To the Editor:
A picture of Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) waving his famous Stetson hat he wore during the 1948 runoff race for the U.S. Senate appears along with this letter.
When the votes were counted on Election Day (Aug. 28, 1948), it seemed that Johnson was narrowly defeated by one of the most popular governors in Texas history, Coke Stevenson.
LBJ, no pushover, served for 11 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, and developed the reputation of being a "Texas wunderkind." Nevertheless, the result looked bad for Johnson.
Presidential historian Robert Dallek writes:
"According to the Texas Election Bureau, an unofficial election agency run by Texas newspapers, Stevenson led at midnight by 2,119 votes out of 939,468 counted. 'Well, it looks like we've lost,' Lady Bird Johnson told Dorothy Nichols on the phone," or so it seemed.
The votes kept coming in, and the results went back and forth; victory was now declared for Stevenson, now for Johnson, now for Stevenson. After most of the tallies, Stevenson held a slight advantage.
Now, the rest of the story:
Then, six days after the election, a funny thing happened: 203 votes turned up in Box 13 from the pint-sized town of Alice, Texas. Even funnier: 202 of those 203 votes were for LBJ.
The Stevenson campaign smelled a rat when it was discovered that the votes were cast at the last minute and in alphabetical order. Charges of election fraud ensued, and the disputed contest went all the way to the Supreme Court, where Justice Hugo Black upheld Johnson's 11th-hour win. He was declared the winner by 87 votes.
"Landslide Lyndon" always found a way to win.
It would take almost three decades for the truth to come out. As Thomas Woods reports in 1977, the election judge in Alice admitted that he helped rig the election.