Lyndon Johnson 36th President, 1963-1969
Birthplace, Stonewall, Texas
Lyndon Baines Johnson was pure Texan. His family included some of the earliest settlers of the Lone Star State. They had been cattlemen, cotton farmers, and soldiers for the Confederacy. Lyndon was born on August 27, 1908 to Sam and Rebekah Baines Johnson, the first of their five children. His mother was reserved and genteel while his father was a talker and a dreamer, a man cut out for more than farming. Sam Johnson won election to the Texas legislature when he was twenty-seven. He served five terms before he switched careers and failed to make a living solely as a farmer on the family land seventy miles west of Austin. The resulting poverty made a lifelong impression on Lyndon.
Lyndon Johnson took great pride in his heritage and his roots here in the Hill Country of Texas. In order to share that heritage with interested visitors, President Johnson hired architect J. Roy White of Austin, Texas in 1964 to reconstruct the birthplace home. President Johnson and Roy White relied on old photographs of the original birthplace house as well as family members’ memories to guide the project. The house represents how Lyndon Johnson wanted us to see his birthplace. Lyndon Johnson’s birthplace has the distinction of being the only presidential birthplace reconstructed, refurbished, and interpreted by an incumbent President.
While planning the reconstruction of the birthplace, they were careful to follow the same architectural style as the original house built in 1889 by the President’s grandfather Sam Ealy Johnson, Sr. Although it is exactly where it was originally, what you see now is a much nicer rendition. The original house was torn down in the 1940s. You can get an idea of how it used to look by peering at a picture hanging on the front wall of the barn behind the house-it was taken in 1897, and some of the Johnson clan is standing in front of the home. Although all the materials to reconstruct the birthplace were new, what they could salvage of the first structure they reused, such as pieces of the limestone fireplace and portions of the lumber. Mr. White didn’t forget to include the open hallway, or “dog-trot,” which was designed to provide ventilation in hot weather. He followed the original board and batten construction. A modern kitchen and bathroom, running water, and electricity were added, but the house has no central heat or air conditioning.
The house was used between 1964 and 1966 as a guest cottage for overflow company from the Texas White House. President Johnson delighted in telling visitors that the kitchen had the only original piece of furniture-a rawhide bottom chair with a hole in the seat. Mrs. Johnson loaned the park her Roycrafter high chair in the kitchen. Etched on the back is “Lady Bird,” the nickname given to Claudia Alta Taylor at age two. The other furnishings represent antiques donated by family and special friends of the Johnsons.
Junction School, Stonewall, Texas
The one-room school was very important to the rural people living in Gillespie County. Here, near their homes, the children learned the “3R’s” – reading, writing, and arithmetic – enabling many of them to go on to high school and college. The schools were located close enough to children’s homes to allow to them to walk to school. There were 31 one-room schools located in Gillespie County; only one – Doss School – remains in operation today.
The first one-room schoolhouse on the Pedernales River was actually a tent in the Christadelphian campgrounds one mile east of the present day Junction School. In 1882, the tent was replaced by the community with a small frame building that served both as a school and church. On September 27, 1910 John Pehl sold to the school district 2 3/4 acres of land on the north side of the Pedernales River to a build a new school. The fall term opened in the new school on November 21, 1910. The Junction School served the area for over 37 years. In the spring of 1947 the Junction School became part of the Stonewall Consolidated School District. This move closed the Junction School and the students attended the nearby Stonewall School. In 1972 the National Park Foundation purchased the land to become part of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.
The Junction School was a typical one-room school. A wood stove sat in a sand box in the center of the school and was the only source of heat. Two kerosene lamps suspended from the ceiling at opposite ends of the room provided light. The teacher’s desk and a chair were in front of the classroom. A small brass bell on the teacher’s desk summoned the students. Students sat at double desks, which had wooden tops with holes for the glass inkwells. The desks were arranged in rows facing the teacher’s desk, the boys in one row and the girls in another.
