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The Thirty-first of March: An Intimate Portrait of Lyndon Johnson's Final Days in Office Hardcover – March 9, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From Lyndon Johnson's chief speechwriter of 20 years (1948-1968) comes a revealing chronicle of LBJ's career. Although framed around March 31, 1968--the day Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election--Busby's book (left among his papers when he died in 2000) incorporates his eyewitness perspective on far more than just the narrow slice of time between March '68 and January '69. Busby was 24 when he went to work for the then Texas representative. He accompanied Johnson on to the Senate, the vice-presidency and the presidency. Always, he was an insider, and a shrewd, observant and eloquent one at that. Frustratingly, the manuscript had no chapters addressing Johnson's Senate career and his rise to majority leader. One of Busby's best and most important chapters explains his role as a key Johnson functionary on the day President Kennedy was killed and through the subsequent transition. Here are dramatic, intimate details of an uncommon and historically important variety. For example, Busby, who sat up with Johnson and other close associates on the evening of JFK's murder, notes, "I can only describe it as a night--and a room--almost unbearably alive with quiet stillness." A preface by Busby's son and an introduction by Busby's good friend Hugh Sidey help put this noteworthy work in context. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Despite the title, this memoir covers the 20 years during which Busby served as a trusted advisor and speechwriter for Johnson. This previously unpublished manuscript was discovered by Busby's son after his father's death in 2000. Busby came to work for Congressman Johnson in 1948 at the age of 24 after a brief career as a reporter in Austin, Texas; over the next two decades, Busby was a sounding board, occasional whipping boy, and always a fascinated observer of one of the most mercurial and gifted politicians in our history. Busby portrays Johnson as crude, overbearing, and frequently insensitive. Yet he was capable of great compassion for the downtrodden, and his worship of FDR and his devotion to the expansive policies of the New Deal era seem almost quaint in our age, when the limitations of massive government programs have been demonstrated. Busby offers wonderfully revealing anecdotes and insights as Johnson's career advances. This is an engrossing and important contribution to our understanding of a compelling political personality. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (March 31, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374275742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374275747
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,192,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on September 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Horace Busby was one of the more interesting witnesses in Robert Caro's biography of LBJ, and I was sorry to hear he had passed on a few years back, here in California. Busby knew where all the bodies were buried in his capacity as top speechwriter for Johnson, extremely close to the man for twenty years or more, and inventor of the catchphrase, "The Great Society."

The book, while never less than elegantly written, is scattershot in its approach, and jumps back and forth in chronology like a human pinball machine, skimming the surfaces here and there, then coming down to dwell lovingly and cinematically on some unlikely venues, such as a trip with Johnson in November of 1963, to Brussels for a conference. LBJ in Brussels, of all places, it's unreal! Here Busby really goes to town, exploring the insecurities that fueled Johnson's drive to the top and which made him the most feared man in politics.

And yet he had his charming side too, and Buzz was there for large chunks of it. There's a long, fleshed out memoir of arriving with Johnson at Hyannisport in 1960, not knowing whether or not Kennedy would want him as his candidate for Vice President. There's no denying that Johnson was the odd man out among the Kennedys; in one hilarious moment he can't understand JFK's accent, despite trying to read his lips. You won't get this kind of intimate, novelistic detail anywhere else.

But often "Buzz" seems overdiscreet, drawing a veil over the very things that the reader wants to know more about.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Conor Cunneen on January 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Querying "Lyndon Johnson" on Amazon generates over 18,000 references. The man was a dominant figure in US politics for over 20 years, which goes some way to explaining why he has been written about so prolifically.

Few books though can surely be as intimate and interesting as Horace Busby's memoir of the man he worked with for most of Johnson's career on the national stage.

The twenty-four year-old Busby joined then Congressman Johnson's team in 1948, a few months prior to Johnson winning a Senate seat. His initial brief was to "put a little Churchill" and motivation into the Texas politician's speeches. He remained with Johnson, in some capacity as adviser, speechwriter, confidante and sometimes almost as therapist until March 31 1968 when Johnson made his famous utterance to the US people that "I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your President," - lines written by Horace Busby.

This is a wonderfully warm, penetrating look at the psychology, temperament and mindset of LBJ particularly in the days prior to his famous announcement. The manuscript was discovered by Busby's son after the author's death in 2000, hence the publication date of 2005. Unfortunately, much of the manuscript seems to have been lost as it does not deal at all with the President's period in the Senate, which by all accounts he bestrode like a colossus.

The reader can appreciate why Busby was so highly rated by his political patron. Much of the book contains wonderful writing and descriptive passages including a very humorous account of how the infamously impatient Congressman Johnson treated Busby when he first reported for work in 1948 - three days later than expected.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Ellen Connally on April 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
Horace Busby provides and intimate and interesting view of President Lyndon Johnson in THE 31ST OF MARCH. Although Busby provides selected views of other incidents that were key moments in the Johnson presidency and of course the story of how he became involved with Johnson the focus is on LBJ's decision not to seek re-election and the process of announcing that decision to the world.

Busby's view of LBJ is that of a much more fragile man than generally preceived of. It's a quick read. Busby's walks the reader through the family quarters of the White House and the inner workings of the presidency with facinating detail. One particulary interesting aspect of the story is how Johnson was treated at JFK's funeral. Most accounts are totally sympathetic to the Kennedy's but in reading Busby, you see that LBJ had a side too. The reader comes away with a very unique view LBJ.

Though brief, the work is very powerful. It is the story of friendship, loyality and devotion. I wish that the son, who edited the work would have provided a brief description of the relationship between Busby and LBJ after the White House years. It would rounded out the story.
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