stevenson still led on Thursday. On Friday, the Rio Grande Valley precincts made ”corrections” in their election returns, cutting Stevenson’s lead to 157.

Also on Friday, Jim Wells County telephoned in its amended return, ”and suddenly, with virtually all the counting in the election over, Coke Stevenson was no longer ahead,” Mr. Caro said. Johnson had won by 87 votes.

Challenge and Affirmation

Mr. Caro confirmed the charges made at the time by Stevenson supporters that county officials had cast the votes of absent voters and had changed the numbers on the tallies. For example, he said, Jim Wells County provided an extra 200 votes for Johnson merely by changing the 7 in ”765” to a 9.

Continue reading the main story

Cornerstone of an Empire
Mr. Caro’s book also belies Johnson’s contention that he played no role in buying and managing KTBC, a radio station purchased by his wife, Lady Bird, that flourished after the purchase. Months later, the Federal Communications Commission approved Mrs. Johnson’s request to operate 24 hours a day on a more desirable frequency. Subsequently, the F.C.C. increased the station’s wattage and profitability and KTBC became a CBS affiliate.

”Lyndon Johnson was always to maintain that his wife’s radio interests were totally divorced from politics and that he, the politician in the family, had absolutely nothing to do either with acquiring KTBC’s license or, once it was licensed, with its operations,” Mr. Caro wrote.

He cites documents that contradict Johnson. Johnson is seen as involved in virtually every aspect of the enterprise, from payroll to frequencies to sales of commercials. The radio station formed the cornerstone of his financial empire.

”It was a case study of political influence,” Mr. Caro said in the interview.   END OF NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE ###

THE BOX 13 SCANDAL (Reprinted From Wikipedia.  Click Here for Full Article)

The Box 13 scandal was an event which occurred in Alice, Texas during the Senate election of 1948.[1] Lyndon B. Johnson was on the verge of losing the election to Coke Stevenson. Six days after polls had closed, 202 additional ballots were discovered in Precinct 13, which were in Johnson’s favor. Stevenson was about 854 votes ahead of Johnson during the run-off. Stevenson was still ahead by midday, but after the discovery of the additional ballots, 200 additional votes for Johnson were discovered, leading to his victory by 87 votes out of 1 million voters.[1]

Harry Lee Adams[2] became suspicious and began to investigate. Adams noticed that the last 200 ballots were different from the rest. The color ink of the ink and handwriting used on the tally sheet appeared to be identical, and they were in alphabetical order. Adams was friends with a judge and started an official investigation with him. Johnson had Abe Fortas, a friend of his, help with legal strategy during this investigation. The investigation centered around whether or not Johnson had his friend George Parr, a member of the Democratic party in Texas, help him falsify ballots.[1]


The investigation eventually reached the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court Justice, Hugo Black, ruled that the federal government was not allowed to get involved with a state election. This ruling won Johnson the election, despite allegations of Johnson speaking with George Parr, in South Texas that day, resulting in box 13 having 200 missing ballots.

After the election, some thought consequences would be inevitable.[3] Despite this, there would be no charges, because nothing could be proven. Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert A. Caro covered the Box 13 scandal in detail. About one quarter of Caro’s 500-page book, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent, was devoted to the 1948 Texas Senatorial election.[4] The book does not cover Johnson’s entire life, however it does cover his rise in the U. S. Congress.

Distrust of Johnson grew during his presidency until, as Richard Rovere was to write in The New Yorker – “It seems …. to be a fact beyond dispute that no other President has had to live in an atmosphere so heavy with distrust and disbelief as Lyndon Johnson … What may well be a majority of the American people are persuaded that the President is a dishonest and dishonorable man.”[5]


  1. Jump up to:a b c “The Mystery of Ballot Box 13”Washington Post. March 4, 1990.
  2. ^ Dallek, Robert (1991). Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960. 200 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016, United States: Oxford University Press. pp. 340ISBN 9780195054354.
  3. ^ “How Johnson won the Election He’d Lost”New York Times. February 11, 1990.
  4. ^ Robert A Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent, (New York, Vintage Books, 1990)
  5. ^ Rovere, Richard (September 16, 1967). “Letter from Washington”The New Yorker. Retrieved October 28, 2020.


Democratic President Lyndon Johnson together with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress fundamentally transformed America in 1965.  The expanded legal immigration from roughly 400,000 per year, to more than one million each year.  This made it impossible for new immigrants to learn English and assimilate and for immigration laws to be enforce.  This greatly reduced wages and increased income inequality to levels never before seen in America.  Democrats in 1965 also began massive new federal spending programs that brought de-factor socialism and widespread corruption and Democratic one party rule to most American cities.

Democratic President Lyndon Johnson was one of the first American members of Congress to use public office to  become a multimillionaire.  He did it by effectively controlling the Federal Communications Commission, an agency of Congress which issued and regulated radio and TV licenses.  The FCC gave profitable, high power frequencies to a radio station owned Lyndon Johnson’s wife.

Robert A. Caro’s book, “The Years of Lyndon Johnson – Means of Ascent” a popular sensation when it was first published in 1990.  However, it did not have the effect intended by the author.  The author was clearly repulsed and disgusted by Lyndon Johnson’s routine use massive vote fraud to get elected, and use of his public office to enrich himself.  He hoped that his public exposure of this would lead to public anger and reform.  However, it seems the exact opposite took place.  After Caro published his book in 1990, Lyndon Johnson’s methods for using massive voter fraud to get elected, and becoming rich through politics and holding public office were widely copied and successfully used by many others including Democrats Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack and Michele Obama.

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