Claudia Alta ‘Lady Bird’ Johnson (born Claudia Alta Taylor) was married to Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, and functioned as First Lady in the period 1963-1969. She was born in Karnack, Texas in 1912, on December 22, and was a well-educated woman, a good manager, and a clever investor.
Her mother died when she was only five, and already then she was nicknamed ‘Lady Bird’. She majored in history in 1930 at the University of Texas and earned a degree in journalism in 1934. Many universities and colleges awarded Mrs. Johnson honorary degrees.
Lady Bird Johnson devoted much of her time to the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and the Library and Museum that bears his name, which are both situated on the Austin campus of the University of Texas. Claudia and Lyndon were married in 1934, on November 17th, and had two daughters.
She wrote ‘A White House Diary’ which is an actual record of all her activities during her husband’s presidency, and she was also the co-author of ‘Wildflowers Across America’, that she wrote together with Carlton Lees. During her White House years, Lady Bird chaired the National Head Start Program, which prepares underprivileged children for a regular school education.
In 1971, she was appointed as a Board of Regents member of The University of Texas System, and besides many other functions, served on The University of Texas Centennial Commission. Mrs. Johnson was a true environmentalist and actively involved in numerous projects. In 1969, Mrs. Johnson set up the Highway Beautification Awards in Texas, and during the next 20 years, she continued to host the annual ceremonies to present the winners her personal checks, and she also was a dedicated member of the American Conservation Association.
In 1982, on her 70th birthday, she established the National Wildflower Research Center, a not-for-profit environmental protection organization committed to preserving and re-establishing native plants in both planned and natural landscapes. For the realization of the project, Mrs. Johnson donated considerable funds and a large piece of land. The Center moved to a larger facility in 1995, and it was renamed the ‘Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’.
In late 1972, President and Lady Bird donated the LBJ Ranch, including the surrounding property, to become a national historic site, but kept a modest part of the Ranch, where Lady Bird continued to live until her death. President Gerald Ford honored Mrs. Johnson in 1977 with the Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian award, and in 1988, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President Ronald Reagan.
In 1999, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, honored her by presenting the ‘Native Plant Conservation Initiative Lifetime Achievement Award’, and he added that Lady Bird Johnson has functioned as ‘shadow’ Secretary of the Interior for the major part of her life.” Lyndon B. Johnson passed away on his LBJ Ranch in 1973, and Lady Bird died in 2007.