lyndon baines johnson grew up in the hill country of south Texas, at a time when it was one of the poorest regions in the United States. Later in his life, Johnson liked to assume the airs of a rough-and-tumble Texan, but like much else about the man, the appearance veered from the reality. Although he was always tall for his age, young Lyndon Johnson shied away from the fist-fighting that kept most boys in the hill country occupied. As a college student, he received an F in physical education, and when one of his underhanded deeds put a fellow student into a fighting mood, Johnson did not stand and trade punches, but instead hopped onto his bed, lay on his back, and kicked frantically with his long legs to keep the would-be adversary away.
Elected to Congress in 1937 at the age of twenty-eight, Johnson took a leave of absence after Pearl Harbor and became an officer in the Navy. He quickly become impatient with having to take orders from superior officers; his closest adviser, Alvin J. Wirtz, tried unsuccessfully to get President Roosevelt to give Johnson an instant promotion to the rank of admiral. Johnson's sole encounter with the enemy came on June 9, 1942, during an inspection trip in the Pacific, when he rode as a passenger on a B-26 that was scheduled to bomb New Guinea.