Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson (Lady Bird)
December 22, 1912—July 11, 2007
When we first moved to Cactus Hill in 1985, our daily commute to and from Austin was made much more pleasant by the beautiful countryside surrounding the highway. As part of her Beautification of America project during her husband's Presidency, Lady Bird Johnson pushed to clean up Texas highways and had the Highway Department plant wildflower seeds when they mowed the medians and roadsides. That spring was a truly spectacular wildflower year in central Texas. Driving through them every day was literally a thrill. I was so moved that I decided to write a thank-you note to Lady Bird, whose efforts had put all those gorgeous flowers where I could enjoy them.
A few days later a letter appeared in our mailbox from the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall, Texas. Sure enough, Lady Bird had answered me! Her letter was so gracious, so completely Lady Bird. I can just hear her voice when I read it. She had such a lovely way of speaking that, some have said, sounded like poetry. Here's what she wrote to me:
April 22, 1985
Dear Mrs. Born-Long,
Thank you for your generous letter. Your kind words lifted my heart! In my own travels this Spring, I have rejoiced in the profusion of wildflowers which blanket the roadsides and median strips.
With every mile my thoughts have gone gratefully to the Highway Department, and especially the crews of maintenance men whose care and attention have increased the beauty of our roadways. I hope you, too, will write the Highway Department to salute their efforts.
With my appreciation and good wishes,
Lady Bird Johnson
The first time I was eligible to vote, it was Lyndon Johnson I voted for. During his Presidency this country made enormous strides in civil rights, education, and conservation. In many respects we became the Great Society that President Johnson envisioned.
And all the while, by his side was Lady Bird, strong, energetic, intelligent, thoughtful, and persuasive. Her gentle word in Lyndon's ear produced great things for this country.
She was a great lady, a great Texan, and a great American.