Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson

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Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson (1912-2007) was an American first lady (1963-69) and the wife of Lyndon Johnson, the 36th president of the United States. A strong believer in her husband’s political talents, Lady Bird used her own inheritance to fund his early campaigns, and overcame her aversion to public speaking to become one of his most successful surrogates on the campaign trail. Johnson did much to create the role of the modern first lady: She hired her own chief of staff, press secretary and East Wing employees; she advocated on behalf of her husband’s policies, including the “Head Start” early education program; and she actively lobbied Congress for legislation that would further her favored cause, the “beautification” of America’s cities and highways.

As a child, a family nurse declared she was as “pretty as a ladybird.” The nickname stuck. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in art followed and continued on there studying journalism, with the plan to become a newspaper reporter.In the summer of 1934 she met Lyndon Baines Johnson who was a Congressional aide. They married in November 1934, just seven weeks after their first date. She borrowed from her inheritance to help finance his first election campaign.

As first lady, she supported the “war on poverty,” the Headstart Program, and worked for the “beautification” of Washington, DC. Following the presidency, Lady Bird Johnson wrote the 800-page White House Diary which detailed her husband’s life including the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. She also remained active in beautification projects. In the 1960s, she planted bulbs and trees along roadsides to call attention to the growing crisis of habitat and species loss.

Lady Bird Johnson created the First Lady’s Committee for a More Beautiful Capital and her work became the first major legislative campaign launched by a first lady, the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. Her love for native wildflowers inspired her to create the National Wildflower Research Center in 1982 near Austin, Texas. It was renamed in her honor in 1998.

Lady Bird Johnson also remained outspoken on women’s rights issues, calling the equal rights amendment, “the right thing to do.” She was honored with the country’s highest civilian award: the Medal of Freedom in 1977, and was given the Congressional Gold Medal in 1988.The widow of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson, had suffered a stroke in 2002 that left her with difficulty speaking. She died on July 11, 2007 at the age of 94.

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Lady Bird Johnson - HISTORY

Lady Bird Johnson was born Claudia Alta Taylor in Karnack, Harrison County, Texas in 1912. Her father was Thomas Jefferson Taylor II, who owned a general store and used the profits to acquire farmland that he used to plant cotton. At one time he owned 12,000 acres of land dedicated to raising cotton. Claudia’s mother was the former Minnie Pattillo. Thomas and Minnie were married in 1900 and both had originally come to Texas from Alabama. Claudia was the youngest of three children and the only daughter born to Minnie and Thomas. The family legend is that a caretaker had given the nickname Lady Bird to her, saying that she was as pretty as a lady bird.

Lady Bird went to school in Karnack and Jefferson, Texas and also attended school for short time in Alabama. She graduated early from Marshall (Texas) High School and attended St. Mary’s College, no longer in existence but formerly a college for girls operated under a branch of the Episcopal Church. The school closed about 1930, about the time Lady Bird enrolled at University of Texas at Austin. There she earned a Bachelor’s degree in history in 1933 and a Bachelor’s degree journalism, graduating cum laude, in 1934. It was in Austin that she met her future husband, Lyndon Baines Johson, shortly after she graduated from college.

The couple dated briefly and were married several months later in November of 1934 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio, Texas. After a short honeymoon in Mexico, they set up their home in Washington, DC. At the time, Johnson had been serving as an aide to U. S. Representative Richard Kleberg. Although her life after this was somewhat defined by the career of her husband Lyndon Johnson, she remained a winsome and appealing person. Johnson ran for a seat in the U. S. Congress in 1937. He then served in the U. S. Navy during World War II. He did not resign his office, and Lady Bird effectively ran it while he served. Also during World War II, Lady Bird acquired radio station KTBC in Austin which became the first holding of a successful family business for the Johnsons. Lady Bird was said to have a strong business sense and developed and diversified the holdings, creating financial income for the family.

