Home > Archives > Lady Bird Johnson's Biography
Mrs. Lyndon Baines Johnson
Mrs. Lyndon Baines Johnson was born Claudia Alta Taylor in Karnack, Texas on December 22, 1912. She died in Austin, Texas on July 11, 2007 at the age of 94 and was buried beside her husband in the family cemetery at the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall, Texas.
Mrs. Johnson's father was Thomas Jefferson Taylor, owner of a general store who declared himself "dealer in everything." Her mother, Minnie Pattillo Taylor, died when the little girl was but five-years old. She had two older brothers, Tommy and Tony. After her mother's death, Mrs. Johnson's Aunt Effie Pattillo moved to Karnack to look after her. At an early age, a nursemaid said she was "as purty as a lady bird" -- thereafter she became known to her family and friends as "Lady Bird." Mrs. Johnson grew up in the "Brick House" and attended a small rural elementary school in Harrison County, Texas. She graduated from Marshall High School in 1928, and attended Saint Mary's Episcopal School for Girls in Dallas from 1928 to 1930.
Mrs. Johnson entered the University of Texas in 1930 and received a bachelor of arts degree in 1933 with a major in history. She earned a journalism degree in 1934. Many colleges and universities have awarded Mrs. Johnson honorary degrees. Throughout her life, she supported and was very interested in the activities of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, both located on The University of Texas campus in Austin.
After a whirlwind courtship, Claudia Alta Taylor and Lyndon Baines Johnson 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) (Mrs. Charles S. Robb) resides in Virginia; and Luci Baines Johnson (1947) (married to Ian Turpin) lives in Austin, Texas. Mrs. Johnson had seven grandchildren -- one boy and six girls -- and eleven great-grandchildren. President Johnson died at his beloved LBJ Ranch on January 22, 1973.
Mrs. Johnson was the author of A White House Diary, a record of her activities which she kept during the years her husband served as the 36th President of the United States. About writing A White House Diary, Mrs. Johnson said, "I was keenly aware that I had a unique opportunity, a front row seat, on an unfolding story and nobody else was going to see it from quite the vantage point that I saw it." She also co-authored Wildflowers Across America with Carlton Lees.
During her White House years, Mrs. Johnson served as honorary chairman of the National Head Start Program, a program for underprivileged pre-school children which prepares them to take their places in the classroom on a par with their peers.
In 1977, President Gerald Ford presented Mrs. Johnson with this country's highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom. Mrs. Johnson received the Congressional Gold Medal from President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
In January, 1971, Mrs. Johnson was appointed to a six-year term as a member of The University of Texas System Board of Regents. She was a life member of The University of Texas Ex-Student Association, and was a member of the International Conference Steering Committee (1981-82) and The University of Texas Centennial Commission. For many years, Mrs. Johnson was a trustee of the National Geographic Society, and continued as a trustee emeritus. She also served as a member of the National Committee for the Bicentennial Era and as co-chairman of the Advisory Council of the American Freedom Train Foundation. Mrs. Johnson was appointed to the Advisory Council to the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration by President Ford. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Mrs. Johnson to the President's Commission on White House Fellowships.
In 1966, Mrs. Johnson was presented the George Foster Peabody Award for the television program, "A Visit to Washington with Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson on Behalf of a More Beautiful America." She received the Eleanor Roosevelt Golden Candlestick Award from the Women's National Press Club in 1968.
First and foremost, Mrs. Johnson was an environmentalist, and she was an active worker on innumerable projects. In Washington, she enlisted the aid of friends to plant thousands of tulips and daffodils which still delight visitors to our nation's Capital. The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 was the result of Mrs. Johnson's national campaign for beautification. In 1999, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt presented Mrs. Johnson with the Native Plant Conservation Initiative Lifetime Achievement Award. At that time he said, "Mrs. Johnson has been a 'shadow’ Secretary of the Interior' for much of her life."
Mrs. Johnson was honorary chairman of the LBJ Memorial Grove on the Potomac in Washington, D. C. She also chaired the Town Lake Beautification Project, a community effort to create a hike and bike trail and to plant flowering trees along the Colorado River in Austin, Texas. She became a member of the National Park Service's Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings and Monuments in 1969 and served on the council for many years. In 1969 Mrs. Johnson founded the Texas Highway Beautification Awards, and for the next twenty years, she hosted the annual awards ceremonies and presented her personal checks to the winners. She was a trustee of the American Conservation Association.
On her 70th birthday in 1982, Mrs. Johnson founded the National Wildflower Research Center, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the preservation and re-establishment of native plants in natural and planned landscapes. She donated 60 acres of land and a sum of money to establish the Center which serves as a clearing house of information for people all over the country. She realized her long-held dream in 1995 when the Center moved into its new and larger facility. In December, 1997, the Center was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in honor of Mrs. Johnson's 85th birthday. Mrs. Johnson was chairman of the Wildflower Center's board of directors until her death.
In honor of her 80th birthday and many contributions to the betterment of our environment, the Lady Bird Johnson Conservation Award was established in 1992 by the LBJ Foundation Board of Directors.
