Ladybird Passes Away
July 11, 2007 3:49 PM   Subscribe

Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson passed away today. During her infancy, a nursemaid commented, "She's as pretty as a ladybird", and that nickname virtually replaced her given name for the rest of her life. Perhaps her most important impact was her efforts to protect American wild-flowers and other natural places. She is also the namesake of the Hill family dog.
posted by Flood (43 comments total)
A wonderful woman, it's a shame Lyndon did not get to see her shine so brightly.
posted by parmanparman at 3:51 PM on July 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

I've always known her from this place:
posted by freebird at 3:53 PM on July 11, 2007

Thank you, Ladybird. Rest in peace, and enjoy the flowers in heaven.
posted by rtha at 3:56 PM on July 11, 2007

posted by A189Nut at 3:56 PM on July 11, 2007

and enjoy the flowers in heaven.

We've got flowers here. There's gotta be more than flowers in heaven. Otherwise, what's the point?
posted by justgary at 4:03 PM on July 11, 2007


posted by perilous at 4:05 PM on July 11, 2007

posted by LeeJay at 4:14 PM on July 11, 2007

Ladybird made the phrase "Highway Beautification" not be an oxymoron.

This left-libertarian, who believes the unmanaged free market is perfectly capable of doing society as much harm as good, gives her the

posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:25 PM on July 11, 2007

She made my life, on a daily basis, more beautiful. Plus, she was a great big old sassypants. I love her.
posted by mckenney at 4:27 PM on July 11, 2007

When I told her this, my activist wife commented "she was decent, he was an ass."


We need more good people in politics....
posted by HuronBob at 4:30 PM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

She was a real lady.

posted by RussHy at 4:47 PM on July 11, 2007

She hated billboards. I hate billboards. She will be missed.
posted by item at 4:47 PM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by cerebus19 at 4:48 PM on July 11, 2007


She did good--and kept him in line too, i hear. A beautiful woman in all senses.
posted by amberglow at 4:49 PM on July 11, 2007

that Redwood grove is gorgeous, freebird--thanks--it's a fitting tribute.
posted by amberglow at 4:53 PM on July 11, 2007

There was once a beautiful water fountain in the Potomac River that was lit up at night in multi-colors. It was called the Ladybird Fountain. Near where the Awakening is.I used to watch it from my window at night. Now it's gone.
posted by doctorschlock at 4:55 PM on July 11, 2007

she was decent, he was an ass

Succinctly said. He was way worse than an ass, although he accomplished some very good things.

"he was "the greatest intelligence gatherer Washington has even known", discovering exactly where every Senator stood, his philosophy and prejudices, his strengths and weaknesses, and what it took to win him over. Central to Johnson's control was 'The Treatment' "

"The Treatment could last ten minutes or four hours. It came, enveloping its target, at the LBJ Ranch swimming pool, in one of LBJ's offices, in the Senate cloakroom, on the floor of the Senate itself—wherever Johnson might find a fellow Senator within his reach.

Its tone could be supplication, accusation, cajolery, exuberance, scorn, tears, complaint and the hint of threat. It was all of these together. It ran the gamut of human emotions. Its velocity was breathtaking, and it was all in one direction. Interjections from the target were rare. Johnson anticipated them before they could be spoken. He moved in close, his face a scant millimeter from his target, his eyes widening and narrowing, his eyebrows rising and falling. From his pockets poured clippings, memos, statistics. Mimicry, humor, and the genius of analogy made The Treatment an almost hypnotic experience and rendered the target stunned and helpless. "

Likely to have been a very difficult husband and father to survive.

Ladybird had a rough last 14 years. "In August 1993, she suffered a stroke, leaving her legally blind due to macular 2002 she suffered a second, more severe, stroke, which left her unable to speak coherently or walk without assistance... In February 2006, Lady Bird's daughter, Lynda Johnson Robb, told a gathering at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri that her mother was now totally blind and was 'not in very good health' "

She and her daughters, Lynda Bird and Luci Baines, have been active going good works.

