Lady Bird Johnson

First Lady of the United States from 1963 to 1969

Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson (December 22, 1912 – July 11, 2007) was the first lady of the United States from 1963 to 1969 as the wife of the 36th president of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson. Before becoming first lady, she was the second lady of the United States from 1961 to 1963 when her husband was vice president.[1]

Lady Bird Johnson
Official portrait, October 1967
First Lady of the United States
In role
November 22, 1963 – January 20, 1969
PresidentLyndon B. Johnson
Preceded byJacqueline Kennedy
Succeeded byPat Nixon
Second Lady of the United States
In role
January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963
Vice PresidentLyndon B. Johnson
Preceded byPat Nixon
Succeeded byMuriel Humphrey
Personal details
Claudia Alta Taylor

(1912-12-22)December 22, 1912
Karnack, Texas, U.S.
DiedJuly 11, 2007(2007-07-11) (aged 94)
West Lake Hills, Texas, U.S.
Resting placeJohnson Family Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
(m. 2017⁠–⁠1973)
ChildrenLynda Bird Johnson
Luci Baines Johnson



Early life


Claudia Alta Taylor was born on December 22, 1912, in Karnack, Texas to Thomas J. Jonson Taylor and Minnie Lee Pattillo. Her father, is of English ancestry and some Welsh and Danish. Her mother, also a native of Alabama, was of English and Scottish descent.

Taylor had two elder brothers named Thomas Jefferson Jr. and Antonio Taylor. When she was five years old, her mother fell down a flight of stairs while pregnant. She died of complications of miscarriage in 1918.[2]

She was later raised by her maternal aunt Effie Pattillo. She also visited her Pattillo relatives in Autauga County, Alabama, every summer until she was became an adult.[3]

Taylor was a shy and quiet girl who spent much of her youth alone outdoors.[4] She developed her lifelong love of the outdoors as a child growing up in the tall pines and bayous of East Texas, where she watched the wildflowers bloom each spring.[5]


Taylor at her graduation.

She graduated third in her class at the age of 15 from Marshall Senior High School in the nearby county seat. Despite her young age, her father gave her a car so that she could drive herself to school.

After graduating from high school in May 1928, Lady Bird entered the University of Alabama for the summer session, where she took her first journalism course. But, homesick for Texas, she stayed home and did not return for the fall term at Alabama.[6] Instead, she and a high school friend enrolled at St. Mary's Episcopal College for Women,[7] an Episcopal boarding junior college for women in Dallas.[8]

After graduating from St. Mary's in May 1930, Taylor toyed returned to Texas to Alabama. She enrolled into the University of Texas.[9] She received a bachelor of arts in history[10] with honors in 1933 and a second bachelor's degree in journalism in 1934.[11] Taylor was active on campus in different organizations, including Texas Orange Jackets, a women's honorary service organization, and believed in student leadership. Her goal was to become a reporter, but she also earned a teaching certificate.[12]

Marriage and family


A friend in Austin introduced Taylor to Lyndon B. Johnson, a 26-year-old Congressional aide working for Congressman Richard Kleberg.[13]

On their first date, at the Driskill Hotel,[14] Lyndon proposed. Taylor did not want to rush into marriage, but he did not want to wait. Ten weeks later, she accepted his proposal.[15] The got married on November 17, 1934, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in San Antonio, Texas.

They had two daughters together named Lynda Bird and Luci Baines Johnson.[16] The couple and their two daughters all shared the initials LBJ.



In January–February 1943, during World War II, Johnson spent $17,500 of her inheritance to purchase KTBC, an Austin radio station.[17] She bought the radio station from a three-man partnership from Robert B. Anderson. She served as president of the LBJ Holding Co., and her husband negotiated an agreement with the CBS radio network. Despite her husband's objections, Lady Bird expanded by buying a television station in 1952.

Eventually, Johnson's $41,000 investment turned into more than $150 million for the LBJ Holding Company. She was the first president's wife to have become a millionaire before her husband was elected to office.[17] She remained involved with the company until she was in her eighties.[18]

Second Lady, 1961–1963

Johnson in 1962

Johnson became the second lady of the United States when her husband was sworn in as the 37th vice president on January 20, 1961. As second lady, Johnson served as a substitute for Kennedy at official events and functions.[19] Within her first year, she had substituted for Kennedy at more than 50 events, roughly one per week.[20]

First Lady, 1963–1969

Johnson in her inaugural gown.

Johnson became the first lady of the United States when her husband was sworn in as the 36th president on November 22, 1963, after the President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Johnson standing in front of the South Lawn of the White House.

As first lady, Johnson traveled nationally on nine trips to raise awareness of parks and scenic areas, came out against adding dams to the Grand Canyon, and wrote letters and spoke for the preservation of the California Redwoods and other historic sites. She also visited historic sites, national parks, and scenic areas, accompanied by the National Park Service, a number of dignitaries and the media. Her nine beautification trips included Virginia historic places, the Hudson River in New York, and Big Bend National Park.

In 1964 Johnson formed the Committee for a More Beautiful Capital, responding to Mary Lasker's suggestion that she make Washington, D.C., a "garden city" and a model for the rest of the nation. Soon afterward Mrs. Lasker, a philanthropist who lobbied for medical research as well as for natural beauty and Johnson founded the Society for a More Beautiful National Capital, which received private donations for the project.

She was also highly involved in the president's war on poverty, focusing in particular on the Head Start project for preschool children. In 1965, she took the lead role in calling for passage of the Highway Beautification Act. The legislation called for control of outdoor advertising, including removal of certain types of signs along the nation's Interstate system and the existing federal-aid primary system.

As first lady, Johnson was also concerned with pollution, urban decay, recreation, mental health, public transportation and the crime rate. The committee agreed to plant flowers in triangle parks all over the city, to give awards for neighborhood beautification, and to press for the revitalization of Pennsylvania Avenue and the preservation of Lafayette Park. The committee also generated large donations of cash and azaleas, cherry trees, daffodils, dogwood and other plants in Washington's parks and green spaces.

Life after the White House

Johnson and her husband in December 1972.

After leaving the White House, Johnson continued to be active in public life. Her husband died of a heart attack in January 1973, four years after leaving office.[21] She remained in the public eye, honoring her husband and other presidents.[22]

In the 1970s, Johnson focused her attention on the Austin riverfront area through her involvement in the Town Lake Beautification Project. From 1971 to 1978, she served on the board of regents for the University of Texas System.[23] She also served on the National Park Service Advisory Board, and was the first woman to serve on National Geographic Society's board of trustees.[21]

In December 1973, after President Richard Nixon established the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac.[24]

Johnson at the 1977 National Women's Conference with First Lady Rosalynn Carter and former First Lady Betty Ford.

In November 1977, Johnson spoke at the 1977 National Women's Conference among other speakers including Rosalynn Carter, Betty Ford, Bella Abzug, Barbara Jordan, Cecilia Burciaga, Gloria Steinem, Lenore Hershey and Jean O'Leary.[25]

In June 1981, Dartmouth College stated that Johnson and former President Gerald Ford would serve as co-chairs of the fundraising committee for the Rockefeller Center for the Social Sciences.[26]

In 1982, Johnson and actress Helen Hayes founded the National Wildflower Research Center west of Austin, Texas, as a nonprofit organization devoted to preserving and reintroducing native plants in planned landscapes.[27] In 1994, the center opened a new facility southwest of Austin; they officially renamed it the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1995[28] in acknowledgment of her having raised $10 million for the facility.[29]

In 1988, Johnson convened with three other former first ladies, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, and Pat Nixon at the "Women and the Constitution" conference at The Carter Center to assess that document's impact on women. The conference featured over 150 speakers and 1,500 attendees from all 50 states and 10 foreign countries. The conference was meant to promote awareness on sexual inequality in the United States and other countries.[30]

Johnson in May 1990.

