“Alexandria has been chosen as the first stop for one of the greatest campaigners in America, and I am very proud to announce that I am her husband.”
LBJ kicks off Lady Bird’s Whistle Stop in Alexandria. They will meet again in Raleigh that evening, after all of these stops:
- Fredericksburg, Virginia
- Ashland, Virginia
- Richmond, Virginia
- Petersburg, Virginia
- Suffolk, Virginia
- Norfolk, Virginia
- Ahoskie, North Carolina
- Hobgood, North Carolina (slowdown)
- Tarboro, North Carolina
- Rocky Mount, North Carolina
- Wilson, North Carolina
- Selma, North Carolina
More on Day 1: http://whistlestop.lbjlibrary.org/#day-one
October 5, 1964. Lady Bird prepares to head out tomorrow on her four-day, eight-state Whistle Stop campaign. She knows that LBJ’s chances of taking the southern states are slim, in light of the recent passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and that she will face hostile crowds, heckling, and even violence. She is going anyway.
“And every time the rest of the nation makes one more snide joke about cornpone or rednecks, the defenses of the South go up more angrily. The dividing abyss widens and the curtain becomes thicker and murkier. It is partly the South wanting to pull away and partly the rest of the nation misunderstanding – yes even laughing – in a way. None of this is right or is good for the future of our country.”
—Lady Bird’s recorded thoughts before departing on her Whistle Stop campaign tour, LBJ Presidential Library transcript.
On Monday, Oct. 6, 2014: the LBJ Time Machine departs from chronology to revisit Lady Bird Johnson’s Whistle Stop campaign of 1964, on its 50th anniversary…
Just three months after the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed, amidst rising racial tensions in the South and against the advice of trusted advisors, Lady Bird Johnson boarded a train named the “Lady Bird Special” to campaign for her husband’s presidential bid in states from Virginia to Louisiana. President Johnson was ahead in national polls, but he faced an uphill battle in the South.
Liz Carpenter said later, “Our star attraction was a Southern-bred First Lady. We were supposed to blow kisses and spread love through eight states and make them like it….”
Stay tuned for what happens next! The train leaves the station Monday, Oct. 6.
Click it…or ticket!
This 1965 Corvette Stingray was a gift to LBJ’s daughter Luci on her 18th birthday. Unlike most cars manufactured in the sixties, it was equipped with seat belts.
On September 9, 1966, LBJ signed legislation setting new standards for vehicle safety, which included equipping all cars with seat belts beginning in 1968.
-from the LBJ Library
May 12, 1966. Lady Bird, President Johnson, Max Brooks, W.W. Heath, and Bill Moyers, among others, meet with architect Gordon Bunshaft to see his concept model for the future Presidential Library which will be built on the UT Austin campus.
In his oral history, Bunshaft describes the presentation:
Bunshaft: The President walked in and he said, “Mr. Bunshaft, I only have five minutes.” God, I ran him back and forth between these two things, and he stayed about fifteen minutes. I didn’t ever figure out how he could understand what I was talking about. This is a complex building, if you see it, especially on drawings. I ran him back and forth. That was a Friday. He didn’t say a word [about] whether he liked it or not. He left and Mrs. Johnson said, “Well, we’ll have to do a lot of thinking and talking about this.” Then that was the end of it. Monday the President called up Heath in Texas and said, “I approve the design.”
Mulhollan: From a lengthy fifteen minute briefing.
B: Yes. That floored everybody, because we assumed it would take at least a month. […] Frank [Stanton] had thought that the President might talk of this. He didn’t know about the approval. In fact, I didn’t either Tuesday. And [Johnson] described the building to his wife. After dinner, President Johnson described every damned detail of this building to Mrs. Stanton.
M: And got it right.
B: Got the whole damned thing. Now, how the hell he could have understood it and remembered it from fifteen minutes is beyond me. In fact, the next meeting I had, I talked to one of the secretaries, Juanita Roberts, and I said, “Look, he must have come back and studied that model.” The model was taken away the next morning, but he could have come back that evening. She’s very close, not his secretary, she’s an assistant; she’s not out there, but she’s in Washington—anyhow, swore up and down that the President never went back.
— Transcript, Gordon Bunshaft Oral History Interview I, 6/25/69, by Paige E. Mulhollan, Electronic Copy, LBJ Library.
