Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Remembering Lady Bird
There is a little connection between Holly Hill and Lady Bird Johnson.
During her days working on the Texas Highway Beautification project, she came for a visit. Former owner here, Ms. Kathryn and Lady Bird had a mutual friend. This childhood friend of Lady Bird had arranged for an overnight stay at Holly Hill. Kathryn loves retelling the account of her visit. At that time there were no doors on the bedrooms and “Lady Bird didn’t mind,” Kathryn said as she mocked the sweet East Texas accent Lady Bird was known for.
When I came to Holly Hill in 2001, I wrote to her offices asking permission for naming the room where she slept the “Lady Bird Room”. Being sure there were stacks of fan mail in her offices I tried not to be disappointed when I did not get a response. Then in 2005, a package arrived in the mail containing a matted photograph of her portrait painted by Aaron Shikler in 1978. Included was a wonderful letter (on Lyndon Baines Johnson Library letterhead) signed by their Archives Specialist. I was elated.
Seeing the news coverage of Lady Bird’s death early in July saddened me. Do enough other people holding important positions care about the preservation of our North American native plants and wild flowers? Will the right people take a stand to keep America beautiful?
When LBJ went to the White House I was just a child. I remember wondering how it would be to very quickly step into the role as First Lady, to follow in the shadow of Jackie Kennedy – what woman could successfully do that?
Lady Bird was known for her interest in the beautification of America. She believed that by cleaning up our nation’s highways, planting flowers and landscaping public areas people would be calmer during war time. I am so impressed by such a thought. One woman (who happened to have the president of the United States on her side) set into motion many projects and successfully accomplished them. She is responsible for the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, which brought the cleanup of junkyards and billboards all across America as well as improvements for our nation’s capital city. In 1969, she implemented the Texas Highway Beautification Awards, which she resided over herself for many years, giving of her own resources.
During a recent visit to D.C., I enjoyed the area at the Smithsonian honoring our former first ladies. Lingering at the glass I wondered how a little girl from small town East Texas found her way to the White House. That little girl, who lost her mother at age five, who played along creek banks and fishing holes was chosen by God to make a huge difference in how beautiful America is today. She, in fact, has a long list of accomplishments. You might enjoy reading more about her by clicking here. I vow to plant wildflower seed every fall in her memory and to do my part in the beautification of America. God has special tasks for us all. If we seek Him we too can make a difference.