The First Lady's Gallery with Catherine Robb
Hello—I’m Catherine Robb.
December 22, 1998, Lady Bird Johnson's 86th birthday, marked the opening of a new permanent exhibit at the LBJ Library and Museum about the former First Lady—my grandmother. The First Lady's Gallery is a portrait of Mrs. Johnson's legacy as a humanitarian, an unofficial diplomat, and a champion of the environmental movement.
The centerpiece of the Gallery, where I’m standing, is a replica of the Lady Bird Special— the Whistle Stop Train that my grandmother took across the south during the 1964 re-election campaign. That trip started the tradition of candidates’ wives independently campaigning for their husbands. This re-creation of the caboose platform of the "Lady Bird Special" and campaign memorabilia commemorates her time on the campaign trail. My grandmother loved people, and this trip gave her the chance to get to know the people of this country. She was a journalist by profession so it was a thrill for her to get a chance to hear what people were thinking and feeling and be able to report that back to my grandfather, Lyndon Johnson, and try to reflect the needs and wants and desires and dreams of the American people.
1. The First Lady's Gallery tells the story of Lady Bird Johnson—from the time she met Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1934 to her role as First Lady and then onto life after the White House.
2. The gallery begins when Claudia "Lady Bird" Taylor met LBJ in 1934. Their first date was over coffee at the historic Driskill hotel in downtown Austin, Texas and is portrayed in an original painting commissioned for The First Lady’s Gallery.
3. This wall also features some of the original love letters that my grandparents wrote to each other during their courtship and a video performance of Kirk Douglas and Helen Hayes reading them aloud.
4. Through the many documents memorializing her life, my grandmother’s life and loves and hopes and dreams can be seen clearly. The love letters really give you a special insight into the relationship between Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson. One of them expresses my grandmother’s concern in the early days of their courtship that it might indeed be politics that Lyndon Johnson was interested in.
5. And of course her suspicions proved to be right. She was concerned because politics wasn’t necessarily her cup of tea. But Lyndon Johnson was very much her cup of tea and service to others was, too. So she made her peace, and it was a great love affair with him and with public service.
Listen to an intimate telephone conversation between LBJ and Lady Bird, recorded on August 4, 1964. You can read the transcript here.