Broadway Glossary: Meet The Presidents, Politicians, & Activists of THE GREAT SOCIETY
Continuing the journey begun by All the Way, this new play celebrates the political legacy of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Capturing Johnson's attempts to build a just society for all, The Great Society follows his triumph in a landslide election to the agonizing decision not to run for re-election just three years later. It was an era that would define history forever: the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the escalation of the Vietnam War, and the creation of some of the greatest social programs America has ever known-and one man was at the center of it all: LBJ.
The cast features a company of actors portraying more than fifty characters in two-dozen locations. Below, get to know the real-life leading players of this brand-new historical drama.
Lyndon B. Johnson (played by Brian Cox) - Commonly known as LBJ, Lyndon Johnson was an American politician who succeeded John F. Kennedy as the 36th as President of the United States following his assassination. One of only four people who have served in all four federal elected positions, LBJ also served as the 37th vice president from 1961 to 1963, U.S. Congressman, and Senate Majority Leader.
As part of his domestic policy, Johnson designed the "Great Society" legislation which expanded civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, as well as financial aid to education, the arts, urban and rural development, public services. His "War on Poverty" helped millions of Americans rise above the poverty line during his administration. LBJ signed several civil rights bills into law, banning racial discrimination in public places, interstate commerce, workplaces and housing.
He passed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, reforming immigration and encouraging greater emigration from non-European nations. His escalation of American involvement in the Vietnam War saw a dramatic increase of American military personnel in Vietnam causing casualties to soar and all but halting the peace process, inspiring the student-led anti-war movement.
Hubert Humphrey (played by Richard Thomas) - Served as the 38th vice president of the United States to Lyndon B. Johnson from 1965 to 1969. A two-time Democrat Minnesota Senator, Humphrey ran and lost to opponent Richard Nixon in the 1968 presidential election. He was the lead author of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, initiated the creation of the Peace Corps, sponsored the clause of the McCarran Act that threatened concentration camps for "subversives", proposed making Communist Party membership a felony, and chaired the Select Committee on Disarmament.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (played by Grantham Coleman)- A Georgia Baptist minister and leading activist of the American civil rights movement. Best known for his promotion of nonviolent protest and civil disobedience, King led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, the 1962 movement against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and the nonviolent Birmingham segregation protests in 1963, as well as the historic Selma to Montgomery marches. At a 1963 March on Washington, King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. King was the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was assassinated in 1968.
Richard J. Daley (played by Marc Kudisch) - Served as Mayor of Chicago and the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party Central Committee. As Chicago's third consecutive mayor from the working-class neighborhood of Bridgeport, Daley is best remembered for his efforts to save Chicago from economic declines that had affected other rust belt cities such as Cleveland, Buffalo, and Detroit during the same period. President Lyndon B. Johnson is said to have revered Daley is a one of the pre-eminent Irish Americans. Daley was the longest-serving mayor in Chicago history until his son, Richard M. Daley, broke that record in 2011.
Robert F. Kennedy (played by Bryce Pinkham) - an icon of modern liberalism, Kennedy served as the 64th United States Attorney General from 1961 to 1964. Kennedy is best known for his advocacy for the civil rights movement, opposition to the Vietnam War, fight against organized crime, and involvement in U.S. foreign relations with Cuba. RFK remained in office in the Johnson Administration for several months following his brother's assassination. He served as Democratic U.S. Senator from New York from 1965 until his assassination in June 1968.
Everett Dirksen (played by Frank Wood) - Dirksen was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam War, as well as LBJ's handling the of the conflict. He helped break the Southern filibuster to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and championed the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Dirksen served as a Republican representative of Illinois in the U.S. Congress, as well as the Senate, and acted as Senate Majority Leader from 1959 to 1969. Known for his flamboyant orations, Dirksen's opponents nicknamed him, "The Wizard of Ooze".
J. Edgar Hoover (played by Gordon Clapp) - An American law enforcement administrator, Hoover acted as the first director of the United States' FBI and was instrumental in its founding. He is credited with the expansion of the FBI as well as the implementation of modern police technology such as fingerprint analysis and forensic evidence. Hoover's legacy has become somewhat controversial since his death as abuses of power such as harassment political dissenters and activists, illegal procurement of evidence, and blackmail of high-ranking political officials, including sitting presidents, came to light.
Stokely Carmichael (played by Marchant Davis) - A socialist organizer in the American civil rights movement and founder of the Black Power movement, Carmichael was born in Trinidad and became an activist while attending Howard University. He led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the original SNCC freedom riders of 1961. He was a major voting rights activist in Mississippi and Alabama and developed independent black political organizations, including the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, All-African People's Revolutionary Party, and the national Black Panther Party. Carmichael was targeted by the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover for being the natural successor to Malcolm X and was harassed through its COINTELPRO program. Carmichael fled to Africa in 1968, re-establishing himself under the new name of Kwame Ture.
