Lady Bird Johnson

  • Born: December 22, 1912
  • Died: July 11, 2007
  • Location: Austin, Texas

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3125 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78705

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Lady Bird Johnson

Former first lady dies at 94

Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady who championed conservation and worked tenaciously for the political career of her husband, Lyndon B. Johnson, died Wednesday, a family spokeswoman said. She was 94.

Johnson, who suffered a stroke in 2002 that affected her ability to speak, returned home late last month after a week at Seton Medical Center, where she had been admitted for a low-grade fever.

She died Wednesday afternoon at her Austin home of natural causes. Elizabeth Christian, the spokeswoman, said she was surrounded by family and friends.

Even after the stroke, Johnson still managed to make occasional public appearances and get outdoors to enjoy her beloved wildflowers. But she was unable to speak more than a few short phrases, and more recently did not speak at all, Anne Wheeler, spokeswoman for the LBJ Library and Museum, said in 2006. She communicated her thoughts and needs by writing, Wheeler said.

Lyndon Johnson died in 1973, four years after the Johnsons left the White House.

The longest-living first lady in history was Bess Truman, who was 97 when she died in 1982.

The daughter of a Texas rancher, she spent 34 years in Washington, as the wife of a congressional secretary, U.S. representative, senator, vice president and president. The couple had two daughters, Lynda Bird, born in 1944, and Luci Baines, born in 1947. The couple returned to Texas after the presidency, and Lady Bird Johnson lived for more than 30 years in and near Austin.

Former Republican President George H.W. Bush once recalled that when he was a freshman Republican congressman from Texas in the 1960s, Lady Bird Johnson and the president welcomed him to Washington with kindness, despite their political differences.

He said she exemplified "the grace and the elegance and the decency and sincerity that you would hope for in the White House."

As first lady, she was perhaps best known as the determined environmentalist who wanted roadside billboards and junkyards replaced with trees and wildflowers. She raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to beautify Washington. The $320 million Highway Beautification Bill, passed in 1965, was known as "The Lady Bird Bill," and she made speeches and lobbied Congress to win its passage.

"Had it not been for her, I think that the whole subject of the environment might not have been introduced to the public stage in just the way it was and just the time it was. So she figures mightily, I think, in the history of the country if for no other reason than that alone," Harry Middleton, the retired director of the LBJ Library and Museum, once said.

Lady Bird Johnson once turned down a class valedictorian's medal because of her fear of public speaking, but she joined in every one of her husband's campaigns. She was soft-spoken but rarely lost her composure, despite heckling and grueling campaign schedules. She once appeared for 47 speeches in four days.

"How Lady Bird can do all the things she does without ever stubbing her toe, I'll just never know, because I sure stub mine sometimes," her husband once said.

Lady Bird Johnson said her husband "bullied, shoved, pushed and loved me into being more outgoing, more of an achiever. I gave him comfort, tenderness and some judgment -- at least I think I did."

She had a cool head for business, turning a modest sum of money into a multimillion-dollar radio corporation in Austin that flourished under family ownership for more than a half-century. With a $17,500 inheritance from her mother, she purchased a small, faltering radio station in 1942 in Austin. The family business later expanded into television and banking.

"She was very hands on. She literally mopped the floor, and she sold radio time," daughter Luci Baines Johnson said of her mother's early days in business.

When Johnson challenged Sen. John F. Kennedy unsuccessfully in 1960 for the Democratic presidential nomination, his wife was his chief supporter, although she confessed privately she would rather be home in Texas.

His nomination as vice president on Kennedy's ticket drew her deep into a national campaign. She stumped through 11 Southern states, mostly alone, making speeches at whistle stops in her soft drawl. In his 1965 memoir, "Kennedy," JFK special counsel Theodore Sorensen recalled her "remarkable campaign talents" in the 1960 campaign.

She was with her husband in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, when Kennedy was assassinated, and was at his side as he took the presidential oath of office aboard Air Force One.

In her book "A White House Diary," she recalled seeing Jacqueline Kennedy with her husband's blood still on her dress and leg. "Somehow that was one of the most poignant sights -- that immaculate woman, exquisitely dressed, and caked in blood," she wrote.

Suddenly, the unpretentious woman from Texas found herself first lady of the United States, splitting time between the White House and the Johnson family's 13-room stone and frame house on the LBJ Ranch, near Johnson City west of Austin.

Her White House years also were filled with the turbulence of the Vietnam War era.

The first lady often would speak her fears and hopes into a tape recorder, and some of the transcripts were included in the 2001 book "Reaching for Glory, Lyndon Johnson's Secret White House Tapes, 1964-1965," edited by historian Michael Beschloss.

"How much can they tear us down?" she wondered in 1965 as criticism of the Vietnam War worsened. "And what effect might it have on the way we appear in history?"

