Lady Bird Johnson at the White House
Lady Bird Johnson
1912 - 2007
by Alfredo Alvarez
AUSTIN - Former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, wife of Lyndon Baines Johnson, passed away Wednesday, July 11, 2007, in her West Lake Hills home. She was 94.
Her life long interest in nature, along with her prominent role as former First Lady, means that her name will forever be associated with wildflowers.
Born Claudia Taylor in Karnack, Texas, her father was a prominent local businessman.
At an early age, a nursemaid said she was "as purty as a lady bird" --
thereafter she became known to her family and friends as "Lady Bird."
Lady Bird quickly developed a love of classic literature and culture. She graduated
from the University of Texas earning two degrees, the first a bachelor's degree in arts
and later a degree in journalism. She met and married Lyndon Johnson in 1934, and
was devoted to him throughout his political career. Her life after his political retirement in 1968
was active and full.
She served a six-year term on the University of Texas Board of Regents (1971-1977).
She served as a trustee of the National Geographic Society, and continues as a
Lady Bird was a dedicated environmentalist.
She founded the National Wildflower Research Center in Austin in 1982, which is dedicated to
the preservation and re-establishment of native plants in natural and planned landscapes.
[Visit The Website] She lived at the LBJ
Ranch in Stonewall, Texas, and remained active
in many worthwhile causes well into her nineties.
There are at least two recipes in the cookbook at Texas Cooking that are attributed to the former First Lady. They are:
This is one of our favorite stories about how in the early 1930's, Washington-newcomers LBJ and
Lady Bird developed a critical and lasting friendship with Sam Rayburn, who rarely accepted dinner
invitations in Washington.
From The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path To Power by Robert Caro, 1982
When LBJ was a new U.S. congressman, he endeared himself to the powerful Speaker
of the House of Representatives, fellow-Texan Sam Rayburn, by inviting him over to their
apartment for dinner.
Lady Bird was very much afraid at first of this fierce-looking
man. And Sam Rayburn saw behind the smile, and made an effort for this shy, timid young woman, so small
and slim that she looked like a little girl - how great an effort can be measured by the member of more
sophisticated Washington hostesses for whom he would not make it - to put her at ease. When he
saw - she never told him - how homesick she was, he tried to cheer her up by talking about Texas,
and about his boyhood on the farm. He told her his favorite foods:
"He liked to eat the things he had had at home as a boy: black-eyed peas, cornbread,
peach ice cream, good chili," she recalls.
And when he came to dinner thereafter, she cooked them for him, and, she says, as he came
more and more frequently, "learned to make them the way he liked them." And her sweetness
and graciousness put him - this man who was seldom at ease without a gavel in his hand - at ease.
We learn here how the young Johnsons used good Texas cooking to ingratiate
themselves with the the third most politically powerful man in the United States. History was made.
Because of her lifetime of devotion to wildflowers and natural beauty, we are including
links to several reviewed books on Texana on the subject.
- Texas Bluebonnets
Every Spring, wildflowers dot the Texas countryside, especially bluebonnets. The state
flower of Texas is the bluebonnet.
- White House Biography on Lady Bird Johnson
Nicely done biography page from the official White House website.
Includes her portrait as First Lady.
- LBJ Library and Museum
National archives and records for Lyndon Johnson, the Johnson family and other
political history at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas.
Lady Bird: A Biography of Mrs. Johnson
In 1999, Texas Monthly reporter Jan Jarboe Russell released a full biography
on Lady Bird Johnson.
We have not read it, but it has received much publicity and favorable
reviews. Russell paints a fascinating portrait of Johnson--a far tougher and shrewder
woman than the dutiful image she presented as first lady in the 1960s--but she also unsparingly depicts
LBJ as a mighty poor husband, something his intensely loyal spouse could never countenance.
We also present a series of photographs of Lady Bird, her family and associates.
Lady Bird Johnson Photographs
L-R: Lynda Bird Johnson, Luci Baines Johnson,
President Lyndon B. Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson
Lady Bird Johnson with movie camera during
LBJ's unsuccessful Senate campaign, June, 1941
Lady Bird Johnson with Gov. John Connally and Nellie Connally
at the San Antonio Hemisfair, April 1968
L-R: Lynda Johnson Robb, Lady Bird Johnson,
Luci Baines Johnson in December, 1982