In September 1991, Johnson unveiled a new line of English porcelain flower sculpture that drew influence from American wildflowers in the Corrigan's Jewelry at NorthPark Center in Dallas.[31]

On April 6, 1990, President George H. W. Bush praised her for her support of her husband and work toward beautifying landscapes.[32]

Death and funeral


Johnson died at home on July 11, 2007, from natural causes, she was 94 years old.[33][34][35]

Johnson's funeral was a public event and was held on July 15, 2007, a ceremonial cortège left the Texas State Capitol. The family had a private burial in Stonewall, Texas and was later buried next to her husband at Johnson Family Cemetery.[36]

Honors and awards

Official portrait of Johnson in 1978.

On August 27, 1969, President Richard Nixon dedicated a grove of redwood trees as the "Lady Bird Johnson Grove" due to her efforts as first lady toward preserving national resources for Americans.[37]

Lady Bird Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford on January 10, 1977.

She received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1988.[38] In 1995, the National Wildflower Research Center in near Austin, Texas, was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. She and actress Helen Hayes founded the center in 1982.

Official White House portrait of Johnson.

In 1995, Lady Bird received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[39]

In November 1968, Columbia Island, in Washington, D.C., was renamed Lady Bird Johnson Park in honor of her campaign as first lady to beautify the capital.

After her death, Austin Mayor Will Wynn's office said that Town Lake is going to be renamed in her honor.[40] The lake was renamed Lady Bird Lake on July 26, 2007.[41]

In April 2008, the Lady Bird Johnson Memorial Cherry Blossom Grove was dedicated to Marshfield, Missouri.

In 1995, she received an Honor Award from the National Building Museum for her lifetime leadership in beautification and conservation campaigns.[42] She was also named the honorary chairwoman of the Head Start program.[40]

On June 7, 2008, Texas honored Lady Bird by renaming the state convention's Blue Star Breakfast as the 'Lady Bird Breakfast'.[43] In January 2009, St. Edward's University in Austin completed a new residence hall for upperclassmen bearing the name of Lady Bird Johnson Hall, or "LBJ Hall" for short.[44]

On August 28, 2008, Lady Bird Johnson High School was opened in her name in San Antonio, Texas.

On October 22, 2012, the United States Postal Service announced the issue of a souvenir Forever stamp sheet honoring Johnson as a tribute to her legacy of beautifying the nation's roadsides, urban parks and trails. The stamps were dedicated on November 30, 2012, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of The University of Texas at Austin.[45]

In 2013, Lady Bird was posthumously awarded the prestigious Rachel Carson Award. The award, presented by Audubon's Women in Conservation, was accepted by her daughter Lynda.[46]


