Lady Bird Johnson
Lady Bird Johnson
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Claudia Alta Taylor
Karnack, Texas, U.S.
|Died||July 11, 2007 (aged 94)|
West Lake Hills, Texas, U.S.
|Resting place||Johnson Family Cemetery|
|Education||St. Mary's Episcopal College for Women|
University of Texas, Austin (BA, BJour)
|Signature||Lady Bird Johnson's signature|
Lady Bird Johnson, (December 22, 1912 – July 11, 2007) was First Lady of the United States (1963–69) during the presidency of her husband Lyndon B. Johnson. Before becoming First Lady, she was Second Lady of the United States from 1961 to 1963.
Johnson was born Claudia Alta Taylor in Karnack, Texas. Her parents were Minnie Patillo-Taylor (1868-1918) and T.J. Taylor. There is a story about her nickname, Lady Bird. Once a nursemaid said about her, "She's as purty as a ladybird.” This nickname continued, and people called her "Lady Bird." Some speculate that the nursemaid was referring to a "ladybug," which is also known as a "ladybird," when she gave Johnson this nickname. Johnson was of Danish, English, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry.
When she was a child, she developed love for the nature. Because of her efforts, the government of Texas agreed to plant wildflowers on the sides of the roads in Texas.
The First Lady
In 1963, a person shot John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States. Kennedy died after he was shot. At that time, Lady Bird Johnson’s husband, Lyndon B. Johnson, was the Vice President of the United States. Johnson became the President of the United States. Along with this, Lady Bird Johnson became the First Lady. She continued as the First Lady until 1969 till her husband retired as the President.
She was an active First Lady. She was the first First Lady to have a press secretary. Liz Carpenter, her fellow from the University of Texas, served as Lady Bird’s press secretary from 1963 until 1969. Carpenter also served as Lady Bird’s staff director.
As the First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson used her influence to achieve some new things for the society. Two important things were:
- She started a beautification program for Washington D.C., the capital city. The program aimed to improve the condition in the capital for the people who lived there, as also for the people who visited the capital. Based on this, many other states of the United States started similar programs for their capital cities.
- The US Congress passed the Highway Beautification Act in 1965. This Act (that is a law) restricted roadside advertisements. It also gave rules for planting flowers and plants on sides of the roads. All these made the highways more beautiful.
Even after retiring as the First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson continued to live an active life. She gave her time to programs that were for nature. She founded a non-profit organization. The name of the organization is Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The Center develops native plants of Americas and uses the same for cleaning up areas.
During 1970s, 1980s, and the early 1990s, Lady Bird Johnson was the most active presidential widow. During these years, Jacqueline Kennedy did not attend many functions, as she wanted to protect her privacy. However, with growing age, Lady Bird Johnson’s health became weak. She suffered two strokes: first one in August 1993, and the second one in May 2002. Her eyesight failed, and she could not speak. In February 2006, her daughter Lynda Johnson Robb informed people that her mother is now totally blind and that she "is not in very good health". Mrs. Robb said that she and her sister Luci Johnson Nugent still read to their mother and talk to her.
She was the only living Presidential widow from May 19, 1994 to June 5, 2004. This was the period between the death of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the day when Nancy Reagan was widowed. Lady Bird Johnson died on July 11, 2007. Lady Bird Johnson was 94 years old. She was the oldest First Lady alive until her death. She had even outlived Pat Nixon, who was First Lady after Johnson. Only one First Lady had lived longer: Bess Truman. Bess Truman had lived up to 97 years of age. Lady Bird Johnson, Bess Truman, Nancy Reagan and Betty Ford are the only four First Ladies to have lived over 90 years or more. The United States Secret Service continued to protect her until she died.
Many places and characters are named after Lady Bird Johnson:
- There is a park in Washington, D.C. named Lady Bird Johnson Park.
- There is a center in Austin, Texas named the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
- There is a lake in Austin, Texas named Lady Bird Lake.
- Hank Hill from King of the Hill once said that he named his dog, Lady Bird, after Lady Bird Johnson.