Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s death. He was 64 years old.
Johnson’s tremendous personal discipline, driven in part by a fear that he would die young like his father, had diminished significantly since he left the presidency in 1969. He began smoking again, a habit he had abandoned after a near-fatal heart attack in 1955.
As PBS notes, when one of his daughters begged him to quit, the increasingly depressed Johnson shook his head and said, “No, I’ve raised you girls, I’ve been president, and now it’s my time!”
On Jan. 2, 1973, Johnson had his last conversation with President Richard Nixon. In an audio file published Tuesday by PBS, the two political icons talk about their mutual friend Bebe Rebozo, baseball, the recent death of former President Harry Truman and Vietnam.
Nixon, fresh off a landslide win against Democratic Sen. George McGovern, would soon announce an end to the war that had forever tarnished Johnson’s legacy. Both the peace agreement and Nixon’s popularity would prove to be short-lived.