  1. "Claudia Alta Taylor "Lady Bird" Johnson". The White House. Retrieved 2023-02-08.
  2. "Vibrant spirit takes Lady Bird from a small town to UT" Archived June 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. The Palm Beach Post.
  3. "The White House: The First Lady Bird". Time. August 28, 1964. Archived from the original on January 25, 2016. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  4. B., Henry (September 10, 1967). "A Talk With the First Lady". The New York Times.
  5. Wilson, Janet. "East Texas wildflower," Austin American-Statesman. July 13, 2007. p.2 (Lady Bird Johnson Commemorative Section)
  6. Russell, Jan Jarboe, Lady Bird, A Biography of Mrs. Johnson, 1999, New York: Scribner, pp. 69–70
  7. Murphy, DuBose (November 1, 1995). "St. Mary's College". Retrieved December 3, 2023.
  8. Russell (1999), pp. 70–71
  9. Russell (1999), pp. 71–72
  10. University of Texas, Austin, Yearbook 1933
  11. Russell (1999), p. 88
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  13. Woods, Randall Bennett (2007). LBJ: Architect of American Ambition. Harvard University Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0674026995.
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  16. Nemy, Enid (July 12, 2007). "Lady Bird Johnson, 94, Dies; Eased a Path to Power". The New York Times. Retrieved December 3, 2023.
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  19. ""... to leave this splendor for our grandchildren": Lady Bird Johnson, Environmentalist Extraordinaire". Organization of American Historians. Archived from the original on November 27, 2010.
  20. Hendricks, Nancy (2015). America's First Ladies: A Historical Encyclopedia and Primary Document Collection of the Remarkable Women of the White House. ABC-CLIO. pp. 305–306.
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  22. Godbold, E. Stanly Jr. (2010). "Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter: The Georgia Years, 1924–1974". Oxford University Press. p. 237.
  23. DeBard, Amanda; Philip Jankowski (July 12, 2007). "A former first lady leaves us her legacy". The Daily Texan. Archived from the original on June 5, 2008.
  24. 373 – Statement on Signing a Bill Establishing the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac. (December 28, 1973)
  25. "1977 National Women's Conference: A Question of Choices," November 21, 1977, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting
  26. "Dartmouth College officials say former President Gerald Ford and ..." UPI. June 25, 1981.
  27. "About Us – Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center". Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  28. "The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at a Glance" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 14, 2012. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
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  30. Carter, Jimmy (2008). Beyond the White House: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope. Simon & Schuster. p. 233. ISBN 978-1416558811.
  31. "Lady Bird Johnson accepts gift for Wildflower Center". UPI. September 29, 1991.
  32. "Remarks at the 25th Anniversary Celebration of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Inauguration". George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. April 6, 1990. And I think those who know Lyndon better than I would say that she was his anchor and his strength. And she never failed him. And she was always there. And as she has once again today, Lady Bird brought to the White House dignity and warmth and grace. And she was never on stage, never acting out some part, always the same genuine lady no matter what the setting. Her gift of language is a combination of both elegance and simplicity, a vivid imagery that charms our country to this very day. Mrs. Johnson, you, too, have left this nation a very important legacy. Barbara reminds me of that every single day. And those who travel by car along the banks of the Potomac, or who walk or bicycle along its paths, are each day struck by the wonder of your gift.
  33. "Lady Bird Johnson, Former First Lady, Dies at 94", The New York Times, Associated Press, July 11, 2007
  34. 4:18 (CDT) Former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson Dies at 94 Archived July 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Fox News
  35. Obituary, The Daily Telegraph, July 13, 2007, p. 29
  36. Shannon, Kelley (July 15, 2009). "Lady Bird Johnson laid to rest in Texas". The Denver Post. Associated Press. Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  37. Young, Robert (August 28, 2017). "Nixon Names Grove in Lady Bird's Honor". Chicago Tribune.
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  39. "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  40. 40.0 40.1 Wilson, Janet (July 12, 2007). "Lady Bird Johnson dies at 94". Austin American-Statesman. Archived from the original on February 19, 2012. Retrieved July 22, 2007.
  41. Raskin, Amy (July 27, 2007). "Austin renaming Town Lake for Lady Bird". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
  42. Brozan, Nadine (June 10, 1995). "Chronicle". The New York Times.
  43. Moritz, John; Root, Jay (June 6, 2008). "Texas Dems ready to put differences aside". Star-Telegram.[dead link]
  44. "Residence Hall Construction Moves Ahead". St. Edward's University. May 21, 2008. Archived from the original on May 31, 2008. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  45. Bolen, Robert (October 22, 2012). "Environmentalist Lady Bird Johnson to be Featured on Forever Stamp".
  46. Weinreich, Regina (August 1, 2013). "Lady Bird Johnson, Rachel Carson and Women Conservationists Honored at the National Audubon Society Luncheon". HuffPost. Retrieved January 26, 2019.