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LADY BIRD JOHNSON: A New Biography, “Lady Bird and Lyndon”

Betty Boyd Caroli, a noted biographer of America’s First Ladies, recently authored a book about the wife of America’s 34th President, Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ). Lady Bird and Lyndon focused upon the whirlwind courtship and thirty-eight year marriage between the demure Claudia Taylor of East Texas and the out-sized blustering Lyndon Johnson, the consummate practitioner of politics from the Texas Hill Country.

The future first lady was born Claudia Alta Taylor in Karnack, Texas on December 22, 1912. She was the pampered daughter of a highly successful, local entrepreneur, Thomas Jefferson Taylor. Smart and ambitious, Lady Bird graduated from the University of Texas with two bachelor’s degrees, one in history and one in journalism. Within a year the effusive, overbearing LBJ relentlessly courted and won the young graduate; they were married when Lady Bird was just shy of her twenty-second birthday.

Mrs. Johnson long survived her husband, who died from heart disease at sixty-five years. Lady Bird died on July 11, 2007 at the age of ninety-four years, six months, twenty days. At the time of this writing she remains the second longest lived first lady; only Bess Truman has a greater longevity, living for ninety-even years, eight months, seven days. Nancy Reagan, ailing but reasonably healthy, will surpass Lady Bird’s record on January 27, 2016.

A significant feature of the Johnson marriage was the wife’s unquestioning devotion to the husband’s gargantuan needs and unrelenting demands. Lady Bird’s slavish devotion to LBJ’s whims and commands came at the price of neglecting their two daughters. Both Lynda and Luci accused their mother of inattention and a lack of nurturing. In the Johnson household LBJ always came first, requiring his Lady Bird to leave their daughters for weeks at a time to be at his side during political campaigns where she would be available to cater to his every command. (page 2)

Furthermore, Lady Bird knew what few others did, that LBJ, the overbearing and extremely successful politician, was beset by frailties. “When faced with a huge problem or disappointment, he would go to bed and pull the covers over his had, and that’s when she stepped in, to get him on his feet and moving again. Only she could do that.” (page 4)
The mood swings of Lyndon Johnson were so frequent and so drastic that the author wondered whether LBJ suffered from manic depression. (pp. 269-70)

Lady Bird Johnson, 1964. Democratic National Committee / Johnson Administration / Lady Bird Johnson. Please credit "S. M Schonbrunn photograph for the Democratic National Committee".

Lady Bird Johnson, 1964. Democratic National Committee / Johnson Administration / Lady Bird Johnson. Please credit “S. M Schonbrunn photograph for the Democratic National Committee”.

Lud Historian
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