Lady Bird Johnson
Claudia Alta Taylor was born in 1912 in Karnack, Texas, and it was a childhood nursemaid who gave her the nickname “Lady Bird.” She graduated from Marshall High School, attended a junior college in Dallas, and eventually went on to study history and journalism at UT. She planned a career in journalism but then met and soon married Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1934. She helped finance his fledgling political career with an inheritance. He won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1937, and during the Second World War when he was enlisted in the Navy, Lady Bird ran his congressional office. In 1943 Lady Bird invested in a radio station in Austin forming LBJ Holding Co., for which she served as president. The radio and television stations that she bought eventually made the Johnsons millionaires.
Johnson went on to win a seat in the U.S. Senate and then became Vice President under President Kennedy. Lady Bird took on a large role during the 1960 presidential campaign. A pregnant Jacqueline Kennedy was not able to travel so Lady Bird substituted for her and helped the ticket win seven Southern states. When Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Lady Bird was at Johnson’s side while he was sworn in as President.
Austin’s own First Lady of the U.S. did not settle for the status quo of the position. Lady Bird was the first to have a staff of her own, with fellow Texan Liz Carpenter working as her press secretary. She soon got to work on a capital beautification project to improve Washington, D.C. by planting millions of flowers. She was instrumental in passing the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, also called the “Lady Bird Bill.” She started a series of Women Doers Luncheons, helped promote the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and advocated for the Head Start program.
[Lady Bird Johnson], 1968, PICB 17596