Adam Walinsky (played by Brian Dykstra) - a lawyer served in the United States Department of Justice and as a speechwriter for Robert F. Kennedy. A nominee for the New York Attorney General by the Democratic Party, Walinsky criticized Ira Stoll's efforts to claim John F. Kennedy as a political conservative.
Lady Bird Johnson (played by Barbara Garrick) - Former First and Second Lady of the United States, wife of Lyndon B. Johnson. A well-heeled socialite and smart investor, Lady Bird is the first First Lady in history to employ her own press secretary and interact with Congress directly. Lady Bird traveled through eight Southern states during the 1964 election to promote the Civil Rights Act, at one point giving 45 speeches over five days, making her the first First Lady in U.S. history to give a solo electioneering tour. She is well known for spearheading the Highway Beautification Act. She is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
Richard Nixon (played by David Garrison) - The 37th president of the United States and only U.S. president in history to resign from the office. He served as vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower and and as a representative and senator from California. After losing the 1960 presidential race to John F. Kennedy, he ran once more in 1968, defeating opponent Hubert Humphrey, and again in 1972 in one of the largest electoral landslides in American history. Nixon ended American involvement in the Vietnam War and the military draft in 1973, his administration also restored diplomatic relations with China, brokered détente with the Soviet Union, enforced desegregation of schools in the south, and established the Environmental Protection Agency. He resigned in 1973, while facing impeachment as fallout from the Watergate scandal.
Reverend Ralph Abernathy (played by Ty Jones) - An American civil rights activist and Baptist minister, Abernathy was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement and close friend and mentor of Martin Luther King Jr.. King and Abernathy collaborated to create the Montgomery Improvement Association which sparked the Montgomery bus boycott. He also co-founded and was an executive board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, succeeding King as president of the SCLC following his assassination. He also served as an advisory committee member of the Congress on Racial Equality and led the Poor People's Campaign, among numerous other marches and demonstrations.
James Bevel (played by Christopher Livingston) - A minister and a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. As the Director of Direct Action and of Nonviolent Education of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Bevel helped to bring about the 1963 Birmingham Children's Crusade, the 1965 Selma voting rights movement, and the 1966 Chicago open housing movement. He initiated the call for a March on Washington in 1963, as well as the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches, which contributed to the passing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Jimmie Lee Jackson (played by Christopher Livingston) - An American veteran, civil rights activist and Baptist deacon. On February 18, 1965, he was beaten and fatally shot by state troopers while unarmed and peacefully participating in a voting rights march in Alabama. He died eight days later. His death helped to inspired the Selma to Montgomery marches.
Pat Nixon (played by Angela Pierce) - Former First Lady, wife of Richard Nixon. As the most well-traveled first lady, Mrs. Nixon accompanied the President on diplomatic visits to China and the Soviet Union, making her the first first lady in history to do so. She was also the first First Lady to enter a combat zone. She made solo trips to Africa and South America and is first President's wife to be officially designated a representative of the United States, earning the title of Madame Ambassador. In her time as first lady, she spearheaded many efforts including the procurement of more than 600 pieces of historic art and furnishings for the White House.
Robert McNamara (played by Matthew Rauch) - Served as the eighth United States Secretary of Defense under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, making him the longest serving defense secretary in history. McNamara played a major role in escalating the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War, overseeing a build-up of US soldiers in South Vietnam, increasing the number of soldiers in the region dramatically. In 1966, he launched Project 100,000, an initiative to lower army IQ standards, thereby allowing 354,000 additional men to be recruited, in spite of criticism that the recruits couldn't handle the high stress, dangerous environment. In the years following, McNamara questioned the success in sending more soldiers to Vietnam. He implemented systems analysis in public policy, known today as policy analysis. In 1968, he resigned as Secretary of Defense to become President of the World Bank.
Coretta Scott King (played by Nikkole Salter) - Is an author and leading civil rights activist. She is the wife of Martin Luther King Jr.. In the years following her husband's assassination, she took on the leadership of the civil rights movement and and became active in the Women's Movement, later lending her support to the the LGBT rights movement and the struggle against apartheid. She is the founder of the King Center and is responsible for the designation of her husband's birthday as a national holiday. King became friends worked closely with John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Robert F. Kennedy, among others, and worked with them before and after her husband's death. During the 1960 election, her historic phone call with John F. Kennedy is widely credited for having mobilized African-American voters.
Bob Moses (played by Tramell Tillman) - known for his work as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, efforts to increase voter education and registration, and philosophy of "tactical nonviolence". He employed this mission most notably in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement. He is the co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Promoting grassroots efforts and community-based leadership. Moses led voter registration drives in the South, sit-ins, and Freedom Schools for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Photo Credit: Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade