July 11, 2007

About the war, she said to her President husband: "How much can they tear us down? And what effect might it have on the way we appear in history?"

Lady Bird Johnson, dead at 94.
[T]he unpretentious woman from Texas found herself first lady of the United States....

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

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."
All I remember of Lady Bird is her work on highway beautification. Comedians made fun of her by saying "Beautify! Beautify!" Was it absurd to care that the highways were lined with billboards? Things really did look different then.
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, retired director of the LBJ Library and Museum, once said.
I didn't get the concern about beauty when there were so many troubles in the world, but it was a good cause, and beauty matters. She picked a good First Lady issue. There's a limit to what political spouses should do.

I visited the LBJ Library last March, and my post about it says nothing about Lady Bird. I'm sorry to see that. It's mostly because I didn't like any of the photos I took in the exhibit devoted to her. There were some dresses and china and handwritten notes. The dresses were tiny, as dresses worn by famous women so often are. So her profile was a bit small, but she did some good, and she lived a long time.

Goodbye, Claudia Alta Taylor.

27 comments:

Art Poster Lover said...

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Could you please take a look at www.gazillionmovies.com and make contact with me. Thanks in advance.

vet66 said...

For some reason when I remember the name of "Lady Bird Johnson" I think of quintessential Texas. Whether it be the TV show Dallas, The movie "Giant", Burma Shave sgins and long, lonely drives along I-10 between El Paso and Johnson City.

A great lady! She earned her place in history.

RIP

jimbino said...

She probably would have made a better president than her husband did. Her environmental program of tearing down billboards, cleaning up roads and removing junkyards made life better for the living, in contradistinction to the present environment-improvement agitation that promises to make life for the living miserable in return for the promise of 'improving' the environment for distant future generations.

ricpic said...

She reminded me of the innumerable genteel ladies I have known who were married to insufferable domineering bastards.

AlphaLiberal said...

Rest in peace.

Nels said...

Am I the only one who finds distasteful the media's obsession with superlatives? I can't turn on CNN without seeing a story about how Talladega Nights set a new box office record for a comedy opening on a Wednesday during a non-holiday week.

And now with this obituary: "The longest-living first lady in history was Bess Truman, who was 97 when she died in 1982."

Oh, darn, Lady Bird, if only you'd hung on for a few more years you might have really accomplished something with your life.

PatCA said...

She was to me Texas, graciousness, and gentility, in the highest meaning of the word.

I'll miss her and the qualities she embodied that somehow seem absent in life today.

Maxine Weiss said...

The beautiful bouffant hairdo inspired us all.

I love a good shampoo-n-set.

Althouse could use some back-combing.

rebel said...

Rest in Peace first lady. She seemed like a nice woman.

Unfortunately, "The Highway Beautification" program was another Great Society boondagle that was funded by the taxpayers.

I am all for making highways look good but this should be determined by the market or by private individuals and or coporations.

Terri said...

Every spring, the wildflowers in Texas beautify the highways naturally (especially the blue bonnets!). You have to see it to appreciate it. It is truly stunning. And Lady Bird Johnson was a huge advocate of our wildflowers. It is a shame you didn't get to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center when you were here.

SteveR said...

She deserves to be remembered as someone who made a valuable contribution. I'm no fan of LBJ, and especially those years before he became VP. Its fair to point out the downside of the government involvemnt in the highway beautification process but it no doubt turned the tide. She also did a good job keeping a low profile all these years since leaving D.C.

Drew W said...

I’m not sure how Lady Bird Johnson ought to be remembered, but it probably should be as more than just the dog on King Of The Hill.

I also remember comedians making fun of Lady Bird’s highway beautification campaign, which kind of paralleled jokes about LBJ picking his dogs up by their ears.

But I just found out a thing or two about the avian nomenclature of the Johnson women. Lynda Bird was not a nickname -- her actual name is Lynda Bird Johnson (Robb). And I always thought that her sister Luci was likewise nicknamed Luci Bird, but I now find out she wasn’t. Calling her that was such a common joke that I assumed it was true.

During the Johnson years, my big sister Wendy -- whose middle name is Robin -- was dubbed Wendy Bird by my dad, who still calls her that from time to time. I always assumed that nickname was my dad’s little spoof on the First Family, as we were a Republican household.

rebel said...

Speaking of keeping a low profile what ever happened to her? She left public office with LBJ in 1972 and I never heard anything about her or ever saw her in any news.

It is intersting though when remembering her of course we think of LBJ. When he was a politician Texas was a democratic state primarily and after he left the scene the state became more and more republican, as well as the country.
My not educated opinion is that there was a backlash of all of the big government programs that Johnson and the democrats supported during those years and as a result republicans gained control. Of course, I could be wrong too, just my opinion.

Internet Ronin said...

A college graduate when women were much fewer in number on college campuses, a degree in a field where female students were even rarer, a successful businesswoman who demonstrated both acumen and considerable foresight (including selling out at "the top"), a loving mother, a supportive spouse who stood by her husband for better and worse until death did they part, a savvy campaigner who did much to change the American landscape, and American cities, for the better, a rare public figure about whom little hint of scandal has been hinted, someone who aged gracefully and, by all accounts, demanded no great fanfare.

A life well lived indeed.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Maxine: You tease!

Bea Arthur said...
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Lisa said...

Ann, I think you have vastly understated Lady Bird's contributions by limiting them to "beautification" (a term she hated, by the way). Internet Ronin's comment comes closer to an accurate picture.

Lady Bird overcame the very early loss of her mother, was smart, well-educated and independent, had a serious effect on environmental causes in general and on the very beautiful Central Texas in particular, was a savvy and successful businesswoman and is largely credited as the foundation of her husband's political career and accomplishments. And while doing all of this, she was unfailingly gracious and decent.

Well done, Lady Bird!

Roger said...

For those of you too young to remember what our highways looked like in the 1950s and early 1960s, Mrs Johnson accomplished on hell of a lot in making driving from place to place a whole lot more pleasant--In my book, that is no mean accomplishment. RIP, Mrs Johnson.

paul a'barge said...

Here in Texas, Mrs Johnson made an immeasurable foot print. Since she passed away yesterday at 4:18 pm, the local radio stations have been running continuous commentary trying to cover all her accomplishments.

You people have no idea, and frankly you ought to fire up those snarky little keyboards and do some research.

She was one of the most impressive American heroes in our history.

Bea Arthur said...
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Fen said...

Face it. We lost the war. We were defeated. The United States and all our lives since have never been the same, because some corrupt cracker from Texas had to prove he had balls.

Interesting. I would place the blame of the peace hippies who sabatoged our will at home. The VC leadership admitted this was their tactic, and that it worked. Al Queda admits to following the same tactic. I guess cowards DO die a thousand deaths, generationally. Thanks alot.

Roger said...

"Some corrupt cracker"--I'll jut bet Ms Arthur would catch the vapours if someone referred to MLK as that corrupt n***ger. Just a guess mind you. Isn't about time you moved on? That bitterness must be a heavy load to carry. This piece was a remembrance of a fine lady and your mindless, warped diatribe is charitably speaking misplaced. And for the record, I fought in Viet Nam.

Internet Ronin said...
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Internet Ronin said...

It seems to me that last three commenters above have defiled this thread (and Mrs. Johnson in the process). Congratulations to you all. (Don't bother throwing bricks at me - I'm not coming back here again.)

Bea Arthur said...
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Roger said...

Sorry I can't delete mine, but please note I would if I could.

Bea Arthur said...
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