The archivist of the United States has named distinguished historian Kyle Longley as only the fifth director of the LBJ Presidential Library since it opened in 1971.
An expert on U.S. foreign policy and modern American politics, Longley has written numerous books, including his most recent, “LBJ’s 1968: Power, Politics and the Presidency in America’s Year of Upheaval.”
“Longley’s extensive historical knowledge — combined with his teaching, research and leadership experience — will be of great value to the National Archives, the Johnson Library and its constituents,” said David S. Ferriero, archivist of the United States. “We welcome him and look forward to working with him on future projects.”
Recently, Longley appeared with members of the LBJ inner circle — Bill Moyers, Tom Johnson and Lynda Johnson Robb — in a public discussion about the social and political turbulence of 1968. Mark K. Updegrove, former director of the LBJ Library and now president and CEO of the LBJ Foundation, moderated that conversation.
“Well before Kyle threw his hat into the ring as a candidate for the directorship of the LBJ Library, we knew him as an esteemed scholar and author who has written thoughtfully and prolifically on LBJ and his times,” Updegrove said. “He is the right person for the LBJ Library in a new era.”
Longley has received many awards and served in several administrative roles since he began teaching at Arizona State University in 1995. He also has been active in national historical associations.
A native Texan and son of a high school football coach, Longley, 55, was born in Lubbock, then lived all over the state. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Angelo State University in San Angelo and his master’s degree at Texas Tech University. He received his doctorate in history from the University of Kentucky. He and his wife, Maria, have two sons, Sean and Drew, and the couple have recently closed on a house in Dripping Springs.
“It will be a homecoming of sorts,” Longley said. “I was raised in Texas and didn’t leave until I was 26 and haven’t been able to get back permanently since then. I’m looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that the library will bring. I didn’t know this would come along, but when it did, it was too good to pass up.”
The LBJ is one of 14 presidential libraries in the U.S., and, while it is closely associated with its host, the University of Texas and its LBJ School of Public Affairs, as well as the LBJ Foundation, it is an arm of the National Archives.
The director’s position will put Longley in the national media spotlight. During his tenure, charismatic and telegenic Updegrove, author of several books about American presidents, completely renovated the library’s permanent exhibit at a cost of $11 million and hosted high-profile convocations on LBJ’s role in civil rights and the Vietnam War. In 2017, he left the director’s job for a position at the National Medal of Honor Museum planned for Charleston Harbor in Mount Pleasant, N.C., but after a health scare later that year, he returned to Austin to lead the LBJ Foundation.
“Kyle Longley is no stranger to the LBJ Library, since he has pursued significant research there, including his widely acclaimed recent book, ‘LBJ’s 1968,’” said Larry Temple, chairman of the LBJ Foundation and White House counsel to the president from 1967 to 1969. “Kyle is a worthy successor to the superb former LBJ Library directors Harry Middleton, Betty Sue Flowers and Mark Updegrove.”
Chester Newland served as first full director before the building opened in 1971, followed by Middleton, Flowers and Updegrove. Terri Garner, director of the Clinton Library, filled in briefly as interim director during recent months. Longley will take over July 29.
LBJ Presidential Library
Located: University of Texas campus at 2313 Red River St.
Previous directors: Chester Newland (1968-1970), Harry Middleton (1970-2002), Betty Sue Flowers (2002-2009), Mark Updegrove (2009-2017)
Elements: Main permanent historical exhibit, gallery for temporary exhibits, auditorium for major events, the Great Hall for social gatherings, a small reading room mostly for scholars, and, of course, several floors of presidential papers