Lyndon Johnson was the kind of politician you wouldn’t want to get into a pissing contest with. I mean that literally: he was a remarkably formidable politician, one who shepherded landmark bills like Medicare and the Voting Rights Act through Congress. But his true legacy is not found here, nor in the controversies and tragedies of the Vietnam War: it’s in the bathroom. Lyndon Johnson loved to pee.
And so it should be no surprise, then, that Johnson started his presidency in the bathroom. Brigadier General Godfrey McHugh, a military aide to President Kennedy, claims he found LBJ hiding in the can after being sworn in on Air Force One.
“I walked in the toilet, in the powder room, and there he was hiding, with the curtain closed,” McHugh recalled. He claimed that LBJ was crying, “They’re going to get us all. It’s a plot. It’s a plot. It’s going to get us all.'” According to the General, Johnson “was hysterical, sitting down on the john there alone in this thing.”
Not everyone believes this story â€“ McHugh was a Kennedy man and no fan of Johnson, but it makes a lot of sense. If Johnson really was freaking out in the aftermath of the assassination, then where better to compose himself than his beloved men’s room? And there’s no question Johnson loved el bata de baÃ±o, from his frequent use of pee-related metaphors (â€œMaking a speech on economics is a lot like pissing on your leg. It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone elseâ€) to dragging aides and Cabinet members into the bathroom to continue meetings, to taking pit stops all over his Texas ranch, no matter who else was around. â€œHe was shameless,â€ one photographer told a PBS documentary crew. â€œDriving through Texas out in the desert, and he’d jump out of the car, with photographers around and urinate. I’m sure there are pictures all over America of Lyndon Johnson peeing.â€
He even peed on a guy in his Secret Service detail once. â€œSir,â€ said the agent, making a mental note to ask for a transfer, â€œyou’re pissing on my leg.â€ â€œI know,â€ Johnson replied. â€œThat’s my prerogative.â€ Hey, at least he didn’t try to tell the guy it was raining.
Sadly, Johnson’s life did not end in the smallest room of the house; he died in bed, January 22, 1973, and was buried on his ranch, which has since become a national historical park. The nearest restroom is just about a mile down the road.
1 The Secret Service: The Hidden History of an Engimatic Agency by Ph.D. Philip H. Melanson Ph.D. (Sep 21, 2005)