Fifty years ago, the world welcomed a new era.
It was simply a new year, but it marked the end of a year of intense sadness and grief. PBS’s documentary series American Experience broadcast this episode earlier and Panhandle PBS is going to show it again Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Its title is simple: “1964.” Its story is infinitely more complicated.
The previous year had ended with the world reeling from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A new man took the helm of our government and our nation — a rangy Texan named Lyndon B. Johnson. Upon arriving back in Washington on a flight from Dallas aboard Air Force One, the new president asked for our help “and God’s.”
The new year began and President Johnson launched his election campaign to win a full term on his own. He would win big later that year in a landslide victory over Republican U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, who became the godfather of a new age of American conservatism.
Other prominent figures emerged more forcefully on the scene that year, among them a young Baptist preacher, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Popular culture saw the arrival from across The Pond of a young rock band, The Beatles, who would go on to make their own indelible mark on the nation and the world of popular music.
The year 1964 turned out to be a turning point. Congress enacted civil rights legislation thanks to LBJ’s forceful leadership and the world started to look toward the rest of what would become without question one of the more turbulent decades of the 20th century.
American Experience takes us back through that time and reminds us how we fought through our grief.