After the war, Johnson was elected to the U. S. Senate. Johnson had served six terms in Congress from 1937 to 1949, and went on to serve in the Senate until 1961. While living in Washington, the oldest of their two daughters (Lynda) was born in 1944 and the youngest (Lucy) was born in 1947. A life long Democrat, he campaigned for President in 1960, losing to John Kennedy, after which he was selected as Kennedy’s Vice President. Johnson may have had qualms about accepting the role of Vice President, but the Kennedy-Johnson ticket was made more popular in the South with Johnson’s presence. Lady Bird was a tireless campaigner. Johnson ascended to the presidency in 1963 following the assassination of President Kennedy in Texas. The President, Governor John Connally and their spouses were in the car together and the Johnsons were behind them in another car the motorcade. Lady Bird was thrust into the role of First Lady.

Lady Bird was involved in the issues that were prominent in the next presidential election, including civil rights. Johnson pressed for passage of the bill that became known as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That year, Johnson went on to win the nomination at the Democratic National Convention and then proceeded to defeat Sen. Barry Goldwater handily in the national election.

As First Lady, she was involved in issues of the administration and took a special interest in issues that were important to her, such as women’s education and leadership, the war on poverty, environmental issues, beautification of the land, conservation, education of underpriviledged children and the like. She also received and dealt with criticism for the administration’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Both of the Johnson sons in law served in Vietnam.

Johnson’s health was also a major concern, having survived an earlier heart attack in 1955. The years of his presidency seemed to take a toll on him and Lady Bird encouraged him not to run for a second term. Johnson agreed and made a now familiar nationally televised speech announcing his decision.

(Image credit: New York Times)

Once the couple retired, they returned to the family property just outside Stonewall, Texas. Lady Bird continued to speak and act on issues that were important to her. The couple worked on planning the presidential library on the campus of University of Texas in Austin. Lady Bird also served a term as a regent of University of Texas from 1971 to 1977.

Johnson suffered what was termed a massive heart attack in the summer of 1972 and died in early 1973. The couple had deeded their ranch to the National Park Service in late 1972 but retained the right to live there. Following Johnson’s death it became her residence. Lady Bird continued to remain active in issues such as women’s rights, environmentalism and the like. She received numerous awards for her work and achievements in these areas.

Lady Bird suffered a stroke in 1993 and lost much of her vision due to macular degeneration. She suffered another stroke in 1999 as her health continued to decline. Lady Bird died in 2007 and was buried in the Johnson Family Cemetery on the LJB Ranch in Texas. At the age of 94, she had become the longest living First Lady, though the longest living First Lady in history is still Bess Truman (97), as of this writing.

Lady Bird received numerous awards including the Medal of Freedom in 1977. She was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984 and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1988. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center was founded by Lady Bird and her friend and fellow wildflower lover Helen Hayes in 1982. Located just outside Austin, its mission is to use “native plants to restore and create sustainable, beautiful landscapes.” The complex encompases 284 acres of land and has been known as the Botanic Garden of Texas since 2017.

Lady Bird Johnson and Civil Rights

Many of America’s First Ladies occupied the background while their husbands basked in the glow of the national spotlight. This was not the case with Lady Bird Johnson.

Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson was a shy woman who had no desire to become America’s First Lady. However, she would be forced into this role on November 22, 1963. During her husband, Lyndon Baines Johnson’s, difficult years in office (1963-69), Lady Bird’s intelligence and moral convictions would lead her to become a crusader for civil rights– one of the major issues in 1960s America.

November 22, 1963: The Day That Shook A Nation

On Friday, November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. His vice president, former Texas senator Lyndon B. Johnson, was sworn in as president within 24 hours of Kennedy’s death. Johnson’s wife, Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, was horrified at the idea of being thrust into the public eye. She believed she would only have to be First Lady for one year. Little did Lady Bird know that her ambitious husband, as well history, had other plans. Lyndon Johnson became the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in 1964 and won the general election that year in a landslide.

