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Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson was born Claudia Alta Taylor in Karnack, Harrison County, Texas in 1912.  Her father was Thomas Jefferson Taylor II, who owned a general store and used the profits to acquire farmland that he used to plant cotton.  At one time he owned 12,000 acres of land dedicated to raising cotton.  Claudia’s mother was the former Minnie Pattillo.  Thomas and Minnie were married in 1900 and both had originally come to Texas from Alabama.  Claudia was the youngest of three children and the only daughter born to Minnie and Thomas.  The family legend is that a caretaker had given the nickname Lady Bird to her, saying that she was as pretty as a lady bird.

Lady Bird went to school in Karnack and Jefferson, Texas and also attended school for short time in Alabama.  She graduated early from Marshall (Texas) High School and attended St. Mary’s College, no longer in existence but formerly a college for girls operated under a branch of the Episcopal Church.  The school closed about 1930, about the time Lady Bird enrolled at University of Texas at Austin.  There she earned a Bachelor’s degree in history in 1933 and a Bachelor’s degree journalism, graduating cum laude, in 1934.  It was in Austin that she met her future husband, Lyndon Baines Johson, shortly after she graduated from college.

The couple dated briefly and were married several months later in November of 1934 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio, Texas.  After a short honeymoon in Mexico, they set up their home in Washington, DC.  At the time, Johnson had been serving as an aide to U. S. Representative Richard Kleberg.  Although her life after this was somewhat defined by the career of her husband Lyndon Johnson, she remained a winsome and appealing person.  Johnson ran for a seat in the U. S. Congress in 1937.  He then served in the U. S. Navy during World War II.  He did not resign his office, and Lady Bird effectively ran it while he served.  Also during World War II, Lady Bird acquired radio station KTBC in Austin which became the first holding of a successful family business for the Johnsons.  Lady Bird was said to have a strong business sense and developed and diversified the holdings, creating financial income for the family.

After the war, Johnson was elected to the U. S. Senate.   Johnson had served six terms in Congress from 1937 to 1949, and went on to serve in the Senate until 1961.  While living in Washington, the oldest of their two daughters (Lynda) was born in 1944 and the youngest (Lucy) was born in 1947.  A life long Democrat, he campaigned for President in 1960, losing to John Kennedy, after which he was selected as Kennedy’s Vice President.  Johnson may have had qualms about accepting the role of Vice President, but the Kennedy-Johnson ticket was made more popular in the South with Johnson’s presence.  Lady Bird was a tireless campaigner. Johnson ascended to the presidency in 1963 following the assassination of President Kennedy in Texas.  The President, Governor John Connally and their spouses were in the car together and the Johnsons were behind them in another car the motorcade.  Lady Bird was thrust into the role of First Lady.

Lady Bird was involved in the issues that were prominent in the next presidential election, including civil rights.  Johnson pressed for passage of the bill that became known as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  That year, Johnson went on to win the nomination at the Democratic National Convention and then proceeded to defeat Sen. Barry Goldwater handily in the national election.

As First Lady, she was involved in issues of the administration and took a special interest in issues that were important to her, such as women’s education and leadership, the war on poverty, environmental issues, beautification of the land, conservation, education of underpriviledged children and the like.  She also received and dealt with criticism for the administration’s involvement in the Vietnam War.  Both of the Johnson sons in law served in Vietnam.

Johnson’s health was also a major concern, having survived an earlier heart attack in 1955.  The years of his presidency seemed to take a toll on him and Lady Bird encouraged him not to run for a second term.  Johnson agreed and made a now familiar nationally televised speech announcing his decision.

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(Image credit: New York Times)

Once the couple retired, they returned to the family property just outside Stonewall, Texas.  Lady Bird continued to speak and act on issues that were important to her.  The couple worked on planning the presidential library on the campus of University of Texas in Austin.  Lady Bird also served a term as a regent of University of Texas from 1971 to 1977.

Johnson suffered what was termed a massive heart attack in the summer of 1972 and died in early 1973.  The couple had deeded their ranch to the National Park Service in late 1972 but retained the right to live there.  Following Johnson’s death it became her residence.  Lady Bird continued to remain active in issues such as women’s rights, environmentalism and the like.  She received numerous awards for her work and achievements in these areas.

Lady Bird suffered a stroke in 1993 and lost much of her vision due to macular degeneration.  She suffered another stroke in 1999 as her health continued to decline.  Lady Bird died in 2007 and was buried in the Johnson Family Cemetery on the LJB Ranch in Texas.  At the age of 94, she had become the longest living First Lady, though the longest living First Lady in history is still Bess Truman (97), as of this writing.

