LBJ Loved His Letters to Lady Bird

PHOTO: Newlyweds Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson posing in a boat on the Floating Gardens, Xochimilco, Mexico Nov. 1934.LBJ Library
Newlyweds Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson posing in a boat on the Floating Gardens, Xochimilco, Mexico Nov. 1934.

This Valentine's Day, try writing a love letter.

It definitely worked for former President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who wrote 90 letters to his soon-to-be wife Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor to woo her into marriage.

The more than half-century old snail mail exchanges between the late president and his wife have been released in their entirety on the National Archives website devoted to his life.

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Dubbed the "1934 Courtship Letters," the letters are part of the two-month correspondence between the moment Johnson proposed to the day the two lovebirds exchanged vows. The courtship letters mark just one period in a 30-year time span filled with the couple's letters to each other.

"Again I repeat -- I love you -- only you. Want to always love -- only you," Johnson writes in a letter dated Sept. 23, 1934. "It is an important decision. It isn't being made in one night -- it probably never will be yours -- but your lack of decision hasn't tempered either my affection, devotion or ability to know what I want."

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Johnson, who was the 36th president from 1963 to 1969, wasn't the only president to win his lady's affection by pen. Former President Ronald Reagan also wrote a few notes to his future first lady, which she later compiled in her book, "I Love You, Ronnie." Richard Nixon, John Adams, Harry Truman, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson also expressed their love on paper in their free time.

Johnson's personal ambition and determination are evident in the Texan's his letters, something that only became publicly known when he took office, according to National Archives and Records Administration Senior Archivist Regina Greenwell.

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"It is evident early on that he is ambitious and determined. He is trying very hard to persuade [Lady Bird] to marry him," Greenwell said. "It also shows Ms. Johnson's … love of nature and her involvement in beautification."

Most of the letters also focus on Lady Bird's personal tumult over accepting Johnson's marriage proposal while Johnson writes of his travels up and down the West Coast. At one point during their courtship, Johnson sent Lady Bird the book "Nazism: An Assault on Civilization," which, she writes, delighted her because she felt as though she had gained Johnson's trust.

The Johnsons eventually married in November 1934 and continued to exchange letters throughout his time in the Oval Office.

It might have disappointed Johnson to know that the U.S. Postal Service will no longer deliver mail on Saturdays because he preferred to post his mail immediately after writing his letters so that Lady Bird would receive them promptly, according to the website.

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The letters were brought to the national library by a senior administrative assistant at the end of Johnson's term in January 1969. Seven of the letters were published in exhibits, along with extensive oral histories on Lady Bird, according to Greenwell.

The national archives originally planned to publish the letters in honor of Lady Bird's 100th birthday, but were unable to do so until now because of the extensive nature of the project.

"We've made transcripts of each letter, "Greenwell said. "She saved his letters with envelopes with postmarks to date them so we were able to put them in chronological order."

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