1964: A Year of Major Changes

During the 1964 presidential campaign, one issue dominated the American scene: civil rights. Lyndon supported the passage of a civil rights bill for constitutional reasons. Mrs. Johnson, meanwhile, urged her husband to support such legislation on moral grounds. A born-and-bred Southerner, Lady Bird began speaking out publicly about the social and moral necessity of public support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She faced tough, often hostile audiences, but Lady Bird was undaunted. She embarked upon a whistle-stop tour of eight Southern states aboard a red, white, and blue train that was called “The Lady Bird Special.” She spoke with the governors of these states– except for Alabama’s outspokenly racist George Wallace– and called members of Southern congressional delegations. Impressed by Lady Bird’s tenacity and graciousness, many of these individuals were receptive to her and became supporters of both Lyndon and civil rights legislation.

“Landslide Lyndon”

Even though Lady Bird had convinced members of Congress to get behind her husband and his campaign ideals, she now faced the challenge of convincing the American public that he was the right man for the job and that supporting civil rights was the thing to do. Lady Bird’s efforts would eventually be rewarded. The public listened, the act was passed, and Lyndon became America’s thirty-sixth president in November of 1964, handily defeating Arizona’s ultra-conservative Republican senator, Barry Goldwater, who opposed the Civil Rights Act.

The passage of this bill not only changed the country, but it also changed the platforms of its two major political parties. Johnson’s election ended the traditional “Solid South” dominance of conservative Democrats and led to the Democratic Party becoming the party of progressive ideals. None of this would have been possible if Lady Bird had not been courageous and outspoken about one of the most important issues in the nation’s history.

Lady Bird Johnson's Floral Legacy

First Lady Claudia Johnson outside the White House, 1967.

Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum/NARA

Few first ladies have been so attuned to the natural beauty inside and outside the White House as First Lady Claudia Johnson, or “Lady Bird.” Famed for her environmental work, she brought a sense of the floral to everything she did, from wide-ranging legislation to small touches of hospitality.

Mrs. Johnson’s White House entertaining style often included an homage to the natural world. For instance, in June 1964 the Johnsons were the first presidential couple to hold a State Dinner in the Rose Garden. At White House parties she was famous for her Flowerpot Sundaes, in which she layered ice cream, sponge cake, and meringue in a terra-cotta flowerpot with a rose or tulip stem “planted” in the middle. She chose a china pattern for the White House that was both patriotic and botanical: first ladies for fifty years before her had selected dinner plates with simple borders and an American eagle in the middle, where she wreathed the eagle in wildflowers. 1

The Johnson’s White House china features a different state flower on each dessert plate. Shown here is the Texas blue bonnet.

White House Historical Association

Though she had always appreciated natural beauty in daily life, it was in the first year of her husband’s presidency that Mrs. Johnson realized her voice could go towards helping to preserving nature on a large scale. She traced the inspiration for her involvement in beautification to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s January 1965 State of the Union address, where he said, “We must make a massive effort to save the countryside and to establish—as a green legacy for tomorrow—more large and small parks, more seashores and open spaces than have been created during any other period in our national history.” This vision began to take concrete form at one of Mrs. Johnson’s monthly Women Doer’s Luncheons, where she heard activist Mary Lasker propose a beautification program for the nation’s cities: large-scale plantings, lights, waterworks, and “masses of flowers where the masses pass.” 2

Mrs. Johnson planting pansies with members of the Beautification Committee.

Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum/NARA

Lasker wanted to make beautification a nationwide effort, but Mrs. Johnson wanted to start small by planting flowers in the town she lived in, Washington, D.C., and thus encourage other Americans to involve themselves in conservation as well. She reminisced later that the beautification effort began “with the hope that it would have a ripple effect across the land. Everybody who did it loves his hometown. You just say hometown and you get a smile, at least from a whole lot of Americans.” The First Lady’s Committee for a More Beautiful Capital met for the first time in the Red Room of the White House on February 11, 1965. 3

First Lady Lady Bird Johnson with members of the Beautification Committee, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall and Laurance Rockefeller, at a Beautification Luncheon in the State Dining Room, April 27, 1967.

Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum/NARA

The Beautification Committee convened monthly. It began planting on Pennsylvania Avenue, then expanded outward, establishing azalea and daffodil beds by the Potomac River and in the medians and triangles of the capital city. First Lady Lady Bird Johnson would leave the White House early in the mornings in a minibus, bound for plantings all over Washington, D.C. Over the course of four years the committee planted a shocking two million daffodil bulbs, reportedly the largest planting in history. The president chuckled about the constant plant-related busyness in the Executive Mansion: “Whenever I try to take a nap, there is Lady Bird in the next room with Laurance Rockefeller and eighty ladies talking about the daffodils on Pennsylvania Avenue.” 4

Signing the Highway Beautification Act in the East Room, October 22, 1965.

Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum/NARA

Not all of First Lady Johnson’s plantings last to the present day, but the spirit behind them does. Perhaps Mrs. Johnson’s most far-reaching conservation effort was sponsoring the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. “Lady Bird’s Bill” established air quality standards, provided for the building of scenic overlooks and rest stops, and set limits on unsightly billboards, junkyards, and litter along public highways. Limiting air pollution and limiting visual pollution were strongly related ideas to her, as they both contribute to public health. “Our peace of mind, our emotions, our spirit—even our souls—are conditioned by what our eyes see,” she told attendees at a Beautification Luncheon in 1965. 5

When the Johnsons left the White House in 1969, the first lady left behind a living memento: the Children’s Garden on the South Lawn. The garden serves as a playground for presidential families. There are holly bushes, a Winesap apple tree, and crocuses under the flagstones. In its center she placed a goldfish pond with blue water lilies. She wanted to leave the garden as a “good-bye gift” to the White House. As John Keats put it in her favorite work of poetry, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” 6

U.S. First Lady

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas while traveling in a motorcade. Vice President Johnson was only two cars behind Kennedy when the shots rang out. Just a few hours later, Johnson was sworn in as the 36th president aboard Air Force One on its return to Washington, D.C. Subsequently, Claudia became first lady of the United States. She would serve as first lady from 1963 to 1969 in 1964, Johnson would win election to the presidency against conservative Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. (With public sentiment largely for Democrats and Goldwater&aposs staunch conservatism, Johnson won by a landslide he received 61 percent of the popular vote—the biggest margin of victory in U.S. election history.)

As first lady, Claudia, better known by this time as "Lady Bird Johnson," supported the "war on poverty" and the Headstart Program, and worked to improve the beautification of Washington, D.C. In the 1960s, Lady Bird planted bulbs and trees along roadsides to call attention to the growing crisis of habitat and species loss. She created the First Lady&aposs Committee for a More Beautiful Capital, and her work became the first major legislative campaign launched by a first lady: the Highway Beautification Act of 1965.

In June 1968, Lady Bird traveled to Portland, Oregon, along with then-Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman, to deliver a lecture regarding a new type of conservation before a convention of the American Institute of Architects. There, she discussed a conservation that is concerned with the entire community to solve the problems of growing urbanization. "The answers cannot be found in piece-milled reform," Lady Bird stated. "The job really requires thoughtful interrelation of the whole environment. Not only in buildings, but parks, not only parks, but highways, not only highways, but open spaces and green belts. A beautification in my mind is far more than a matter of cosmetics. To me, it describes the whole effort to bring the natural world and the manmade world to harmony. To bring order, usefulness, delight to our whole environment. And that of course only begins with trees and flowers and landscaping."

Eleanor Roosevelt was a commercial star

Eleanor Roosevelt is famous for a lot of things and for being one of the greatest first ladies. But at the time she was controversial, not just for her actions or political views, but because she basically became a supermodel.

We know what you're thinking: That Eleanor Roosevelt? The one with a face only a mother could love? It might sound crazy, but according to the Washington Post, advertisers were climbing over each other to sign her as the model for their brand during her tenure.

In an ad for air travel she's pictured calmly knitting on a plane and says that despite traveling over 100,000 miles she "never cease[s] to marvel at the airplane," which makes you picture her standing on the White House lawn, staring up at the sky with her mouth wide open as planes fly overhead. She also reminds the reader that flying is just as awesome for women as it is for men because early feminism had to fight some weird battles.

She advertised everything from hot dog buns to mattresses. Congress was none too pleased when they realized what the first lady was getting up to in her free time. They even went so far as to launch an inquiry. But Eleanor shut it down when she revealed that almost all the money she made from her pitchwoman career went to charity. That made it a little harder to be mad at her, and they dropped it.

