Claudia Taylor (Lady Bird) Johnson
[Lyndon B. Johnson]
Biography: Christened Claudia Alta Taylor when she was born in a
country mansion near Karnack, Texas, she received her nickname "Lady Bird" as a small
child; and as Lady Bird she is known and loved throughout America today.
Perhaps that name was prophetic, as there has seldom been a First Lady so
attuned to nature and the importance of conserving the environment.
Her mother, Minnie Pattillo Taylor, died when Lady Bird was five, so she
was reared by her father, her aunt, and family servants. From her
father, Thomas Jefferson Taylor, who had prospered, she learned much
about the business world. An excellent student, she also learned to love
classical literature. At the University of Texas she earned a bachelor's
degree in arts and in journalism.
In 1934 Lady Bird met Lyndon Baines Johnson, then a Congressional
secretary visiting Austin on official business; he promptly asked her for
a date, which she accepted. He courted her from Washington with letters,
telegrams, and telephone calls. Seven weeks later he was back in Texas;
he proposed to her and she accepted. In her own words: "Sometimes Lyndon
simply takes your breath away." They were married in November 1934.
The years that followed were devoted to Lyndon's political career, with
"Bird" as partner, confidante, and helpmate. She helped keep his
Congressional office open during World War II when he volunteered for
naval service; and in 1955, when he had a severe heart attack, she helped
his staff keep things running smoothly until he could return to his post
as Majority Leader of the Senate. He once remarked that voters "would
happily have elected her over me."
After repeated miscarriages, she gave birth to Lynda Bird (now Mrs.
Charles S. Robb) in 1944; Luci Baines (Mrs. Ian Turpin) was born three
In the election of 1960, Lady Bird successfully stumped for Democratic
candidates across 35,000 miles of campaign trail. As wife of the Vice
President, she became an ambassador of goodwill by visiting 33 foreign
countries. Moving to the White House after Kennedy's murder, she did her
best to ease a painful transition. She soon set her own stamp of Texas
hospitality on social events, but these were not her chief concern. She
created a First Lady's Committee for a More Beautiful Capital, then
expanded her program to include the entire nation. She took a highly
active part in her husband's war-on-poverty program, especially the Head
Start project for preschool children.
When the Presidential term ended, the Johnsons returned to Texas, where
he died in 1973. Mrs. Johnson's White House Diary, published in
1970, and a 1981 documentary film, The First Lady, A Portrait of Lady
Bird Johnson, give sensitive and detailed views of her contributions
to the President's Great Society administration. Today Lady Bird leads a
life devoted to her husband's memory, her children, and seven
grandchildren. She still supports causes dear to her--notably the
National Wildflower Research Center, which she founded in 1982, and The
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library. She also serves on the Board of the
National Geographic Society as a trustee emeritus.