'Little Lyndon' by Robert Rowe

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In 1956 Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson told his fellow Senators: ‘I know I should refer to him formerly as my secretary to the majority, but my tongue as my heart says, ‘Bobby’ instead. His quick intelligence, his tremendous fund of knowledge about the Senate—which is appalling in one so young—has kept the machinery on this side of the aisle working with smooth precision. Always present, always alert, and more than anything else, always understanding and persuasive with his wise counsel. I say to all of you here that here, is a young man of rare and real promise.

Today, Lyndon B. Johnson’s tongue (and presumably his heart) says simply, ‘No Comment.’ This is the story of Bobby Gene Baker, his rise and fall. But it is more than that. It b the story of the U.S. Senate and of Baker's relationship with the man who went on to occupy the most powerful office in the world. In that sense, Bobby Baker isn’t on trial—the U.S. Senate is. For everything Bobby Baker is. knows, believes and did, he learned from the U.S. Senate (where he went to work at the age of 15) and from its leader, Lyndon B Johnson, who. lacking a son of his own, adopted Bobby Baker as a protégé. It is no accident that in his heyday Baker was known variously as - Little Lyndon’ and ‘Lyndon Junior.’ It is always possible to deprive casual quotes of their original context. Hut the Johnson-Baker relationship was, if anything, more real, more intense, and more significant than any single quotation can convey. Lyndon Johnson’s endorsement to the Senate was not an isolated incident. It reappeared like a fugue throughout Baker’s career in and around Congress.

In 1957, for example, Johnson had this to say about his ‘tireless and Indefatigable’ protégé: Bobby Baker is a young man who already has gone much further in life than many others of far greater years, and it is my personal opinion that he is just getting started. There is a very simple formula that explains Bobby success. He gives of himself unsparingly and without regard to what he will get in return… He is a man who truly serves his country, and I consider him one of my most trusted, most loyal, and most complete friend.

Again at a testimonial dinner in 1958, where the speaker referred to Bobby as ‘South Carolina’s, third Senator,’ and Florida Senator George Smathers sang his praises, Lyndon Johnson sent a congratulatory telegram calling Baker an ‘outstanding American.’ Nor did Johnson, affection go unreciprocated. One of Baker’s son’s is named Lyndon Baines Johnson Baker, and his daughter is named Linda. My point It not that Lyndon Johnson misjudged his man. Johnson’s view was shared by the majority of the Senate. Senator Robert S Kerr, the late Oklahoma Democrat who was probably the second most powerful man in the Senate after Johnson, is reported to have said, ‘Next to my wife and sons, Bobby Baker is the person I love most.’

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