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[LBJ Library photo #D4076-18 by Frank Wolfe]

Memorable Moments at the LBJ Library

“When we talked about programs—President Johnson and Mrs. Johnson and I—the idea was that they should be as broad as the Great Society. This was an administration which not only brought Medicare and education reform and civil rights, but it brought art and the humanities to all parts of the country.” — Harry Middleton, Inaugural Director of the LBJ Presidential Library

President Johnson was conscious that the chief purpose of this institution was to make the record of his service available to history. But he was also determined to make the Library a forum for world’s most progressive and innovative thinkers.

Since its dedication in 1971, the LBJ Library has hosted educational and political symposia, award-winning authors, photographers, and actors, and programs with former Presidents and First Ladies, world leaders—even royalty. As we count down to December 22, 2012, when we will debut new exhibits to a new generation, we’ll be sharing 22 of the most memorable moments in the 40-year history of the LBJ Library.

1. Grand reopening of the LBJ Presidential Library - December 22, 2012

The LBJ Library opened the new core exhibit to the public with a ribbon-cutting and festivities that included a birthday cake celebrating Mrs. Johnson's Centennial.

[LBJ Library photo by Lauren Gerson]

2. Reflections of First Ladies - November 15, 2012

 Former First Ladies Mrs. Barbara Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush discussed the experiences and legacies of the First Lady of the United States in a special event at the LBJ Library. Library Director Mark Updegrove moderated the conversation.

3. An Evening With John Glenn  - October 31, 2012 

Fifty years ago, John Glenn made his famous orbital flight aboard Friendship 7 and became the third American and the fifth human being  to venture into space. After that historic flight, Vice President Lyndon Johnson was on hand to greet him and called him a great pioneer of history. Former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn shared his thoughts on his remarkable career in a conversation with LBJ Library Director Mark K. Updegrove on October 30, 2012

4. An Evening With Mikhail Gorbachev - October 18, 2011

Former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev visited the LBJ Library on October 18, 2011. When Mark Updegrove asked how history would regard him, Mr. Gorbachev replied through his translator, “The answer is ‘good.’ That’s a joke. My second joke is that history is a fickle lady, but I’m proud of the life that I have lived. And let history decide.”

5. The Legacy of All The President’s Men  -  April 21, 2011 

“In the 35 years since “All the President’s Men” made its debut, it’s become not only a classic film but a film for the ages. And that’s not only because of the remarkable narrative storytelling ability of its producer and its star, Robert Redford, but because of the compelling story that he was able to tell that of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein breaking the Watergate burglary story, which ultimately resulted in the resignation of our 37th President, Richard Nixon. At the center of this film, at its core, is a message: No man or woman in the United States of America is above the law.” –Mark Updegrove

6. Harry Middleton Lectureship Series: Sandra Day O’Connor - November 30, 2010

Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor answered questions about her background in the southwest and her experiences on the high court. Larry Temple, who served as Special Counsel to President Johnson, moderated the conversation.

7. The Apollo 8 Reunion – April 16, 2009

In honor of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Centennial and the 50th anniversary of the creation of NASA, the LBJ Library and Museum hosted an Apollo 8 Reunion on April 23, 2009. The Reunion honored not only the three astronauts on that historic mission, but also the men and women on the ground who made their illustrious journey a reality. The evening panel featured Astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders. Former NBC News anchor Jim Hartz served as moderator.

8. Harry Middleton Lectureship Series: Tom Brokaw - April 13, 2009

One of the most trusted and respected figures in broadcast journalism, Tom Brokaw spoke at the LBJ Library in 2009 in our Annual Harry Middleton Lectureship series. His topic was “Lessons from the Greatest Generation.”   
“However you feel about these efforts in Iraq and in Afghanistan—betrayed, ambivalent, supportive—we have a common obligation to honor those people who put on the uniform and risk their lives in the service of their country.  We honor the warriors whatever the warfare.”--Tom Brokaw

9. Final Tributes to LBJ & Mrs. Johnson  - January 23, 1973 + July 11, 2007

President Johnson’s body was taken to the LBJ Library to lie in state in the Great Hall, where more than 32,000 people stood in line to pay their last respects. It was then then taken to Washington, where it would lie in state at the Capitol rotunda until the funeral. President Johnson is buried at the LBJ Ranch near Stonewall, Texas.

[LBJ Library photo #d4853-6 by Frank Wolfe]

Mrs. Johnson’s body was carried to the LBJ Library in a natural wood casket that was covered with wildflowers. She lay there in repose before being buried at the ranch beside her husband. Read more.

