Lady Bird Johnson

From Academic Kids

White House portrait
White House portrait

Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson, known commonly as Lady Bird Johnson, (born December 22, 1912), as the wife of Lyndon B. Johnson, was First Lady of the United States from 1963-1969.

She was born in Karnack, Texas to Minnie Patillo-Taylor and T.J. Taylor. Her nickname of "Lady Bird" originated while she was an infant. A nursemaid commented on her, "She's as purty as a ladybird." She graduated from Marshall Senior High School in Marshall, Texas and studied journalism and art at St. Mary's Episcopal School for Girls and the University of Texas at Austin. She married Lyndon Baines Johnson, a future President, on November 17, 1934. They had two daughters, Lynda Bird Johnson, wife of Charles S. Robb, and Luci Baines Johnson, who married Pat Nugent and Ian Turpin.

She is known for her support of the environment, which she developed as a child growing up near Caddo Lake in East Texas. She helped convince Texas to plant wildflowers on state highways. As First Lady of the United States she started a capital beautification project (Society for a More Beautiful National Capital) to improve physical conditions in Washington, DC, both for residents and tourists. Her efforts inspired similar programs throughout the country. She was also instrumental in promoting the Highway Beautification Act, which sought to beautify the nation's highway system by limiting billboards, and by planting roadside areas.

Missing image
Lady Bird Johnson's childhood home in Karnack, Texas.

In the 1970s after the White House years she focused her attention on Austin, Texas' riverfront area through her involvement in the Town Lake Beautification Project. She founded the National Wildflower Research Center, a national nonprofit organization devoted to preserving and reintroducing native plants in planned landscapes. The center is now known as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

She is an advocate of the Head Start program.

At the age of 92, she is the oldest surviving First Lady of the United States, having even outlived one of her successors, Pat Nixon. Only one former First Lady has lived longer, Bess Truman was 97 years of age at her death on October 18, 1982. Mrs. Johnson, along with Bess Truman are the only First Ladies of the United States to live to the age of 90 years or more. Should Lady Bird Johnson live to or beyond August 26, 2010, she will become the longest living First Lady of the United States.

She was the only living Presidential widow from May 19, 1994 - June 5, 2004; between the death of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the day when Nancy Reagan became widowed.

Even while a widow, she has been active making public appearances, honoring her husband and other presidents, as did her daughters, and was the most active presidential widow during the 1970s, 1980s, and the early 1990s as her predecessor, Jacqueline Kennedy, became unable to attend functions in her final years due to privacy concerns. However, due to her advanced age and frailty, Mrs. Johnson has largely curtailed her public schedule in recent years.

Preceded by:
Jacqueline Kennedy
First Lady of the United States
Succeeded by:
Pat Nixon

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