|Stonewall, TX||April 19, 2012|
“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson, better known by her lifelong nickname of “Lady Bird,” garnered great respect through her public service. The citation on the Presidential Medal of Freedom bestowed upon her by President Gerald Ford in 1977 reads, “One of America’s great First Ladies, she claimed her own place in the hearts and history of the American people. In councils of power or in homes of the poor, she made government human with her unique compassion and her grace, warmth and wisdom. Her leadership transformed the American landscape and preserved its natural beauty as a national treasure.” The wife of polarizing politician Lyndon Johnson, Lady Bird joined her husband at the family cemetery after 34 years of widowhood. This wayside stands outside the stone wall of the burial grounds in — fittingly — Stonewall, Texas.
The lineup of Johnson family members shown here, left to right, are Josefa Johnson Moss (the president’s sister), Oscar Price Bobbitt (the president’s brother-in-law), Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt (the eldest of the president’s four siblings, Lady Bird Johnson, President Johnson, and his mother, Rebekah Baines Johnson. The cemetery was established in 1905.
Lady Bird Johnson was second lady of the United States at the start of Friday, November 22, 1963, as she and her husband — the vice president — rode in a motorcade driving toward the Dallas Trade Mart. At 12:30 CST, two cars ahead of the Johnsons, President John F. Kennedy and Governor John Connally were shot. Kennedy was declared dead half an hour later, elevating Lyndon Johnson to the highest office in the land and making Lady Bird Johnson first lady under tragic circumstances.
Mrs. Johnson’s favorite flower was the Texas bluebell. That is the flora that is etched into her gravestone, which was ceremoniously unveiled by her surviving family on Sunday, December 20, 2009, two-plus years after her death. The red granite monument was culled from the same quarry in Fredericksburg, Texas, as the stone that stands over the 36th president’s grave. Her epitaph lauds her as “A gentle heroine for nature and mankind.”
Born: December 22, 1912 in Karnack, Texas
Spouse: Lyndon B. Johnson (m. 1934-1973)
Second Lady Tenure: 1961-1963
First Lady Tenure: 1963-1969
Died: July 11, 2007 in West Lake Hills, Texas
Cause of Death: Natural Causes
Interment: Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, Stonewall, Texas
"It certainly puts a lot of [adrenaline] in your blood and you learn about control. Also I had a great deal of sympathy and understanding, because these were my people. I am part Alabamian, and I knew how they felt. I didn’t agree with them, and I wanted to tone down the sharp edges of their feelings. I wanted to convince them that civil rights wasn’t going to hurt them—that all ships rise on a rising tide. At any rate, it simply had to be done, because it was the right thing."
-Lady Bird Johnson
summer 1980 in an interview with Barbara Klaw of American Heritage, discussing being heckled by white Alabamians over the Civil Rights Act during her whistle-stop tour of the South in October 1964
Klaw, Barbara. “Lady Bird Johnson Remembers.” American Heritage 32, no. 1. (1980). https://www.americanheritage.com/lady-bird-johnson-remembers.
National Park Service. “Family Unveils Headstone Marking Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson’s Grave.” Updated February 24, 2015. https://www.nps.gov/lyjo/learn/news/mrsjohnsonheadstoneunveiled.htm (accessed December 31, 2021).