[LBJ Library photo #DIG12737-0085 by Frank Wolfe]

10. The State of the American Presidency - April 12-14, 2000

In April of 2000, former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford joined an array of political, media and academic leaders at the LBJ Library to consider how changes in the American Presidency would affect the first Presidential administration of the new millennium and the ones to follow in a symposium called "The State of The American Presidency." “One of the best pieces of advice that I ever received came from a great Texas Speaker of the House," Ford said. "Shortly after I was sworn in, in 1949, Sam Rayburn got together all the new members of the House and gave them a lecture, which was a tradition that he followed. And one of the things he said was, ‘Learn to disagree without being disagreeable.’ I’ve remembered that from the very beginning. That was always the guidepost for Sam Rayburn. That was good advice then. It would be excellent advice, I think, today.” 

11. An Evening With Walter Cronkite -  February 24, 1997

Walter Cronkite, who died in 2009, was known as “the most trusted man in America.” In his work as a television anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News, he reported some of the country’s most memorable events, including the assassination of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, American’s involvement in Vietnam, and 27 hours of the Apollo XI mission. In a 1977 presentation at the LBJ Library, he asked this question: “What date is it that we all learn in school and carry with us all the rest of our lives? October 12, 1492, when Columbus landed in America. The date that kids 500 years from now will remember will be July 20, 1969, the day man escaped his environment on earth and landed on a distant orb.  It’s a date that will forever live in history. They’ll say, ‘That was the Renaissance. That was the day we emerged from the dark ages. I’m just very glad that thanks to Lyndon Johnson and a few other far-sighted pioneers, it happened on our watch in the 20th century.”

12. An Evening With Robert S. McNamara - May 1995 

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara visited the LBJ Library in May of 1995. One of the architects of the war in Vietnam, he had served through the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. After he left office, he revealed in his memoir, In Retrospect, that he had changed his mind and he felt that he and the Presidents he served and the others that were involved had been wrong: “There are several reasons I’ve chosen to speak out about Vietnam now. The most compelling one I state in the preface and I’ll read it for you: We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who participated in the decisions on Vietnam acted on what we thought were the principles and the traditions of this nation. We made our decisions in the light of those values. Yet we were wrong. I believe we were terribly wrong. I believe, therefore, we owe it to future generations to explain why.” –Robert McNamara

13. Mrs. Johnson’s 80th Birthday – December 22, 1992

The LBJ Library celebrated Mrs. Johnson’s 80th birthday with a 4-by-6-foot cake decorated with wildflowers. She was honored that year with the establishment of the Lady Bird Johnson Conservation Award by the LBJ Foundation Board of Trustees to honor her many contributions for the improvement to our environment in America. “Goodness! I almost feel like pinching myself and saying, ‘Did that happen to me? Is this really me, living this and going through this day?’ And tonight is one of those nights when I wonder if it’s really happening to me. For all of it, I thank you all—with all my heart.” Read more here.

14. The World War II Exhibit Introduced by Colin Powell - April 21, 1992

“We gather this evening to open a marvelous exhibit commemorating World War II. I’ve just come from looking at the exhibit, and I hope that in the days ahead all of you will take time to do the same. What you will see when you walk through the exhibit are photographs and personal accounts of the people and places of World War II. These precious mementos open a wide window on America and through that wide window we see laid bare for us the tears, the heartaches, the courage, the laughter, and most of all the unconquerable spirit of the American people.” -- Chief of Staff of the United States Army Colin Powell

15. The Queen of England Visits the LBJ Library -  May 1991

“It was Governor Ann Richards who invited the Queen and her party to come to Austin, and she chose the LBJ Library as the place to have the royal visit and dinner. Governor Richards had no husband, and since it was going to be at the LBJ Library, I by default inherited that enviable task of escorting the Queen. I was really quite nervous about meeting Queen Elizabeth. But she was charming.” —Harry Middleton

16.  A Vietnam Roundtable – March 9, 1991

At the request of the LBJ Library, historians William Gibbons, George Herring, and Brian VanDeMark, who have worked extensively with the Library’s papers and who are familiar with its holdings on Vietnam, prepared a list of questions to which, in their opinion, the papers yield no satisfactory answers. On March 9, 1991, 22 former members of the Johnson Administration who were either in or near the decision making process on Vietnam met at the Library to consider those questions.


