Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor Johnson
Claudia Alta Taylor was born in Karnack, Texas on December 22, 1912. Her father, Thomas Jefferson Taylor, owned a general store. Her mother, Minnie Pattillo Taylor, died when the little girl was just five years old. She had two older brothers, Tommy and Tony. After her mother's death, Lady Bird's "Aunt Effie" Pattillo moved to Karnack to look after her. When Claudia was little, a nursemaid said she was "as purty as a lady bird" — and Claudia became known to her family and friends as "Lady Bird."
Lady Bird Taylor attended a small elementary school in Harrison County, Texas. After graduating from Marshall High School in 1928, she attended Saint Mary's Episcopal School for Girls in Dallas from 1928 to 1930. Lady Bird enrolled at the University of Texas in 1930 and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1933 with a major in history. In 1934 she earned a journalism degree.
Later that year, Lady Bird met Lyndon Baines Johnson. After a short courtship, they were married on November 17, 1934 at Saint Mark's Episcopal Church in San Antonio, Texas. Two daughters were born to the Johnsons: Lynda Bird Johnson (1944) and Luci Baines Johnson (1947).
After they married, LBJ gave his wife a movie camera which she used to film the Johnson family and their political life through the years. You can watch many of Mrs. Johnson's home movies here.
During her White House years, Mrs. Johnson kept a record of some of her activities and things she observed during the years her husband served as the 36th President of the United States. Her book, A White House Diary, reveals some of those activities. It is the first memoir written by the wife of a U.S. President.
Mrs. Johnson received many awards during her lifetime. In 1966, she was presented the George Foster Peabody Award for the TV program, "A Visit to Washington with Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson on Behalf of a More Beautiful America." In 1977, President Gerald Ford presented Mrs. Johnson with this country's highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom. She also received the Congressional Gold Medal from President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
Mrs. Johnson valued education. As First Lady, she was very involved in Head Start, a program that helps low-income children prepare for kindergarten. After leaving the White House, she supported and attended the activities of the LBJ Library and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, both located on The University of Texas campus in Austin. Many colleges awarded Mrs. Johnson honorary degrees. You can see a list of them here.
Lady Bird Johnson also cared about the environment. In 1965, she helped organize the planting of thousands of tulips and daffodils in Washington, D.C. They still bloom every year. She also led a community effort to create a hike and bike trail and to plant flowers and trees along the Colorado River in Austin, Texas.
In 1972, on her 70th birthday, Mrs. Johnson founded the National Wildflower Research Center. It is a non-profit organization that helps plant and preserve and native flowers, grasses and trees in natural and planned landscapes. She also gave 60 acres of land and a sum of money to fund the center. In 1995 the center moved into a new and larger building. It was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in December of 1997 in honor of Mrs. Johnson's 85th birthday.
After leaving the White House, the Johnsons lived at the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall, Texas. In December 1972, President and Mrs. Johnson gave the LBJ Ranch to the people of the United States as a national historic site. Mrs. Johnson continued to live there until her death in Austin, Texas on July 11, 2007 at age 94. She is buried beside her husband in the family cemetery at the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall, Texas.