01 Jan LADY BIRD JOHNSON II A New Biography, “Lady Bird and Lyndon”
In her new biography that emphasized the private contours of the Johnson marriage, Betty Boyd Caroli illuminated several of its cryptic and less favorable aspects.
The biographer referred to D. Jablow Hershman’s 2002 book on LBJ’s mental condition, “Using a term popular during Lyndon’s lifetime but later replaced by bi-polar, Hershman described Lyndon Johnson as manic depressive. (Caroli. 309)
Another issue, infrequently discussed regarding their marriage, was LBJ’s compulsive womanizing. A year after the former president’s death, the indefatigable Barbara Walters abruptly broached the matter with Lady Bird, “How did you handle your flirt and ladies’ man husband?” (Caroli, 7) Over many years Mrs. Johnson refused to entertain any questions about her husband’s faithlessness; she either coldly ceased the interview or switched the discussion to another topic.
Caroli’s index under LBJ’s “womanizing and flirtatious nature” lists no fewer than fourteen page references. (Caroli, 452) Therein she illustrated the husband’s sexual braggadocio, his gauche behavior around women, especially his staffers, and multiple alleged dalliances. However the author was reluctant to accuse the ex-president of adultery, and no first-person testimony of any extramarital affair was documented.
Lady Bird’s accrual of wealth from a burgeoning Austin, Texas broadcast empire became a political issue. Her ownership reaped millions for the Johnsons. However the biographer deemphasized the effects of political influence in the amassing of this estate. Instead she credited Mrs. Johnson’s astuteness, smarts and management skills for the success of her television and radio enterprise.
Lady Bird Johnson lived for forty years after the death of her husband. She was very healthy, had two successful pregnancies, and two or more miscarriages.
Her successful highway beautification projects remain a tribute to her tenure as First Lady.
Betty Boyd Caroli, Lady Bird and Lyndon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2015)