What is a Lady Bird Deed? (with pictures)

A lady bird deed, also called an enhanced life estate deed, is a type of American legal document that defines the rights of a property owner and heirs to the property. Named for the wife of United States President Lyndon Johnson, the deed gives the owner continued rights to sell or use the property until death, and ensures a smooth transfer to heirs. Some consider a lady bird deed a good alternative to simply willing the property to an heir, as it avoids the possibly lengthy process of probate.

The history behind the term used for an enhanced life estate deed is possibly apocryphal, but nonetheless this type of document is frequently referred to as a lady bird deed. According to legend, President Johnson cleverly used this method to ensure swift transfer of property to his wife, Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson. Whether or not this actually occurred is a matter of some debate, however the moniker stuck to this form of property transfer.

A lady bird deed is unique in that it allows the original owner to continue to have rights to the property, including the right of sale regardless of consent. This clause means that, although the property is willed to the heirs, the owner does not require their permission to sell the land if he or she chooses. This allows the owner greater security and power over his or her property, ensuring that heirs may not usurp the land until they officially receive it after the death of the owner.

Additionally, the deed protects the owner from financial problems of the heir. By retaining sole right to sell or transfer the property, the owner prevents the heir from using the property as a lien. Although the lady bird deed ensures that the property will pass to the heir at the death of the owner, until that time, the heir has no legal interest in the property.

Although one of the most frequently touted benefits of a lady bird deed is the capability to avoid probate, or judgment of ownership by the courts, some experts suggest this is not always the most important benefit. Although probate can be an expensive and time-consuming process, in the case of small estates with clearly drawn wills and no disputes, probate may be considerably simpler. Interested parties may want to consult an estate attorney to discover the best possible solution an individual situation.

Not all areas allow the use of lady bird deeds, but major states that allow this document include Florida, Texas, and California. Check local laws carefully to ensure that lady bird deeds are applicable to the region, as well as whether or not they must be prepared by a lawyer. Although some states, such as Florida, do not require a lawyer's participation, many experts suggest seeking legal advice regardless.

Lady Bird Johnson - HISTORY

Public Relations and Special Events, 1962-1970

Long before Padre Island National Seashore opened to the public in 1965, Superintendent Bill Bowen recognized the importance of public relations for the park. The prolonged struggle for legislative endorsement of the park had polarized North and South Padre Island. As park development got underway in the mid-1960s, the perceived favored treatment for North Padre further contributed to the polarization. Many South Padre residents and property owners, some formerly opposed to the park, now resented the lack of attention.

Superintendent Bowen took the first step toward improving public relations in the south by assigning Art Partin as district ranger, South District, at Port Isabel on October 25, 1964. [1] In a later report in 1965, the superintendent stated that the Park Service may have to rethink scheduling all construction on the north end through 1968 simply because "cold, hard political facts-of-life may indicate some adjustment." [2] By December 1965, Bowen seemed resigned to developing the park on South Padre at the same rate as that on North Padre. [3] Shortly afterwards, the park staff reversed this position because of the legal problems and challenges on the property south of Mansfield Channel.

Padre Island administrators continued the development of park facilities on North Padre as the legal battles raged over South Padre Island. In April 1965, the park staff opened the doors of their new headquarters building in Flour Bluff. [4] In 1969, several years later, the staff opened the Malaquite Beach Pavilion and facilities. Early National Seashore employees, however, remember April 1968 as the most significant event in the park's initial years.

Dedication of Padre Island National Seashore, April 8, 1968

In February 1968, Bill Newbold from the National Park Service Division of Interpretation in Washington contacted Superintendent Ernest Borgman requesting that the First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, visit Padre Island for the park dedication. Borgman and staff had delayed making dedication plans until the first buildings were completed. Development activities, however, were behind schedule and it seemed unlikely that construction on the Malaquite Beach facilities would be completed within the year. Moreover, Borgman knew that it would be difficult to fit into the First Lady's travel agenda at another time. After several telephone calls, Borgman and Newbold agreed to arrange a formal dedication of the National Seashore with the First Lady presiding during the first week in April. Their selection of the April date left only a month for all preparations. [5]

