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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lady Bird Johnson (1912 - 2007)

Lady Bird Johnson, the widow of President Lyndon B. Johnson, died this afternoon at her home in Austin, Texas. She was 94.

Mrs. Johnson was a calm and steadying influence on her often moody and volatile husband as she quietly attended to the demands imposed by his career. Liz Carpenter, her press secretary during her years in the White House, once wrote that “if President Johnson was the long arm, Lady Bird Johnson’s was the gentle hand.”

She softened hurts, mediated quarrels and won over many political opponents. Johnson often said his political ascent would have been inconceivable without his wife’s devotion and forbearance. Others shared that belief.

Mrs. Johnson developed her own public projects. She was an early supporter of the environment and, in championing highway beautification, worked to banish billboards and plant flowers and trees.

The Lady Bird Johnson Park in Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, is an outgrowth of her First Lady’s Committee for a More Beautiful Capital. She founded the $10 million National Wildflower Research Center in Austin, Tex., which opened in April 1995 and changed its name to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1998. The center conducts research and provides information on plants, landscaping and conservation.

Mrs. Johnson was known for her even temper, although she did not always consider it an asset. “I think it might be better to blow up sometimes,” she once said.

Mrs. Johnson was born Claudia Alta Taylor on Dec. 22, 1912 in a big red brick house in the East Texas town of Karnack (population 100). The youngest of three children and the only girl, she acquired the name Lady Bird as a toddler after a nursemaid described her as “purty as a lady bird.”

“It has been a wonderful life, I feel like a jug into which wine is poured until it overflows.” - Lady Bird Johnson, 1992

"The First Lady is an unpaid public servant elected by one person - her husband. " - Lady Bird Johnson

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