Charlie Peters Writes Book on LBJ
The legendary first Chief of the Division of Evaluation of the Peace Corps, Charlie Peters, has just published Lyndon B. Johnson: The American Presidents Series: The 36th President, 1963-1969. It is part of the American President Series, edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., and Sean Wilentz.
If not for Vietnam, Peter writes, Johnson would be considered by many to have been one of the greatest presidents, and Charlie points out that LBJ’s domestic legislative achievement is second only to FDR’s. However, many felt that while LBJ’s domestic goals were laudable, the laws he bullied through to meet them were deeply flawed and sowed the seeds of entitlement politics. Charlie asserts that Johnson, raised in the nasty world of Texas politics, remained ruthlessly dedicated to his own advancement and became a great, if flawed, statesman.
Charlie was something of a ‘statesman’ himself in West Virginia where he was in the House of Delegates before his Peace Corps days, and where he drafted the state’s first civil service law, and sponsored legislation to set up a Human Rights Commission to insure equal treatment regardless of race.
Peters left the Peace Corps in 1968 and became the founder and editor-in-chief of The Washington Monthly, a magazine which was, in many ways, the Peace Corps’ Evaluation Division ‘written large.”
He is the author of four books, including this new biography of LBJ, and he continues to write for the Monthly a column entitled, “Tilting at Windmills” which he did quite successfully for 7 years at the Peace Corps.
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Sorry to report ,John , that there was another director of evaluation. Larry O’Brien, who had been CD in Gabon, I think, wound up taking over for Charlie in 1968. It was never the same however after Charlie’s departure that May–most of us left with or shortly after he did. Heard him at the Politics and Prose reading the other night, which drew a number of PC oldtimers: Maryann Orlando, Pat Kennedy, Dick Elwell, Trip Reid, Gretchen Handwerger, Stan Meisler, Nancy Graham, Rossie Drummond, Georgianna McGuire, etc.
Great anecdote–Charlie quoting a friend who said evaluating Johnson without Vietnam is like saying that without the Alps, Switzerland would be flat. Cheers!