The park staff hurriedly planned the dedication. They prepared and mailed more than 3,500 invitations. Park rangers constructed a speaker's stand and covered it on all sides with driftwood collected on the Padre Island beaches. [6] Superintendent Borgman and the rangers placed the stand at the northern end of the National Seashore near the site of the proposed Malaquite Beach complex. For added local flavor, rangers erected a flag pole near the stand and added a podium or lectern covered with driftwood. Park employees later recalled this month as one of their busiest and most stressful. [7]

On Monday, April 8, 1968, Lady Bird Johnson arrived at the Naval Air Station for the second stop on her "Crossing the Trails of Texas" tour. Just two days before, the First Lady had opened the Hemisfair grounds in San Antonio for the first world's fair to be hosted in Texas. She now would open Texas' second national park.

The day began with overcast skies thick with fog and threatening rain. By midmorning, however, the fog lifted, leaving the balance of the day a balmy 70 degrees. The First Lady's motorcade drove directly from the Naval Air Station to the dedication site. Hundreds of cars lined the narrow road as invited guests made their way down to the still incomplete park grounds. Superintendent Borgman, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, National Park Service Director George Hartzog, and Senator Ralph Yarborough led the dedication party. Mrs. John Young, "standing in" for her husband Representative John Young who was "called back" to Washington by President Johnson, Representative Eligio de la Garza, Representative Abe Kazan, and Admiral and Mrs. McPherson of Naval Air Advanced Training, accompanied the First Lady. Mayor Jack Blackmon and his wife and Ed and Mrs. Harte completed the list of local dignitaries. Governor John Connally, present only a few days before at the Hemisfair dedication, failed to attend or send a substitute. Although unable to attend because of poor health, Cameron County Judge Oscar Dancy would be mentioned later by several members of the dedication party. [8]

Lady Bird Johnson, the principal speaker, arrived at the dedication site shortly before the 11 o'clock scheduled ceremony. Mrs. Johnson greeted the audience and brought an air of gentility and warmth to the seashore setting. Despite these good feelings and the congratulatory comments of the participants, two significant events cast dark shadows on the dedication. After Borgman and Newbold arranged the April dedication, President Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection. This announcement shocked many citizens and brought even more attention to the lingering Vietnam War. Shortly afterwards, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the symbol of civil rights for blacks, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Out of respect for Dr. King's death, the park rangers flew the flag at half mast except during the national anthem. [9]

Secretary Udall served as the master of ceremonies, giving tributes and accolades to the work of many that led to Padre Island National Seashore. Senator Yarborough, who followed Udall's introductions, spoke eloquently of the four-and-one-half year struggle for Padre Island's recognition. He too credited the work of many citizens but gave special credit to Ed Harte, editor of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, for writing numerous editorials in support of the bill, and Judge Oscar Dancy. In an unusual deference to Lyndon Johnson, Yarborough stated that the great impetus for passing the Padre Island legislation came from a Congressional trip led by then Vice-President Johnson and Secretary Udall in 1961. The Senator then turned to more recent events, describing the King assassination as the "tragic event that struck this nation." In conclusion, Yarborough focused on the natural resources of Padre Island giving special attention to the "king of oak trees" that grew "in little groves of Quercus." "These trees," Yarborough stated, "grow nowhere else except on Padre Island." [10]

The First Lady followed Senator Yarborough. Her speech, later printed in the local newspapers and quoted in the syndicated presses, began with an introduction of some 40 journalists from 13 European countries. These special guests were accompanying Mrs. Johnson on the Texas tour at her invitation. In her opening statement, the First Lady asked a simple question "What does it take to make a national park?" and then began to answer it:

To create a national seashore. It takes a dream. as it did with Judge Oscar Dancy some thirty years ago. We've known him for all of those thirty years and more. It takes endless hours of hard work by the 'believers,' people up and down the island span not only people, but newspapers like the Corpus Christi Caller-Times who helped educate the readers to the advantages and won an award for it. [11]

