Austin, Texas is the place to be.
It’s clear that life is pretty good in ATX.
This is largely thanks to a former First Lady.
Lady Bird Johnson championed beautifying America and preserving nature as First Lady.
In the 1970s, after her husband Lyndon B. Johnson left the White House, her passion for conservation also laid the groundwork for some of Austin’s most beloved spots.
Her connection to the city of Austin began early in life
Growing up, Claudia “Lady Bird” Taylor had always “found solace in the outdoors, in the beauty of nature,” said Betty Boyd Caroli, author of “Lady Bird and Lyndon: The Hidden Story of a Marriage That Made a President.”
This passion for flowers and the outdoors also sparked Taylor’s love for the capital of Texas.
“The 17-year-old Lady Bird first saw Austin in the spring of 1930 when she flew down, from her home about 300 miles to the East, to look at the University of Texas and consider enrolling there,” Caroli said. “She fell in love with the city immediately and called it a ‘magical place’ for her.”
As the future First Lady’s plane landed, she looked out the window and saw a sea of bluebonnets in bloom.
“She had never seen so many bluebonnets in one space before, and it was the sight of the field of flowers set against the brushy range that made her want to move to Austin,” writes Jan Jarboe Russell in “Lady Bird: A Biography of Mrs. Johnson.” “‘It was as though the gates of the world flung open for me,’ she said. ‘I felt in in love with life itself.'”
Lady Bird made a life for herself in Austin
Lady Bird Taylor ended up receiving a BA with honors from the University of Texas in Austin in 1933, as well as a second BA in journalism the following year.
Austin was also where Taylor met an ambitious young Congressional aide named Lyndon Johnson. Johnson proposed to her on their first date, but Taylor did not accept immediately. The couple was married on November 17, 1934.
The Johnsons maintained a residence in the Texas city early on in their marriage, even after buying a ranch 70 miles west of Austin.
She worked to beautify D.C. and protect the environment throughout the US
According to Caroli, Johnson’s associates indicated that Lady Bird was a major influence on Johnson. The First Lady also made it her own personal quest to protect the environment and make America beautiful.
“As First Lady, she formed her own committee to undertake what was called ‘beautification’ but had a wide range of objectives,” Caroli said. “In Washington, D.C., the committee took on two initiatives — to turn the capital into a ‘garden city’ with tree-lined streets and flowering parks but also to go beyond the tourist center and add plantings and improve playgrounds in low income neighborhoods.”
Lady Bird Johnson’s beautification efforts weren’t restricted to the Beltway. Her impact on policy continued to resonate throughout Johnson’s presidency
PBS’s “Lady Bird Johnson: Portrait of a First Lady” quoted the president as telling his staff, “You know I love that woman and she wants that Highway Beautification Act… by God, we’re going to get it for her.”