Glad Ladybird had over 3 decades after her husband's death to have a full and good life.

posted by nickyskye at 4:56 PM on July 11, 2007


Thanks for getting rid of the billboards, ma'am.
posted by orthogonality at 5:00 PM on July 11, 2007

from PBS: on her Whistlestop Tour of the South in 64 (more there about her too)
posted by amberglow at 5:04 PM on July 11, 2007

don't miss her diary of the day JFK was shot
posted by amberglow at 5:07 PM on July 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

and this: ... The war and Lyndon's failed senate bid also taught her that politics was no way to make a living and that the Johnsons needed a steady income. She used more of her mother's money and Lyndon's connections to purchase a faltering Austin radio station in 1942 for $17,500. KTBC was a 250-watt station that was losing at least $600 a month with no profits in sight. While Lyndon urged CBS to make the station an affiliate, Lady Bird poured over the books to better track ad revenue. Slowly the station turned around and later served as a base for a multi-million dollar communications company based in Austin. What Lady Bird had quietly done was to become the first and only First Lady to build and maintain a fortune with her own money. Lyndon may have had the power, but Lady Bird had the money. ...

: >
posted by amberglow at 5:10 PM on July 11, 2007 [3 favorites]

That anecdote was really impressive amberglow. Nice one. People with excellent money savvy, practical shrewdness, are really interesting. How neat she combined that with a love of nature and civic improvement.
posted by nickyskye at 5:50 PM on July 11, 2007

posted by Smart Dalek at 6:15 PM on July 11, 2007

I didn't realize she was still alive.

posted by mike3k at 6:16 PM on July 11, 2007

Farewell to a classy lady and a great soul.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:48 PM on July 11, 2007

Ann, Molly, now Lady Bird... this last few months has devastated my lady heroes.

The LBJ Presidential Library has a treasure trove of material on Lady Bird, including a lovely bio and a very deep photograph collection, absolutely worth a stroll through.

This will sound quite silly, but I was startled to read that she was a Presidential widow. Lady Bird was so significant to Texas that I sometimes forget she was someone to the rest of the world, too.
posted by pineapple at 6:51 PM on July 11, 2007

posted by at 6:52 PM on July 11, 2007

And, I didn't even notice this tribute page on the front of the site.
posted by pineapple at 6:52 PM on July 11, 2007

posted by Ber at 6:53 PM on July 11, 2007

posted by brandz at 7:02 PM on July 11, 2007

I'm reading Master of the Senate, the third book in Robert Caro's The Years of Lyndon Johnson series.

Lady Bird put up with a lot of shit from LBJ. He promised that when he married her he'd take her to all the East Coast sites, then once they got married he didn't take her anywhere. She was a million times classier than he was.

It's a nice story, but Lady Bird didn't run the radio station. They put her name on the papers for PR reasons, but LBJ's backers (mainly Brown and Root, which later became Halliburton) put up the money and he called the shots.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:09 PM on July 11, 2007

What I remember her for is this:

"Plant a bush, a tree or a shrub." This phrase, spoken in a gentle Texas accent, was her catchphrase.

Thank you for all the beauty, Lady Bird. And I don't just mean the highway shrubbery. Godspeed.
posted by konolia at 7:37 PM on July 11, 2007

We who live in West Marin will always remember her visit to dedicate our beloved Pt Reyes National Seashore. Thanks, Lady Bird. We loved you and will miss you.
posted by Lynsey at 8:04 PM on July 11, 2007

posted by candyland at 8:09 PM on July 11, 2007

The highway to heaven is beautiful, let's hope.
posted by longsleeves at 8:56 PM on July 11, 2007

A visit to the wildflower center was one of the highlights of my
trip to Austin.
posted by brujita at 9:01 PM on July 11, 2007

R.I.P little flower betty. I do enjoy the gardening.
posted by Viomeda at 9:27 PM on July 11, 2007

posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:08 AM on July 12, 2007

posted by Goofyy at 3:02 AM on July 12, 2007

posted by lester's sock puppet at 5:30 AM on July 12, 2007

posted by Foosnark at 11:47 AM on July 12, 2007

Definitely one of the ten people on my "all time historic figures" dinner party list.

posted by tizzie at 4:49 PM on July 12, 2007

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