Mrs. Johnson then recognized the work of Senator Yarborough and United States Representatives Young and de la Garza. As a follow up, she brought in the special interest of President Johnson emphasizing his fondness for calling the national seashores "the nation's necklace of national seashores." In her concluding comments, Mrs. Johnson noted the "delightful" driftwood and weathered rope that graced the speakers stand. She ended by referring to potential interpretation in the National Seashore:

Legends of early Indians, of shipwrecked Spanish galleons are part of Padre Island, and I hope, Mr. Hartzog, that there will be occasions when some gifted storyteller could bring them to life as part of the regular program here. I've been to so many national parks, and that is one of the great things they do. They weave in the history of the island, the history of man and nature -- the whole ecology -- sitting around the campfire or in the visitor's center. [12]

With her final gesture given to the future visitor activities at the park, Mrs. Johnson stepped down from the speakers' stand to unveil a plaque commemorating the day on a large piece of driftwood.

Following the ceremony, Mrs. Johnson and her traveling party changed clothes in tents especially erected for them. They then participated in a beachfront fish fry sponsored by the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce. Mrs. Johnson, Secretary Udall, and the traveling party set out for an afternoon walk on the beach. The newspaper accounts later remarked on the relaxing afternoon and vividly portrayed the barefooted First Lady decked in her large-brimmed hat and casual clothes. As a special treat, Park Naturalist Derek Hambly traveled with the party stopping occasionally to tell the visitors about the island. Afterwards, the First Lady returned to Corpus Christi for an evening cocktail party and dinner. She continued to Goliad the next day to complete her tour of Texas.

For Superintendent Borgman and his staff in 1968, the dedication day was a significant milestone. The staff banded together and in a very short time put together the first major event in the park's short history. The staffs scrapbook of photographs and memorabilia reflect the pride of accomplishment that had largely eluded the park staff in its initial years. National Park Service managers and local officials forwarded numerous congratulatory notes to Borgman and his staff in the months following the dedication. In many ways, the success of the dedication proved that Padre Island National Seashore was a viable park entity that was here to stay.

Public Relations and Special Events, 1970 - 1990

The completion of permanent park facilities communicated a positive message to the public in the late 1960s, but the park staff became the best means for developing good public relations in the 1970s. National Seashore staff members often spoke to community groups on the Park Service and the resources of the barrier island. Park rangers met the public daily and, to the surprise of some visitors, were excellent ambassadors for the new park. [13]

In 1972 National Seashore Superintendent James McLaughlin reported that in addition to the large number of talks presented by staff, that several events that year strengthened public relations. A campfire program at Malaquite Beach in March brought more than 60 park visitors. After McLaughlin told the crowd of the history and development of the National Park Service, the park staff led them in group singing and showed the film "Our Living Heritage." Later that year, the park sponsored a "Tenth Anniversary" celebration. Park staff presented special programs and conducted tours of Little Shell Beach. In the evening Superintendent McLaughlin again talked about the National Park Service and the Flour Bluff High School band played musical selections under the Malaquite Pavilion. [14]

The National Seashore staff grew into an extended family in these early years of the park. To facilitate communication, the staff published what was first called the "Padre Island National Seashore Employee News," that was changed in March 1972 to the "Gulf Breeze." This publication often reported on a special park organization for the National Seashore women. The group met occasionally and participated in area community activities such as the Festival of Flowers in Corpus Christi. Their exhibits often covered topics like dune preservation, beach combing, and anti-litter campaigns. [15] The group continued to meet through the end of the 1970s.

On a more regular basis, the National Seashore sought ways to serve area residents. Local television stations sometimes produced special stories on Padre Island, such as on grass fires and beach tar. The staff also began to offer beach and surf condition reports on a regular basis to local broadcasting stations. This was later expanded by installing a 24-hour answering service that gave callers information on tides, surf conditions, fishing, weather, and driving conditions. [16]

In the 1980s the National Seashore developed few new programs or methods of outreach to the public. On special occasions, the park staff arranged exhibits on the park or topics related to activities at the National Seashore. Chief Naturalist Robert Whistler often organized these events. In 1980 Whistler and other staff members sponsored a booth at Padre Staples Mall in celebration of the Year of the Coast. He again led the park staff for Public Lands Day in 1988 that recognized the 1986 Public Lands Clean Up Act. [17] In 1989 under the new Chief of Interpretation John Lujan, the staff set up special exhibits for Bayfest and the Ultimate Yacht Race Festivals in Corpus Christi. [18] A few special events also occurred in the 1980s. The most notable even took place in June 1987 when the National Seashore dedicated a new Visitor Information Center in Flour Bluff.

