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How Lyndon Johnson Vetted Hubert Humphrey (1960s)

by Ron Kurtus (revised 5 February 2012)

The selection process of the United States Vice President follows different courses. At one time, the Vice President was selected as the person who came in second in the presidential election. In other cases—such as how Lyndon B. Johnson was selected as Vice President to John F. Kennedy—it is done through back-room politics where party regulars try to pick someone who will most likely help the ticket.

Another method is when the candidate selects the best person for the job. This is what Lyndon Johnson did when he picked Hubert H. Humphrey as his running mate in the 1964 elections. Johnson was very thorough in his interview of Humphrey for the job. Other choices were done with less thought.

Questions you may have include:

This less will answer those questions.

Johnson checks Humphrey

Lyndon B. Johnson went about the selection of a vice presidential running-mate for the upcoming elections the same way an employer would go about in hiring an important company manager. He had a background check, looked over a resume of qualifications, and held a personal interview.

Asked pointed questions

During the interview with Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, President Johnson grilled the candidate. He asked him personal questions. Johnson wanted to know if Humphrey had a drinking problem, if he had an extra-marital affairs, or if he had any "skeletons in the closet."

Humphrey incensed

Humphrey was incensed at the idea of Johnson suspecting him of any wrong doings or hanky-panky. He told Johnson something to the effect of, "Mr. President. I have been a leader in the Senate for years. I resent these types of questions."

Johnson got up close to Humphrey and said quietly, "Hubert. This is the big time. If there is anything... anything that you have hidden, the press will find out about it and make it an issue."

Johnson failed elsewhere

President Johnson was a professional politician and a realist. It is a shame that he did not apply those traits in handling the Vietnam War. Apparently, his landslide victory distorted his vision.

Other Vice Presidential selections

Compare President Johnson's astute handling of the selection of a Vice President to how careless other presidential candidates picked their running mates.

Senator McGovern goofs

Senator George McGovern picked Missouri Senator Eagleton as his running mate without really checking into Eagleton's background. Shortly afterwards, the press discovered Eagleton had a drinking problem and had a nervous breakdown. McGovern was forced to pick someone else to run with him.

Nixon picks a crook

Richard Nixon picked Spiro Agnew as his Vice President without knowing that Agnew had been involved in illegal payoffs as Governor or Maryland. Agnew continued getting payoffs while Vice President and was later forced to resign in disgrace.


Lyndon B. Johnson was very thorough in interviewing Hubert H. Humphrey before selecting him as his running mate. Meanwhile George McGovern and Richard Nixon were somewhat careless in their selections.

Lessons we can learn from this are:

Can you think of any others?

Be honest and of good character

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


Biography of Lyndon B. Johnson - from White House website

LBJ Library and Museum

Hubert H. Humphrey Biography - Wikipedia

History Resources


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