Congressman Ted Poe
My grandmother influenced my life in so many ways and she educated me in the ways of the world more than anyone in my life, but to her dismay I broke from her staunchest southern belief – the Democratic Party. I don’t know that she ever forgave me for being a Republican and during the 60s, in the heyday of LBJ, she was aghast that anyone could be anything else. Despite my political difference with President Lyndon Johnson, his contributions to Texas as President may only be surpassed by those of his First Lady. This week we said good-bye to one of the finest southern ladies politics and Texas has ever had the pleasure of knowing, Lady Bird Johnson.
My grandmother always said, “there is nothing more powerful than a woman – that has made up her mind!” There are no truer words; and none that describe our former First Lady better. Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson, known throughout the world simply as Lady Bird, not only changed the landscape of Texas highways, but paved the way for the next generation of women. She was the best example of the powerful role women of her generation played – second to my grandmother of course.
While Lady Bird will best be remembered for her love of the environment and the preservation of our natural resources, she was no wall-flower in the business and political world either. She was her husband’s staunchest supporter and was with him step-for-step throughout his entire career, but at the same time she also carved a path for herself in the business world by turning a debt-ridden Austin radio station into a multi-million dollar broadcast empire. Her resume reads like that of a modern-day Superwoman. Among her many achievements, she played a pivotal part in shaping legislation by lobbying and speaking before Congress in support of the Highway Beautification Bill, or better known as the “Lady Bird Bill.” She oversaw every detail in the creation of the LBJ Presidential Library, which became the model for Presidential libraries today, and served faithfully, and often in awe of her colleagues, as a regent of her alma matter, the University of Texas.
Like my grandmother she came from a generation of women that were strong and influential. They possessed the grace of an angel, but wielded a heavy-hand in running their affairs – and those of their husbands’ for that matter. Few women of their generation worked outside the home, but few men succeeded without the backing of them. Whether they devoted their time to their work or to their home, their influence undoubtedly changed the country we live in today. Texas Congressman Sam Rayburn, longtime friend of President Johnson and House Speaker, once told him, “marrying Lady Bird was the wisest decision he had ever made.” Few people know that Lady Bird originally told LBJ “no,” when he asked to marry her.
Every spring, folks will head up Highway 290 to see the wildflowers; and every bluebonnet we see throughout the Texas Hill Country and every tree we plant here at home along Will Clayton Parkway is a tribute to Lady Bird and her determination to “Keep Texas Beautiful.” Her legacy and influence will live on forever. I doubt that Texas, nor our country, will ever know a finer lady and patriot than we had in Lady Bird Johnson. As the saying goes, behind every good man, there stands a better woman. May God bless Lady Bird as she has blessed us.
And that’s just the way it is.