Lady Bird Johnson - HISTORY

Claudia Johnson, known as “Lady Bird,” was an environmentalist, businesswoman, political activist, and First Lady.

Born Claudia Alta Taylor on December 22, 1912 in Karnack, Texas. As a child, someone remarked that she was as cute as a “lady bird” and the nickname stuck. Johnson grew up in a wealthy household, her father was a businessman and her mother remained at home to care for the children. Johnson’s mother died when she was young and she was placed under the care of her maternal aunt. As a child, Johnson was shy and reserved. Her family members recalled that she spent much of her time outdoors, a past time that inspired her throughout her life. Johnson excelled in grade school and finished high school at the age of 15. She attended the University of Alabama for a short time, but later decided to return to Texas. She graduated from St. Mary’s Episcopal College and the University of Texas with a degree in journalism.

Johnson was introduced to her future husband Lyndon by a mutual friend. The couple married in 1934. After her parents passed away, she inherited a large sum of money, which she invested in several radio and television stations. Johnson funded many of her husband’s early political campaigns with this money. Her shrewd investments made her one of the only first ladies to earn one million dollars before her husband became president. In 1960, Lyndon was selected as President John F. Kennedy’s running mate, Johnson was immediately thrust into the spotlight as second lady. She was often forced to attend events that the first lady could not attend. After Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson unexpectedly became First Lady of the United States

Johnson seemed to transition into the role of first lady naturally. She hired her own staff which included aides and a press secretary. She also became one of the earliest first ladies to do a solo tour. In addition, she began a national effort to beautify the county. She advocated for the “Highway Beautification Act” which focused on planting flowers alongside the national highway system.

When it was time for re-election, Lyndon won by a landslide and started his next four years in office with Lady Bird as his key advisor. "What we knew, at all times, was that she was the most trusted, most loyal, most dependable person that President Johnson could turn to on any issue, but her presence was never one of intruding," said Tom Johnson, a top former aide to the President and future head of CNN.

Johnson also used her influence to call attention to the need to preserve important historic parks such as the California Redwoods and the Hudson River in New York by visiting them with the media in tow. With her support, 200 laws related to the environment passed during Johnson’s presidency. Before he left office, Lyndon presented her with a plaque that read: "To Lady Bird, who has inspired me and millions of Americans to try to preserve our land and beautify our nation. With love from Lyndon."

In 1969, the Johnsons retired to their ranch near Austin, Texas. However, Johnson remained active in public life. Starting in 1969, she served for many years on the council of the National Park Service’s Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings and Monuments. In 1970, she published a book about her experiences in the White House called White House Diary. In 1971, the governor of Texas appointed her to the University of Texas System Board of Regents, which was a large focus of her time over the next several years. She also worked with her husband to build his presidential library, which opened in the University of Texas in Austin in 1972.

After her husband’s death, Johnson traveled the world and continued work to beautify the nation and Texas in particular. In 1983, she founded the National Wildlife Research Center in Austin, Texas, which works to re-establish native plants in natural and planned landscapes. It was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1998. Johnson served as the chairperson of the Center’s Board of Directors since its founding. She also served a number of other boards, including the Board of the National Geographic Society. Johnson always enjoyed spending time with her family and occasionally mingling with tourists at the LBJ Ranch in Texas.

She received scores of awards over her lifetime. Two of her most prestigious were bestowed by Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, the Medal of Freedom in 1977 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1988. Johnson passed away in 2007 at the age of 94. Her funeral was attended by multiple heads of state.

Watch the video: President Reagans Remarks on Congressional Gold Medal to Lady Bird Johnson on April 28, 1988 (July 2022).


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