In December 1972, President and Mrs. Johnson gave the LBJ Ranch house and surrounding property to the people of the United States as a national historic site, retaining a life estate in the Ranch. Mrs. Johnson continued to live at the Ranch in Stonewall, Texas until her death. She was a member of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Texas.
OTHER AWARDS PRESENTED TO MRS. LYNDON B. JOHNSON INCLUDE:
Togetherness Award, Marge Champion, 1958
Humanitarian Award, B'nai B'rith, 1961
Businesswoman's Award, Business and Professional Women's Club, 1961
Theta Sigma Phi Citation, 1962
Distinguished Achievement Award, Washington Heart Association, 1962
Industry Citation, American Women in Radio & Television, 1963
Humanitarian Citation, Volunteers of America, 1963
Distinguished Alumni Award, The University of Texas Ex-Student Association, 1964
George Foster Peabody Award for the television program, "A Visit to Washington with Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson on Behalf of a More Beautiful America," 1966
Eleanor Roosevelt Golden Candlestick Award, Women's National Press Club, 1968
Damon Woods Memorial Award, The Industrial Designers' Society of America, 1972
Conservation Service Award, Department of the Interior, 1974
American Legion Distinguished Award, 1975
Ladies Home Journal "Woman of the Year" Award for Quality of Life, 1975
Abraham Lincoln Award, Southern Baptist Convention, 1976
Medal of Freedom, awarded by President Gerald Ford, 1977
Texas Women's Hall of Fame, 1984
National Achievement Award, American Horticultural Society, 1984
Wildflowers Across America Award of the Year, Garden Writers Association, 1994
Texan of the Year Award, State of Texas, 1985
Lord & Taylor Rose Award, 1987
Congressional Gold Medal awarded by President Ronald Reagan, 1988
Gold Seal Award for Distinguished Service and Achievement, National Council of State
Garden Clubs, 1990
Lone Star Lifestyle Visionary Award, J.C. Penney Company, 1990
Tom Dodd, Jr. Award of Excellence, 1990
Star in Our Crown, Victoria Magazine, 1993
Charles Leonard Weddle Memorial Award, Native Plant Society, 1994
Lifetime Achievement Award, Nature Conservancy of Texas, 1994
Texas Federation of Women's Clubs Award, 1994
Motorola Earth Day Award, 1995
Golden Plate Award, American Academy of Achievement, 1995
National Building Museum Honor Award, 1995
Chairman's Award, National Geographic Society, 1995
Conservation Achievement Award, Southwest Regional Office of the National Park
Laurance Spelman Rockefeller Conservation Award for Distinguished Service, 1996
Caritas of Austin's Harvey Penick Award, 1996
Environmental Law Institute Award, 1996
Star of Texas Preservation Award, Gillespie County Historical Society, 1996
The Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) International Award of Excellence, 1997
The Heritage Society of Austin Sue and Frank McBee Visionary Award, 1997
The 39th Annual Freeman Award, 1998
The Edith Wharton Achievement Award for Landscape Preservation, 1998
Denver Botanic Gardens Medal for Eminent Contributions and Leadership, 1998
Lifetime Achievement Award, Native Plant Conservation Initiative, 1999
The Texas Audubon Society Centennial Award for Conservation, 1999
Cornerstone Award, Texas Society of Architects, 2000
Theodore Roosevelt National Park Medal of Honor, National Park Foundation, 2000
The Daughters of the American Revolution Medal of Honor, 2003
Texas Intercollegiate Press Association Hall of Fame Award, 2004
Edwin P. Hubble Award, Edwin P. Hubble Society, 2004
History Making Texan Award, The Texas State History Museum Foundation, 2005
National Conservation Achievement Award for Conservationist of the Year,
National Wildlife Federation, 2005
Lindy Boggs Award, Stennis Center for Public Service, 2005
Cornelius Amory Pugsley Medal, Academy of Park and Recreation Administration and
The National Park Foundation, 2005
Elizabeth Craig Weaver Proctor Medal, Garden Club of America, 2006
Humanitarian of the Year, The American Red Cross of Central Texas, 2007
Founders Award, The National Park Foundation, 2007 (awarded posthumously)
HONORARY DEGREES PRESENTED TO MRS. LYNDON B. JOHNSON:
The University of Texas, Austin, Texas, Doctor of Letters, 1964
Texas Woman's University, Denton, Texas, Doctor of Law, 1964
Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont, Doctor of Letters, 1967
Williams College, Massachusetts, Doctor of Humane Letters, 1967
Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas, Doctor of Humanities, 1967
The University of Alabama, Doctor of Humane Letters,1975
Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas, Doctor of Humane Letters, 1983
Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland, Doctor of Humane Letters, 1983
Weizmann Institute of Science, Honorary Fellow, 1985
George Washington University, Doctor of Public Service, 1986
Johns Hopkins University, Doctor of Humane Letters, 1990
State University of New York, Doctor of Humane Letters, 1990
Southern Methodist University, Doctor of Humane Letters, 1996
St. Edwards University, Doctor of Humane Letters, 1998
Boston University, Doctor of Humane Letters, 1998