The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992

Book Revzews

The weakest video is the one on pioneer life, a recreation by amateur actors
in Tyler County. They present information about various aspects of" frontier
existence, but little about Indians or slaves. Although it is supposed to span
the period from 1820 to 1860, much of this tape is based upon contemporary
reminiscences. Also weak is the videocassette about the Guadalupe Mountains,
which tends to dwindle away into a travelogue, but the tapes about the Big
Thicket and the Big Bend are excellent. They successfully capture the mystery
and rugged attraction of the land. All in all, the set is a worthwhile purchase for
teachers and a pleasing visual treat for others.
Colorado State Unzversity DAVID G. MCCOMB
LBJ: The Whzte House Years. By Harry Middleton. (New York: Harry N. Abrams,
Inc., Publishers, 1990. Pp. 271. Preface, photographs, bibliography, index,
photograph credits. $39.95.)
Here is a coffee-table book written by the director of the Lyndon B. Johnson
Library, "a pictorial reflection of President Lyndon Johnson's activities-those
that the White House photographers were able to cover. It is not a history of
the 1960s, nor is it a comprehensive account of Johnson's presidency" (p. 7).
The majority of the black-and-white images, many bled across the generous
19 /2 X 13 double-page format, are by the late Yoichi Okamoto, a distinguished
practitioner less of photojournalism than official quasi-candid image-making.
This is a book written for those who remember Johnson fondly, and it reflects
the difficulties in asking a longtime Johnson aide to present a portrait, warts
and all. Middleton ignored the pungent advice Johnson once gave him: "'Good
men have been trying to save my reputation for 40 years, and not a damn one's
succeeded"' (p. 261).
Middleton tries to explain away the Johnson presidency, presenting a curious
mixture of friendly comments circa 1968, plus tortured attempts to justify
Johnson's programs in light of later scholarship. The result, if at times too-
apologetic, is nevertheless effective, much more so than LBJ. Image of a Vibanl
Life, published by the Friends of the LBJ Library in 1973. Middleton demon-
strates Johnson's commitment to civil rights, but seems uneasy about what actu-
ally happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964. Few historians would
settle for his bland conclusion: "Neither fresh charges nor new defenses would
settle the matter" (p. 55). Middleton correctly notes the irony of a president
brought down by his unswerving moral commitment to Vietnam when his en-
tire career seems a monument to pragmatism (some might say opportunism).
The photographs form the heart of this book, and they are lovingly selected
to present Johnson in a favorable light. For some reason, however, Johnson's
favorite "John Wayne" image, taken by Frank Wolfe on September 18, 1972, is
missing. Photo layouts offer spin control oil controversial images, as in the
instance of the 1966 "scar" photograph. A series of seven photographs
(p. 108- 1o9) try to provide proper visual context by showing Johnson entering
the hospital, being visited by Lady Bird, a standard recovered-patient image,
and then the photograph that persuaded newspaper readers the world over

529

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/. Accessed July 25, 2014.