I grew up in Austin, Texas and the LBJs (Lady Bird and Lyndon Baines) were an anchor in the cultural landscape. There was the LBJ Library, the LBJ School of Public Affairs, LBJ State Park, LBJ High School… I grew up thinking of him more as belonging to Texas than being the nation’s president. He got a pretty bad rap for escalating American involvement in Vietnam but was a pioneer in civil rights, the war on poverty and peacemaking.
Lady Bird Johnson passed away this week and will be remembered most for her love of wildflowers. Due to her efforts, wildflowers continue to flourish all across the state and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center is one of the country’s most credible research institutions and effective advocates for North American native plants. Wildflowers are one of my favorite things about Texas and I’m so glad she created an effective way for us to channel our love of them.
When I was in third grade I created a singing group called The Texans with several of my classmates. We went to T-Shirts Plus in Northcross Mall and made up little white ringers with blue felt letters and stars and sang songs accapella. We had a few moments of fame before we disbanded in the fourth grade 🙂 We were written up in the newspaper, performed on a local daytime talk show (“The Noon Show” with Barbara Miller and Cactus Pryor) and the high point of our short career was singing for Lady Bird Johnson and former LBJ speech writer and press secretary Liz Carpenter (left) for Liz’s birthday. We were really nervous and didn’t exactly perform flawlessly but they were very kind. It was inspiring for me at that age to be in the presence of such strong southern women. It made a permanent impression on me.
When I think of politics in Texas I do not think of the Bush’s, I think of Lady Bird Johnson, Liz Carpenter, Ann Richards and Molly Ivins. That is real Texas politics.