She quoted her husband as saying: "I can't get out. And I can't finish it with what I have got. And I don't know what the hell to do."

Both daughters married while their father was president. Luci married Patrick Nugent, in 1966 at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. That marriage ended in divorce and she wed Canadian banker Ian Turpin in 1984. Daughter Lynda Bird married Charles Robb, later governor and U.S. senator from Virginia, in a White House wedding in 1967.

After she and her husband left Washington, Lady Bird Johnson worked on "A White House Diary," published in 1970. She also served a six-year term starting in 1971 as a University of Texas regent.

She and her daughters remained active in her wildflower advocacy and with the LBJ Library in Austin after the former president's death in 1973. Into her 90s, Lady Bird Johnson made occasional public appearances at the library and at civic and political events, always getting a rousing reception.


Condolence & Memory Journal

Every time I drive on a highway and see the wild flowers, I think of you LadyBird! It still warms my heart! God Bless your family!

Posted by JKS - columbia, SC - admire   July 12, 2010

Mrs. Johnson was the greatest First Lady of the modern era. Her sense of beauty and her kind heart for all things living transformed America and Texas of the sixties into the beautiful places they are today. Such dignity, grace and character bestowed on a single individual surely demonstrates a fond partnership with the Almighty. Lady Bird Johnson established a high standard for the Office of First Lady that I pray will become the benchmark for generations to come. Now that her assignment in this world is complete, she is fast at work sharing her sense of beauty and warmth in That Place we all hope to ascend. May God bless and comfort her dear family and friends during this period of grief and adjustment.

Posted by Doug Hancock - Cedar Park, TX   April 06, 2009

Our sincere condolences to your family. We were of the Kennedy-Johnson era and remember what a great lady she was. She has left her mark in history. A great Texan!

Posted by Renee & Manuel Ledesma - Cedar Park, TX   April 06, 2009

What a Beautiful Lady God shared with us now you have gone to be with the Lord Thank You for all you have shared and given to us. Our Condolences to all the Johnson Family .

Posted by Figueroa Family - Dale, TX   April 06, 2009

Mrs. Johnson will certainly be missed. She was a great American. Ward & Martha Standridge

Posted by Ward Standridge - Sharpsburg, GA   April 06, 2009

What a Remarkable, Gracious Lady. Forever on the landscape and in our hearts. To the family, you were so Blessed. Thank you for sharing her with us. Ed Phillips

Posted by Ed Phillips - Dallas, TX   April 06, 2009

I send my condolences to Mrs. Johnson's. A great Lady for this Great State.

Posted by Erik - Austin, TX   April 06, 2009

My thoughts and prayers are with the family. I will now drive down the highways of the great State of Texas and know that Ms. Johnson has the best view to see the flowers that she helped plant.

Posted by K Bellerose - Austin, TX   April 06, 2009

The most gracious lady of Texas will now etch in history the most colorful story of her life. I teach second grade and she is by far the best icon to use in her contribution to our state and its wildflower program. She heraled like none other in her great southern charm through gestures pertinent for her postiion and through everyday talk. I grew up in the LBJ era and was fine tuned to their lives in the White House. What a wonderful life she had. This is a great time to rejoice for a life well lived by an adoring lady! Thank you Lady Bird for inspiring me throughout my life and then being able to share your biography with my classes. You have truly made Texas a more beautiful state with thousands of wildflowers to adorn our great state! Kathy Taylor Abilene, Texas

Posted by kathy Taylor - Abilene, TX   April 06, 2009

May you rest in peace and rise in glory.

Posted by Phillip Hamilton - Memphis, TN   April 06, 2009

My condolences to the family of Lady Bird Johnson. I appreciate her beautification efforts that she championed throughout her life.

Posted by Dianna Floyd - Austin, TX   April 06, 2009

I was deeply touched by the death of such a great lady. I drove from Victoria, Texas with my wife to Oakhill to see the procession pass that Sunday. It was very nice to see such support from everyone that stood by the road. My brother was one of Ladybirds Secret Service agents assigned to protect her in the early 80's. He had nothing but nice things to say about her the entire time he was with her. My brother told me she always felt safe with the agents and knowing they would protect her from any harm. He again stood by her casket at the LBJ library one last time to protect her. She will be deeply missed by the entire world...

Posted by michael - austin, TX   April 06, 2009

Thank you to the Johnson family for sharing your intimate moments of grief with the public this past weekend. Your mother/grandmother/great-grandmother/relative was a great member of the human race. Every time I drive down 71 out to Llano or run on the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail, I will always think of her and feel her spirit.

