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Claudia Alta Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson nonagenarian

National Public Radio did a nice story about Mrs. Johnson.

They mentioned some of her own accomplishments, including as

  • media mogul (radio) at a time when women did not participate in business, much less ran large ones
  • impetus for the Highway Beautification Act 1965 (Lady Bird Act) which removed highway billboards
  • as tireless worker for native plants photo from http://www.wildflower.org/ladybird/

These last two are hard to believe these days would have been much of a challenge to implement. But for anyone who witnessed the difference along federal highways and along the streets and parks of Washington, DC, and the then opposition , it was an amazing effort. The wildflower research center will be a lasting legacy, among others.

the first solo whistle-stop tour of a first lady in history (1964)
founded a national wildflower research center in Austin (1982)
first First Lady to receive Congressional Gold Medal (1988)

She was not the longest living First Lady (Bess Truman, 97 years).

Claudia Alta Taylor was born in Karnack, Texas, near the Louisiana border, on Dec. 22, 1912. She was 2 years old when she was given her nickname by a maid who described her as “purty as a lady bird.”

She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1934 with bachelor of arts and bachelor of journalism degrees, and met Johnson, then a congressional aide, the same year…. In 1988 she received the Congressional Gold Medal for her environmental and humanitarian work, becoming the first wife of a president to do so.
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N11219716.htm

In 1943, Mrs. Johnson bought a failing low-power daytime-only Austin radio station with an inheritance from her mother. Armed with her journalism degree and a tireless work ethic, she took a hands-on ownership role, selling advertising, hiring staff, and even cleaning floors. Over time, her Austin broadcasting company grew to include an AM and FM radio station and a television station, all bearing the same call letters: KTBC… Mrs. Johnson stayed actively involved in the LBJ Holding Company well into her 80s.
http://www.wildflower.org/ladybird/

Stay tuned over at Ed Darrell’s place for his perspective, as a Texas historian. Update. The direct link–
Steel magnolias have nothing on Lady Bird Johnson, who understood the power of a blanket of flowers, the importance of roots and family, and how much grace can mean to those who get it.

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