What a pleasure it is to be reminded of the grace and warmth of Lady Bird Johnson—the centennial of her birth, December 22, 1912, is being celebrated with events throughout the year. Not only did she soften the edges of her husband, LBJ (the big galoot!), but her hospitality and kindness is also credited for steadying the nation after JFK was assassinated and LBJ took office. Her passion was wildlife and conservation in general, and flowers in particular, which is why the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center was founded in Austin, Texas, with gardens you can tour. In honor of the centennial, A Bouquet for Mrs. J, new eight-foot tall metal sculptures of Lady Bird’s beloved bluebonnets and other flowers, dot the grounds.
The camera loved the First Lady; her vitality shines in this and other images in this post, all from the Lady Bird Johnson Centennial Website.
Born Claudia Taylor, the future First Lady was deemed “purty as a lady bird” by a nursemaid. The nickname stuck. Today she is remembered chiefly as the steel magnolia behind LBJ and for her First Lady’s Committee for a More Beautiful Capital, which she expanded into the entire nation, with special attention to roadsides. Less known is that she was a very successful businesswoman, who in her early 30s bought a failing radio station with an inheritance from mother, revived it, and spun it into television and cable television business.
She once said, “Some may wonder why I chose wildflowers when there are hunger and unemployment and the big bomb in the world. Well, I, for one, think we will survive, and I hope that along the way we can keep alive our experience with the flowering earth. For the bounty of nature is also one of the deep needs of man.”
Lady Bird was also a champion of using native plants: “I have always been a natural tourist. Lyndon used to say I kept ‘one foot in the middle of the big road.’ Wherever I go in America, I like it when the land speaks its own language in its own regional accent.”
This pretty scarf, $69.95, is a tribute to Lady Bird. Virginia artist Joan Griffin created it in hand painted silk with a bouquet that includes the Indian paintbrushes, black-eyed Susans and bluebonnets the late First Lady Loved. No two are exactly alike, and each scarf measures 30” square and may be gently washed by hand.
Here are some upcoming events:
November 15, 2012 – First Ladies Symposium and Evening Program. Laura Bush and Barbara Bush discuss their experiences following two panel discussions that feature historians and staff of present and former first ladies at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum.
December 2012 – The U.S. Postal Service begins to sell a souvenir sheet of a new Lady Bird Johnson stamp and the five Beautify America stamps she unveiled in the 1960s.
December 16, 2012 – Come join the Texas Hill Country community for the 43rd Annual LBJ Tree Lighting at the LBJ State Park, which will bring in the holiday season and celebrate Mrs. Johnson’s life and legacy.
December 22, 2012 – In celebration of Lady Bird Johnson’s 100th birthday, the LBJ Library will open newly redesigned exhibits on Saturday, December 22. On that day, visitors are invited to tour the new exhibits and enjoy birthday cake, music, and discounts at The Store at LBJ.