The LBJ Library Remembers Cactus Pryor (1923-2011)
Aug 30, 2011
Richard “Cactus” Pryor was a friend, advisor, co-worker, and the humorous soul of the Johnson family and the LBJ Library. Cactus was first heard on Lady Bird Johnson’s radio and television stations, KTBC in Austin (The radio station later became 590 KLBJ.) He was a broadcasting legend: Cactus delivered the news, played records, served as programming manager, hosted a variety of shows, and even swept the floors. During Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, Cactus helped organize and provide entertainment for many heads of state. At every opportunity, the Johnsons asked Cactus to serve as the emcee at programs.
For many years, Cactus, the entertainer extraordinaire, dressed in costume to give away the Texas Highway Department’s Beautification Award, a monetary prize given to Highway Department employees sponsored by Mrs. Johnson.
On April 1, 1993, Cactus spoke to the Friends of the LBJ Library. Please enjoy this encore presentation and the wonderful stories Cactus tells about his career and working with the Johnson family.
Quote from Luci Baines Johnson
“No greater love could a grown man give than to dress as a bluebonnet. In green tights and blue plumage Cactus marched Mama’s cause of protection of our Wildflowers onto the stage and into the hearts of countless Texans. Cactus Pryor truly was an ‘Austin original,’ a true folk hero of our time!
He performed for Presidents and Prime Ministers in the Texas White House as comfortably as countless philanthropic efforts in Texas’ school houses.
For nearly ninety years he made us laugh, learn, love and sometimes cry all at the same time. He could have spent his extraordinary talent on the national stage. Instead he chose to give it to the people of Central Texas.
He spent over half a century of his professional life in our family’s broadcasting business. Each year he presented our board with the record of thousands of hours he had selflessly given to community causes. He never even thought of seeking compensation for his service to community. He was the ultimate ‘professional volunteer.’
I don’t remember life without Cactus, and I can’t bear to think of it now. But I know for sure that Mother and Daddy are leading the applause for his debut in Heaven. And every time I think of ‘one- liner wisdom,, social justice, natural beauty, or a good laugh, I’ll think of Cactus and rejoice. He was my lifelong friend.” - Luci Baines Johnson
Quote from Lynda Johnson Robb
“From the 50s, when he was my mentor at the radio station, (I never was very good at the switchboard,) to our glorious vacations days at Martha’s Vineyard where he adopted my teenage daughter, Jennifer, as his buddy, Cactus has been a source of joy to my family. I will miss his humor, loyalty, and his intellect. He was the model of the good and faithful friend from the Bible.” - Lynda Johnson Robb