January 5, 1967. Lady Bird lists in her diary all of the troubles facing the Johnson administration as 1967 begins: the budget, Vietnam, inflation, negative press coverage of Bill Moyers’ departure, and the brouhaha over LBJ’s rejection of Peter Hurd’s Presidential portrait, above, as “the ugliest thing I ever saw.” Check it out in person at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, in Washington, D.C.
November 3, 1966. 1:06 PM. LBJ signs the Demonstration Cities Bill and the Clean Water Restoration Bill, saying:
“Clean streets and clear rivers—could anything really be more basic to a Great Society? Could anything really be more vital to our children?
I have signed many bills in the 3 years that I have been President. I will sign perhaps a thousand this year. But none has given me greater pleasure than the ones that we are about to sign this afternoon. For they are proud additions to the legacy of a greater America.”
October 10, 1966. Home rule for Washington, D.C. fails for the final time in the 89th Congress, when a cloture motion to forestall a Southern filibuster falls short by 11 votes. The nation’s capital city will continue to have no local representative government and no representation in Congress. While home rule bills passed both the House and Senate in 1965, the differences between the bills proved irreconcilable both in 1965 and in 1966. LBJ considered home rule in majority-black DC to be a civil rights issue, and he had urged the adoption of the Senate bill in his 1966 State of the Union.
The battle for home rule had launched a new activist group headed by Marion Barry, the Free D.C. Movement. Some other civil rights groups, though strong supporters of home rule, were put off by the new Movement’s aggressive tactics. Staunchly aligned against home rule were Southern Senators like LBJ’s old friend Richard Russell and some powerful local organizations like the Board of Trade. LBJ’s ardent supporter—and sometime critic —Senator Wayne Morse had attached the home rule bill to a college aid bill in a last-ditch attempt at passage, but despite the support of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, among others, home rule proponents will have to wait until the next Congress to try again.
Photo by Rob Shenk via Flickr Creative Commons.
September 18, 1966. LBJ tells a story about the night of the bombing of fuel depots in Hanoi and Haiphong:
“Soon after the Valentis boarded the boat, the President told the story of the night of the bombing of Haiphong oil depots. He said that he was sitting in his room, and Luci came in. She told him that he looked so awful and worried. The President told her why and she said that whenever she had a problem she went to see her little monks (at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in Southwest Washington. ) The President said that he and Mrs. Johnson and Luci went to see the little monks - ‘in the hottest, stinkiest place I’ve ever seen.’ They returned to the White House, and the President said he waited up all night for the different reports. He said that he was proud of the boys, and was sorry they had received no commendation, ‘for they certainly deserved it.’ Finally, the President dropped off into a sound sleep, and at about 8:00 AM the next morning, he heard the little tap at his door (‘one that always tells me it’s one of the girls at the White House —Mrs. Johnson, Lynda, Luci or one of my secretaries—afraid they’ll find me undressed’). He awakened to find Luci at his door. She had come in to see how the monks made out. (She was on her way to the library to return some books—”I am getting married , you know,” she said.)
April 26, 1966. Lady Bird shows two young people some blooming white azaleas. She later wrote of this and other urban beautification efforts:
“Green oases and neighborhood parks within cities offer a promise. If people in humdrum jobs, in drab buildings, surrounded by noise and confusion, know they can move out of all that into areas of serene beauty and quiet, even for a brief time each day, they can better cope with conditions that may bring them to the breaking point.”
LBJ Library photograph C1754-25. Lady Bird Johnson quote from Lady Bird Johnson and Carlton B. Lees, Wildflowers Across America, New York: Abbevile Press, 1993, p. 264.
October, 1965. The tide begins to turn against LBJ, as he himself predicted.
“Wilbur Mills: ’If you look at the spending performance you notice that September 1965 jumped precipitously over the level of September 1964, and it even went up sharply over than of August 1965. Add to that an additional $30 billion or more that was being spent in Asia, and you have the makings of a very serious inflationary crunch.
‘I don’t know if he [LBJ] realized it…. But he was getting advice from Gardner Ackley [Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers] and others that 1966 would not be a good year.’
But Congress did not wait for 1966 to indicate that enough was enough. It rebelled that October against the District of Columbia home rule bill.”
Merle Miller, Lyndon: An Oral Biography. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1980, p 443.
April 20, 1965. An unknown White House photographer snaps this photo of the arrival ceremony for Prime Minister Aldo Moro of Italy.
“When I found myself in the White House it was natural—and inevitable—for me to turn to the movement we called beautification (we never could think of a better word!). Because my heart had for so long been in the environment, I began to think that in the White House I might now have the means to repay something of the debt I owed nature for the enrichment provided from my childhood onward. And since my hometown for the next few years was still to be Washington, D.C., where better to start than in the ‘nation’s front yard?’”
—Lady Bird Johnson, in Lady Bird Johnson and Carlton B. Lees, Wildflowers Across America, New York: Abbevile Press, 1993, p. 12.
Photo by schizoform, via Flickr Creative Commons.
April 6, 1965. Lady Bird plants a cherry tree at the Cherry Blossom festival in the Washington D.C. Tidal Basin.
The First Lady’s Committee for a More Beautiful Capital has been meeting for several months now, and their efforts have included plantings along the Mall, cleaning old statues, and improving the Watts Branch section of northeastern D.C. The people of Japan donated 3,800 cherry trees to the effort.
1940: Lady Bird shoots Home Movie #1.
This Lady Bird Johnson Home Movie features footage of the spring through the fall of 1940. It was filmed mostly in Washington, D.C., where LBJ was serving as Congressman. Lady Bird narrates.
Lady Bird’s love of flowers shines through in this film. It also features cherry blossoms, FDR’s motorcade, Mount Vernon, and the Jefferson Monument under construction.
She shot footage on her return trip to Texas, too. We also see a marker describing the birthplace of Sam Houston in Virginia, and Andrew Jackson’s The Hermitage. The film concludes with shots of flowers blooming.
Credit: LBJ Library Video by Mrs. Johnson’s Home Movies. No usage fees.