Posted by Michael Dobbs - Austin, TX   April 06, 2009

My deepest condolences to your family and friends. My thoughts and prayers our with you all at this time. What an enormous loss to all who loved and respected her. My husband, Timothy Jester Oveland had his visitation on the same evening as Miss Lady Bird (he would have felt so honored as he loved her dearly). His uncle, Buford Jester was govenor of Texas in 1949. My husband had a deep respect and admiration for Texas and it's political history. He remembered President Johnson and Lady Bird visiting his boyhood home in Kingsville and retold the story of how Miss Lady Bird told my mother in law "better watch this little one...he's gonna be a handful!" My mother-in-law lost her husband two years ago, now her youngest son, and now a lady she deeply loved and admired. I had the privilige of visiting the wildflower center and of hearing my husbands family tell stories of her abundant grace, intelligence, and beauty. While my own grief over the loss of my husband, so young is difficult....my awe of Miss Lady Bird and her incredible strength of character and spirit will be a great model and inspiration to me. My deepest sympathy to your family and gratitude to God for giving this world such an amazing gift in Miss Lady Bird.

Posted by Mrs. Sonya E. Oveland - Austin, TX   April 06, 2009

my condolences to the family

Posted by linda gaspar - austin, TX   April 06, 2009

A great lost to a Nation that is always in need of beautification. Thanks for making a difference!

Posted by Andrew Adsit - Austin, TX   April 06, 2009

I am very sorry for your loss.

Posted by Brenda Lind Ray - Austin, TX   April 06, 2009

What a glorious day it was when Lady Bird Johnson crossed over Jordan to take the hand of Jesus and then to take LBJ's hand for them to be reunited for eternity. Thank you Mrs Johnson for your tireless efforts in what you did for this great country and what you did for the great state of Texas and for Austin. God bless you Mrs. Johnson and God bless all of your family.

Posted by Carol Binford - Austin, TX   April 06, 2009

Thank you, Mrs. Johnson, for your tireless efforts in making my home state of Texas more beautiful in your lifetime for the benefit of countless future Texans and visitors to our great state.

Posted by R. Paul Meier - Oklahoma City, OK   April 06, 2009

I send my condolences to Mrs. Johnson's family. I lost my mother-in-law last year, and I know the void a loss such as this creates. I have long respected Mrs. Johnson not only for her contributions to the environment, but for her major contributions to her husband's career and Presidency and, consequently, to her country. She provided counsel and support through some of the most turbulent times in our recent history. She and Mrs. Roosevelt pretty much set the standard for First Ladies in the 20th Century. I'm so glad she was granted a long life, and that she was surrounded by family in her final hours. I will pray for her soul, though she doesn't need a whole lot of help from me in the getting to Heaven department...

Posted by Wayne Abernathy - Cedar Park, TX   April 06, 2009

To each of you, I feel your pain and your loss, you are in my prayers and thoughts. Several years ago, I met Ms. Johnson at a medical supply place on Medical Parkway, she was so gracious. I introduced myself to her at that time because of who she was and several years prior to that, my husband, Kenneth, did some work in the kitchen at the ranch and she remembered him. I was honored to meet her for lots of reasons, her friendliness, her dedication to beauty, her very presence in so many arenas, another one is because the Johnson family gives to this community. I work at The Blood Center of Central Texas. We all at the Center send our condolences.

Posted by Dolly Mogonye - Pflugerville, TX   April 06, 2009

I can not think of this lady without thinking of the beautiful bluebonnet flower. She was the driving force so instrumental in Texas having such beautiful flowers embrace the highways

Posted by reggie redd - Savannah, GA   July 10, 2008

Mrs. Johnson....your class and dignity will not soon be forgotten. You are the true mark of a lady in every sense of the word. Your life was filled with strife and joy but thru it all you held your head high showing the rest of the world how a true LADY conducts herself. Rest in peace.

Posted by Suzanne Tull-Stroup - Georgetown, TX   July 15, 2007

Ladybird was always one of my favorite first ladies. She was always so positive, unflapable and down to earth. Whenever, I see wildflowers planted beside the highway, I think of her and will continue to do so. I have visited the National Wildflower Center in Austin and appreciate all she has done to preserve our native plants.

Posted by Clyde E. Poppell - Thomasville, GA   July 12, 2007


Default Album

Lady Bird Johnson
Lady Bird Johnson Tribute
Lady Bird Johnson, New York City, 1961
Lady Bird and Lyndon Johnson, Washington, 1955
President Clinton, Bush, and Lady Bird Johnson, Washington D.C. 2000
Lady Bird Johnson, Washingtion D.C., 1963

Default Album

Lady Bird and Lyndon Johnson, Washington D.C., 1956
Lady Bird and Lyndon Johnson, Washington D.C., 1948
Lady Bird and Lyndon Johnson, Stonewall, TX, 1955
Lady Bird Johnson, Bangkok, 1966
Lady Bird Johnson, Plymouth Notch, VT, 1995
Lady bird Johnson and Laura Bush, Austin TX, 1997