Lady Bird received numerous awards including the Medal of Freedom in 1977.  She was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984 and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1988.  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center was founded by Lady Bird and her friend and fellow wildflower lover Helen Hayes in 1982.  Located just outside Austin, its mission is to use “native plants to restore and create sustainable, beautiful landscapes.”  The complex encompases 284 acres of land and has been known as the Botanic Garden of Texas since 2017.

Other links:

LBJ Presidential Library

LBJ Ranch (National Park Service)

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site (Texas Parks and Wildlife)

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Posted by on November 7, 2019 in biography, texas women

 

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Ann Miller

Ann Miller was the stage name of Johnnie Lucille Collier, born April 12, 1923 in Chireno, Nacogdoches County, Texas.  Her father was John A. Collier, a criminal defense lawyer known for representing clients such as Baby Face Nelson, Machine Gun Kelly and the Barrow Gang. Her mother was the former Clara Emma Birdwell.  As a young girl, Johnnie suffered from rickets and took dance classes to help strengthen her legs.  She also studied piano and violin.  The family moved to Houston, Texas where she lived until she was nine years old.  Eventually her parents divorced and she moved with her mother to Los Angeles.

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Posted by on September 19, 2019 in biography, entertainers, texas women

 

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Sarah Horton Cockrell

Sarah Horton was born in Virginia on 13 January 1819 to Enoch and Martha Stinson Horton.  She moved with her family to Dallas County, Texas near Eagle Ford in 1844, becoming one of the pioneer families in the area.  In September of 1847, she married Alexander Cockrell.

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Posted by on June 27, 2019 in biography, texas women

 

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Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Mildred Ella Didrikson was born June 26, 1911 to Ole and Hannah Marie Olsen Didriksen in Port Arthur, Texas.  Her father was a carpenter in the maritime industry.  When she was three years old, the family moved to Beaumont, Texas where she went to public school.  She was a gifted athlete and excelled at about every sport she participated in.  She picked up her nickname “Babe” (after Babe Ruth, the baseball star) after slugging five home runs in a baseball game, though her mother said her nickname had been “Baby” earlier on.  She adopted the spelling Didrikson when she was an adult.

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(Image credit: ancestry.com)

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Posted by on May 2, 2019 in biography, texas women

 

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Belle Starr

Belle Starr, the famous “female outlaw” was born Myra Maybelle Shirley on February  5, 1848 to John and Elizabeth Shirley in rural Missouri near the town of Carthage.  It was a time when bandits, either male or female, were celebrated in some ways.  Her family lived on a farm.  Reportedly, they were also slave owners in a time when strong attitudes for or against slavery divided residents especially in so-called border states.  Her family later sold their rural property and moved into Carthage where they ran the inn and several other businesses.  The civil war came and a brother joined the Confederate army and more specifically the controversial outfit known as Quantrill’s Raiders.  Her brother Bud Shirley was killed in Missouri in a skirmish between Union and Confederate troops.  The economy had generally deteriorated in Missouri because of the war and the Shirleys packed up and moved to near Scyene, Texas, at the time located southeast of Dallas, around 1864.

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Posted by on April 4, 2019 in biography, outlaws and crimes, texas women

 

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Minnie Lou Bradley

Minnie Lou Ottinger Bradley was born December 15, 1931 to Thomas and Zulema Young Ottinger in western Oklahoma.  At an early age, she showed a strong interest in livestock as she grew up on the family wheat farm.  She joined the 4-H Club and actively participated, although the Future Farmers of America (FFA) was then limited to male members.  While in 4-H, she exhibited Angus cattle, sheep and swine.  At age ten, she won a blue ribbon at the Oklahoma State Fair for sheep raised on her ranch.  After graduating from high school in Hydro, Oklahoma she enrolled at Oklahoma State University, first chartered as Oklahoma Territorial Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1890 and then commonly known as Oklahoma A&M.  She was the first female student to enroll in animal science, graduating in 1953 and minoring in agricultural journalism.

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Posted by on March 7, 2019 in biography, cattle breeds, texas women

 

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Teresa Urrea, Known as Santa Teresa

In the Roman Catholic tradition, Santa Teresa is a saint.  Briefly, she was born Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada in 1515 in Ávila, Spain.  She is known as St. Teresa of Ávila, and is considered to be one of the most devout women of the Roman Catholic Church.  She was known for her devotion to God through prayer and contemplation.  Santa Teresa died in 1582 and was canonized as a saint in 1622.

Not to be confused with the Roman Catholic saint, another woman born Niña Garcia Noña Maria Rebecca Chávez and known as Teresa Urrea, also Saint Teresa of Jesus, Saint Teresita Of Cabora or simply Santa Teresa in northern Mexico in 1873, had an interesting history as well and was connected to Texas and Mexico.  Her father is believed to have been Don Tomás Urrea and her mother was a Yaqui Indian by the name of Cayetana Chávez who was fourteen years old when Teresa was born.

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Posted by on February 7, 2019 in biography, texas women

 

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