February 16, 1967. Lady Bird Johnson and Mary Lasker accept on behalf of their beautification program a surprise donation of flower seeds to be used in Washington, DC school grounds, in a presentation at the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden of the White House.
LBJ Presidential Library photo #C4560-20a, public domain.
That’s one classy wheelbarrow!
We interrupt this regularly scheduled LBJ Time Machine:
To tell y’all that we have posted the 1934 love letters between LBJ and Lady Bird, available in full for the very first time, on the web. You can find them here: searchable, downloadable, and transcribed.
LBJ and Lady Bird met on September 5, 1934 and ”committed matrimony,” as Lady Bird described it, on November 17 of that same year. These 90-odd letters are their correspondence during the time of their (brief) courtship, while he was in Washington and she was in Texas. Enjoy—and Happy Valentine’s Day, from us to you.
— LBJ Presidential Library Archives Staff
Does 90 letters in 90 days in 1934 equal 5,000 text messages in 2013?
The love letters of LBJ and Lady Bird have finally been digitized and released to the public this morning. You can read them all at www.lbjlibrary.org.
Image: LBJ sent this photo to Lady Bird during their courtship. The caption reads “For Bird—A lovely girl with ideals, principles, intelligence, and refinement from her sincere admirer, Lyndon” (Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library)
On Valentine’s Day at 10 a.m. EST, we are releasing all of the 1934 love letters between Lady Bird and Lyndon from their whirlwind 10-week courtship. The letters are all digitized, transcribed, and will be available for download online via www.lbjlibrary.org.
“Lyndon, my dear, do you want me to keep on loving you? Shall we keep on writing each other every day? Shall you, (perhaps, sometimes) call me? And are you going to keep on loving me, with an eye to the now somewhat-more-distant future? I want to know. For me—I shall keep on writing you. I shall keep on loving you. I do not want anything to come between us.” (Lady Bird, 10/22/34 letter)
Image and text from the LBJ Presidential Library. Photo of Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor, 1935.
Highway Beautification Act
More than just wildflowers along highways - the Highway Beautification Act called for the removal of some types of billboards, unsightly roadside junkyards were removed or screened, and the enhancement of scenic views. In these photographs, President Lydon B. Johnson signs the Highway Beautification Act while the Act’s biggest supporter, Lady Bird Johnson looks on.
Photograph of President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Highway Beautification Act, 10/22/1965
Photograph of President Lyndon B. Johnson handing Lady Bird Johnson a signing pen at the signing ceremony for the Highway Beautification Act, 10/22/1965
1964 Presidential Campaign - Civil Rights and the South
It was October 1964, and the November Presidential election was looming as parts of the country still seethed over the Civil Rights Act President Lyndon B. Johnson had signed into law just a few months earlier.
Many white southerners and politicians considered the law an assault on their long-established way of life. Southern Democrats threatened to bolt as racial politics threatened to splinter the party and cost Johnson the election.
It was during this tumultuous time that Lady Bird Johnson embarked on perhaps her most difficult assignment as First Lady. In a four-day, 1,628-mile trip aboard a train dubbed the Lady Bird Special, the First Lady traveled through eight southern states.
This was the first time a First Lady campaigned on her own for her husband and she championed the new legislation that eliminated “Jim Crow” laws and guaranteed African Americans access to all public accommodations and the right to equal employment opportunities.
Along the way, Mrs. Johnson was met with invective that no first lady has experienced since. But the ultimate success of the trip, as she defended the need for the Civil Rights Act, was a testament to Lady Bird’s spirit and stoicism.
While she loved her role as First Lady, she wrote at the end of her tenure, “I wouldn’t trade anything for the experience. But not for anything would I pay for the price of admission again.”
Images: “Please don’t forget to vote” Postcard, 1964 ; Lady Bird Johnson on her Whistle Stop Tour. 10/6/64.
This evening gown was designed by Roxanne of Samuel Winston, under the Neiman Marcus label. It is made of white peau-de-soie with a bodice of white bugle and crystal beads. The gown was worn by Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson at the Inaugural Gala, 1965; the visit of His Excellency Ayub Khan, President of Pakistan, December 14, 1965; the visit of Prime Minister Aldo Moro of Italy, April 20, 1965; and the visit of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, February 14, 1967.