Mr. Barry Zorthian,  Minister-Counselor for Information, American Embassy, Saigon, 1964-68, and Larry Levinson, Deputy Counsel to President Johnson, 1966-1969. [LBJ Library photo #B9191-12 by Frank Wolfe]

17.  LBJ: The Difference He Made – May 3-5, 1990 

In  May of 1990, the LBJ Library and the University of Texas at Austin sponsored a symposium to examine the legacy of President Johnson’s domestic program. Close to seventy scholars, journalists, former government officials and private persons whose lives were touched by Great Society programs came together to analyze, discuss, criticize, and evaluate the body of legislation called the Great Society.

L-R: Douglass Cater, Elizabeth Carpenter, George Christian, Bill Moyers, Jake Pickle, Elspeth Rostow, Sargent Shriver, and Jack Valenti. [LBJ Library photo #B9038-32 by Frank Wolfe]

18. An Evening With Betty Ford — May 21, 1987

The Ford and Johnson families shared a long history, from the halls of Congress to the White House. The Library and Johnson family remember Betty Ford for her gracious manner, bravery in the face of adversity, independent spirit, and contributions to this country.
“One of the greatest joys is to have your own life in order and your own health so that, in a way, you can help somebody else. Alcoholism is the third leading cause of death in this country, following cancer and heart disease. But doctors don’t feel equipped to treat it. I thought that by talking openly about my own recovery, I could erase some of the stigma associated with alcoholism. I believe that the only way we’re going to erase that stigma is through education, such as programs like this, so that people will know that alcoholism is treatable.”—Betty Ford

19. Mrs. Johnson's 65th Birthday: Love Letters Read by Kirk Douglas and Helen Hayes - December 11, 1977

At a gala in celebration of Lady Bird Johnson’s 65th birthday, Kirk Douglas and Helen Hayes read excerpts from the Johnsons’ love letters. Mrs. Johnson had written in 1934, “Lyndon, Please tell me as soon as you can what the deal is….  I am afraid it’s politics….”

20.  Civil Rights Symposium - December 12, 1972

President Johnson's final public appearance was at the LBJ Library at a Civil Rights Symposium. Many distinguished participants included Barbara Jordan, the first African American woman from the south to serve in the U.S. Congress, and Julian Bond, who had been denied his seat in the Georgia Legislature for opposing the Vietnam War. Bond remembered fondly the years when a "human-hearted man had his hands on the levers of power. O, by God!, do I wish he was there now!"

21.  Educating a Nation: A Symposium on Education - January 24-25, 1972

President Johnson was trained as an educator and taught school as a young man before entering politics.  He wanted to be known as “The Education President.”  At the first symposium held at the LBJ Library, President Johnson announced the opening of his papers related to education policy. Following the symposium, the Library’s Reading Room opened for the first time. Since that day, more than 13,900 researchers have visited the Reading Room to use the Library’s vast archives. 


[LBJ Library photo #B4500-10 by Frank Wolfe[

22. Dedication — May 22, 1971

At the time of dedication, the Library was the largest and most expensive ever built for an American President [$18.6 million] and the first to have been built on a college campus. The Reverend Billy Graham delivered the invocation and President Richard M. Nixon gave a dedicatory address. A lunchtime barbeque was served to 3,000 guests.

“A Presidential Library is many things. It is the past: millions of documents—and, with the advance of technology, miles of motion picture film and countless yards of audio tape—all telling some part of the story of a time gone by. It is the present—a museum, filled with the voices and sounds of endless streams of tourists; and a quiet, book-lined corner where scholars can pursue their work. Most of all, it is the future. It holds many answers to the decisions and actions of the past. It is the place where, tomorrow, will be found the judgments and footnotes of history—and lessons which we hope will be learned.” --Lady Bird Johnson


At the time of dedication, the Library was the largest and most expensive ever built for an American President [$18.6 million] and, setting a precedent, the first to have been built on a college campus. The Reverend Billy Graham delivered the invocation and President Richard M. Nixon gave a dedicatory address. The dedication was followed by a lunchtime barbeque, served to 3,000 guests.

“A Presidential Library is many things. It is the past: millions of documents—and, with the advance of technology, miles of motion picture film and countless yards of audio tape—all telling some part of the story of a time gone by. It is the present—a museum, filled with the voices and sounds of endless streams of tourists; and a quiet, book-lined corner where scholars can pursue their work. Most of all, it is the future. It holds many answers to the decisions and actions of the past. It is the place where, tomorrow, will be found the judgments and footnotes of history—and lessons which we hope will be learned.” — Lady Bird Johnson