Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady 1963, Died at 94

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Dead, Claudia Alta Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson on July 11, 2007 at the age of 94, she was First Lady of the United States (1963–69), as the wife of the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson.

Born in Karnack, Texas, a town in Harrison County, near the state’s border with Louisiana on December 22, 1912, her birthplace was “The Brick House,” an antebellum plantation mansion on the outskirts of town, which her father had purchased shortly before her birth.

After marrying LBJ in 1934 when he was a political hopeful in Austin, Texas, she used a modest inheritance to bankroll his congressional campaign, and then ran his office while he served in the navy.

Next, she bought a radio station and then a TV station, which soon made them millionaires.

As First Lady, she broke new ground by interacting directly with Congress, employing her own press secretary, and making a solo electioneering tour.

Her mother was the former Minnie Lee Pattillo (1874–1918), an opera lover who felt out of place in Karnack and who was often in “poor emotional and physical health.”

When Lady Bird was five years old, Minnie fell down a flight of stairs while pregnant and died of complications of miscarriage.

In a profile of Lady Bird Johnson, Time magazine described Lady Bird’s mother as “a tall, eccentric woman from an old and aristocratic Alabama family, [who] liked to wear long white dresses and heavy veils [… and who] scandalized people for miles around by entertaining Negroes in her home, and once even started to write a book about Negro religious practices, called Bio Baptism.

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 being homesick for Texas, she did not return for the fall term at Alabama.

Instead she and a high school friend enrolled at St. Mary’s Episcopal College for Women, a strict Episcopal boarding junior college for women in Dallas, where she “converted to the Episcopal faith,” though she waited five years to be confirmed.

In January, 1971, Mrs. Johnson was appointed to a six-year term as a member of The University of Texas System Board of Regents.

She was a life member of The University of Texas Ex-Student Association, and was a member of the International Conference Steering Committee (1981-82) and The University of Texas Centennial Commission.

For many years, Mrs. Johnson was a trustee of the National Geographic Society, and continued as a trustee emeritus.

She also served as a member of the National Committee for the Bicentennial Era and as co-chairman of the Advisory Council of the American Freedom Train Foundation.

Mrs. Johnson was appointed to the Advisory Council to the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration by President Ford.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Mrs. Johnson to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.

On her 70th birthday in 1982, Mrs. Johnson founded the National Wildflower Research Center, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the preservation and re-establishment of native plants in natural and planned landscapes.

She donated 60 acres of land and a sum of money to establish the Center which serves as a clearing house of information for people all over the country.

She realized her long-held dream in 1995 when the Center moved into its new and larger facility.

In December, 1997, the Center was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in honor of Mrs. Johnson’s 85th birthday.

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