The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997

To Meet Fire with Fire: Lyndon Johnson, Tom
Miller, and Home-Front Politics
L. PATRICK HUGHES*
TROUBLING REPORTS FROM THE TENTH DISTRICT IN SEPTEMBER 1943
alerted Congressman Lyndon Johnson that something was dreadful-
ly wrong back home. Austin Mayor Tom Miller, an important and pow-
erful ally, was enraged about federal economic restrictions and was
threatening to run against Johnson the following year. The congress-
man, Miller argued to every member of the Austin power structure he
could collar, had abandoned his Central Texas constituents and needed
to be replaced. Bureaucrats were destroying private enterprise while he
stood idly by in Washington, D.C. The mayor also asked embarrassing
questions and made allegations regarding Johnson's financial dealings.
In a country increasingly weary of rationing, wage and price controls, and
other wartime sacrifices, charges of Johnson having used his office for
personal financial gain were political dynamite that could not be ig-
nored.
The Johnson-Miller crisis is a revealing episode in several respects. It
illustrates the fuzzy line between public and private activities in an era
relatively devoid of stringent conflict-of-interest regulations. The overlap
between the worlds of commerce, finance, and government was glaring
in Austin, where the business community long had dominated munici-
pal affairs. Indeed, these spheres were often indistinguishable from one
another. Johnson, Miller, and others regularly conducted private trans-
actions and pursued financial opportunities from their government of-
fices. Making policy decisions that enriched their personal holdings,
such individuals used their political connections to solve business prob-
lems. IfJohnson's actions were exceptional, it was because he edged into
the private sector while retaining office rather than moving in the re-
verse direction.
*L. Patrick Hughes is a professor of history at Austin Community College, where he has
taught since 1977. He wishes to thank Norman Brown, Lewis Gould, Carole Ann Pierce, and his
ACC colleagues for their interest, encouragement, and constructive comments.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/. Accessed December 25, 2014.