|Lived:||December 22, 1912—July 11, 2007 (aged 94)|
|Career:||First lady of the United States, 1963-1969 |
Second lady of the United States, 1961-1963
Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson, "Lady Bird" was married to the 36th president of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, and was first lady from 1963 to 1969.
Johnson was born December 22, 1912, in Karnack, Texas. She has been known as Lady Bird since childhood, when her nursemaid, Alice Tuttle, nicknamed her in comparison to the small bird by the same name. Johnson graduated with bachelor's degrees in history from the University of Texas at Austin (1930-1933) and in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin (1933-1934). On November 17, 1934, she was married to Lyndon Baines "LBJ" Johnson, a former teacher, congressional aide and National Youth Administration state official, at Saint Mark's Episcopal Church, San Antonio, Texas.
Lyndon Johnson made his first run for the U.S. Congress in 1936, following a campaign that was partially funded by $10,000 Mrs. Johnson had inherited from her mother. During World War II, Congressman Johnson enlisted as a Lt. Commander in the Navy, serving in the Pacific, 1941 to 1942. In his absence, Mrs. Johnson ran his congressional office, composing correspondence, coping with political problems arising in his district and giving special attention to visiting constituents.
In 1943, Mrs. Johnson invested $17,000 from the final settlement of her mother's estate in the purchase of KTBC, a small Austin, Texas, radio station. KTBC had limited broadcast hours and was in considerable debt. She hired new on-air talent, found commercial sponsors, kept all the financial accounts and even cleaned up the old facility. She would serve as manager and then as chairman of what later came to be known as KLBJ for some four decades. Lyndon Johnson used his influence with the FCC to permit KTBC to increase its transmission region and to broadcast all-day round. By the time the family sold the enterprise in the 1980s, it was a media conglomerate that had provided them with substantial earnings. Mrs. Johnson further diversified with investments in large ranching properties, which she also managed.
After six terms in Congress (1937 to 1949), Lyndon Johnson was elected to the United States Senate (1949 to 1961), where he was eventually elected majority leader. His success was aided by his relationship with Speaker Rayburn. Mrs. Johnson took a substantive and publicly active role in the 1960 campaign for Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy. With Lyndon Johnson's ascendance to the vice presidency (January 20, 1961 to November 22, 1963), Mrs. Johnson became the nation's Second Lady. Often with only a moment's notice, she substituted for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy at scheduled events when Kennedy was unable to appear.
When President Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963, Lyndon Johnson assumed the role as president. Mrs. Johnson kept fully abreast of the intricacies of Lyndon Johnson's legislation. She developed camaraderie with the wives of cabinet members, aides and congressional leaders. On May 24, 1965, she addressed the two-day White House Conference on Natural Beauty, setting a tone for the various pieces of environmental and conservation legislation the administration would initiate over the next four years.
Following her time as first lady, Mrs. Johnson accepted membership on the National Park Service's Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments.
Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson died July 11, 2007, in Austin, Texas, at the age of 94.