How to Get Ahead in Radio: Marry LBJ


Jack Shafer describes the unbeautified side of the late Lady Bird Johnson, noting that many obituaries for the former first lady "find her scheme to 'beautify' America more interesting than her blatant exercise in political graft."

In 1943, the year Lady Bird Johnson purchased KTBC, the Federal Communications Commission, which reviewed all broadcast-license transfers, was close to being abolished, [Robert A.] Caro writes. Lyndon Johnson used his political influence in both Congress and the White House to prevent that from happening. The FCC was among the most politicized agencies in the government, Caro asserts, and it knew who its friends were.

Johnson socialized with FCC Commissioner Clifford Durr at the time, "sometimes at Durr's home, sometimes at his own," although Durr says Johnson never mentioned Lady Bird's application for KTBC's license. Lady Bird, however, directly approached Durr about the station, and Lyndon phoned James Barr of the FCC's Standard Broadcast Division. "He wanted to get a radio station, and what I remember is, he wouldn't take no for an answer," Caro quotes Barr.

The whole story is here, including how LBJ "shook down powerful companies to advertise on the station."