Friday, July 13, 2007

Lady Bird Johnson

When I was a kid growing up in Austin, I recall it was a pretty big deal that Lady Bird Johnson still maintained an office in the LBJ Library. The rumor was that they couldn't build any structures higher than a story or two between her window at the library and the Capitol, lest anything obstruct her view. It wasn't that Lady Bird Johnson was supposed to be mean and bossy, but nobody really wanted to obstruct her view. I thought that must say something pretty nice about the lady.

At some point when I was 12 or 13 my folks were customers of The Bank of the Hills, which belonged to the Johnson family. I still recall my folks going to the opening of the new building out near 620 and 183 (when the area was a field) because they heard Lady Bird would be there shaking hands. Sure enough, my folks were just two of the rubes who Lady Bird shook hands with that night. I believe Lucy may have been there as well. I remember finding it mindblowing that she was involved with family business and would just meet any old person who wandered in to the bank that night. (I think i stayed home, watched an Arnie movie and ate fish sticks).

We have Lady Bird to thank in Austin for Town Lake Park, the LBJ Library, the control of billboard proliferation, the planting of wildflowers along the highway, and, of course, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. She was also involved with Austin's KTBC during its glory days. And, of course, she was also involved in her husband's campaigns in Texas and National races.

Finally, she was also a Journalism major at the University of Texas, and thus a fellow Longhorn. It is my understanding that she also was available as a guest speaker during the semesters in which Dr. Lewis Gould was teaching his "First Ladies" conference course for the History department. (Unfortunately, I found out about the course after it was no longer offered with Dr. Gould's retirement.)

Godspeed, Lady Bird Johnson.


Anonymous said...

It is also worth noting that she did most of these things on her own. LBJ died in 1973, meaning that Lady Bird was without him for the past 34 years. Really, that means that she lived as a widow or a president longer than the lives of most of the readers of this blog.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we did meet Lady Bird at the bank with a lovely reception. A lot of delicious food was served, chamber orchestra was playing, and a delightful time was had by all, including Peabo's parents. Lady Bird, her 2 daughters and their spouses were very hospitable. It was a very memorable evening. Yes, it all took place in the new bank building on 183. Karebear

Michael Corley said...

I now know more about Lady Bird than I did my whole career as a Texan.

The League said...

Just a bit of a catch-up: Jamie's dad and I went to see Mrs. Johnson at the LBJ museum on Friday night.

J.S. said...

You gorgot to mention in your article that Lady Bird also briefly served a stint as the lead guitarist for Austin's favorite savant garde experimental punk/jazz group, Crack. I'll never forget that night at Emo's when she lit her stratocaster on fire and threw it into the audience. She was a fine lady.