Lady Bird Johnson Dies

Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady known for her environmental conservation and landscape beautification efforts, died Wednesday. She was 94.

The widow of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson, had suffered a stroke in 2002 that left her with difficulty speaking.

She is survived by her adult children, Lynda Bird Robb, wife of former Virginia Sen. Chuck Robb, Luci Baines Turpin, and seven grandchildren.

Born Claudia Alta Taylor, "Lady Bird" Johnson grew up in a country mansion in Karnack, Texas. As a child, a family nurse declared she was as "pretty as a ladybird." The nickname stuck.

Although Lady Bird Johnson lived much of her life in the shadow of one of the most powerful men of the 20th century, she played a pivotal role in some of the nation's most turbulent years.

Became First Lady After Kennedy's Assassination

Lyndon Baines Johnson became the 36th president when John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. Vice President Johnson and his wife were traveling in the motorcade through Dallas, one car behind the Kennedys.

In her 800-page book White House Diary, published in 1970 from the 1,750,000-word daily journal that detailed nearly every aspect of her and her husband's life, Johnson described the aftermath of that fateful day in Texas, the Johnson's home state, and how she tried to comfort Jackie Kennedy.

"I would have given anything to help her and there was nothing I could do to help her," Johnson said.

Johnson asked Kennedy, whose clothes were splattered with the blood of her husband, the slain president, if she could call for someone to assist her.

Johnson reported that Kennedy replied, "'I want them to see what they have done to Jack.'"

"Oh, Mrs. Kennedy," Johnson reportedly said, "You know we never even wanted to be vice president and now, dear God, it's come to this."

You can hear Lady Bird Johnson describe her thoughts and emotions on the day of Kennedy's assassination by clicking here.

The nation's new first lady did her best to ease the painful transition into the White House following the violent murder of President Kennedy.

En route to the funeral, Mrs. Johnson, again as recorded in her diary, said of the crowds filling the streets of Washington, "I wanted to cry for them and with them, but it was impossible to permit the catharsis of tears."

"I don't know why," Johnson continued, "except that one reason is perhaps the continuity of strength demands it."

You can hear Johnson's reflections on Kennedy's funeral by clicking here.

A Life of Independence and Devotion

When she was only 6 years old, Lady Bird lost her mother and was raised by her aunt. As a result, she learned to take care of herself at an early age, owning a Buick and managing a Neiman Marcus account at age 14, during some of the darkest days of the Depression.

Months after her 21st birthday, she graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor's degree in art. She stayed an extra year to earn a journalism degree, planning to become a newspaper reporter.

Her plans took another direction in the late summer of 1934 when a friend introduced her to a young Congressional aide named Lyndon Johnson. He proposed to her on the first day they spent together. She declined his offer.

He continued to court her long distance from Washington, D.C., with letters and telephone calls. They wed in November 1934, just seven weeks after their first date.

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