One of the students at the Junction School was a 4-year old boy by the name of Lyndon Baines Johnson. He was born just up the road from the school on August 27, 1908 to the proud parents Sam and Rebekah Johnson. A typical little boy, he liked to ride his horse and play with other children and his dog, Bigham Young. Since Lyndon could hear the children outside before school and at recess, he would run down to the schoolhouse to play with them. His mother – constantly worried he would get lost – talked to the teacher, Miss Katie Deadrich, about enrolling him early into school. As an adult, President Johnson loved to relate how he had insisted upon sitting in Miss Katie’s lap for his reading lessons. Johnson only attended Junction School for several months in 1912 since the school closed early due to a whooping cough epidemic. His family moved to Johnson City by the start of the next school year. In 1924, he graduated from high school in Johnson City and later attended Southwest Texas Teachers’ College in San Marcos where he received his teaching degree. Johnson taught school for a while in Houston, Cotulla, and Pearsall, Texas.
Boyhood Home, Johnson City, Texas
Lyndon Johnson’s family moved from a farm near Stonewall, Texas, to Johnson City (a distance of about fourteen miles) two weeks after his fifth birthday, in September 1913. For most of the next twenty-four years, this was their home. In 1913, the family included Lyndon’s father, Sam Ealy Johnson, Jr.; his mother, Rebekah Baines Johnson; young Lyndon; and his sisters, Rebekah and Josefa. Over the years, two more children were born in this house – Lucia and Sam Houston Johnson. The family life that Lyndon Johnson experienced here as he grew to adulthood strongly influenced the man who became our thirty-sixth President.
The interests of young Lyndon’s parents had a profound effect on his subsequent political career and on the issues he championed both as a Congressman and as President. His father was a state legislator for twelve years. As such, Sam Ealy Jr. was a popular and effective participant in democratic party politics. At the age of ten, young Lyndon was on the campaign trail working for his father’s re-election. At thirteen, he sat by his father’s side during legislative sessions. These experiences taught Lyndon Johnson the “political facts of life” and the necessary skills of a successful politician.
President Johnson’s mother, Rebekah Baines, was one of the few college-educated women in the area. Education was her passion. It was in this home that she taught elocution lessons and debating techniques to the neighborhood children. Lyndon must have listened well to her instructions, for he too taught debate strategies for a school team. Among other lessons, young Lyndon learned we should never form opinions based on first impressions and that power should be used for the public good, in the tradition of Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.
In February 1937, Lyndon Johnson returned home from Austin to seek the advice of his father – should he run for Congress? It was the first week of March 1937, when Lyndon Johnson stood on the porch of his boyhood home to announce his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives for the Tenth District of the State of Texas.
So began a career in public service that spanned more than three decades, culminated in the presidency of the United States, and ushered in landmark legislation such as Medicare, Head Start, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and forty-three national park authorizations or additions. As a boy he learned the value of education, and his administration passed more than sixty education bills – a fitting tribute to his mother. He didn’t forget where he came from and worked hard to provide electricity throughout the rural counties that surround Johnson City. All his accomplishments have earned him a respect that is still alive today in the Texas Hill Country.
This Folk Victorian house was built in 1901 by W.C. Russell, sheriff of Blanco County. In 1913, Sam Ealy Johnson, Jr. paid $2,925 for the house and the surrounding 1.75 acres. During the presidential years, the home was used as a community center and public tours were offered. In December of 1969, Congress designated this home as part of Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Site. The National Park Service has restored the home to its appearance during the mid-1920s, the teenage years of Lyndon B. Johnson.
When the Boyhood Home was given to the National Park Service, it had been altered considerably from how it was when Lyndon Johnson was a boy. To return the home to its 1920s appearance, materials of the same type and age and historic construction and furnishing techniques were used. In 1973, after three years of efforts by historians, architects, carpenters, stonemasons, and many local business people, the restoration was completed and the Boyhood Home was opened to the public. The home is restored for you and all future visitors to enjoy. Please help us protect and preserve it by not touching any furnishings or artifacts.
Home, LBJ Ranch, Stonewall, Texas
The focalpiece of the LBJ Ranch is the LBJ Ranch House, the home of President Johnson and a center of political activity for more than 20 years. Leaders from around the world visited the Johnsons here, and during the Johnson Administration it became known as the Texas White House. President Johnson was one of only two Presidents who thus far have created a functioning White House away from Washington. In 1972 the Johnsons donated the Texas White House to the National Park Service and the American people. Today Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson maintains a private residence here. Mrs. Johnson keeps on display many of the gifts the Johnsons received while in public service. The Texas White House is “a house full of gifts that’s a gift to our nation.”
The original section of the home was built out of the native limestone fieldstone by a German immigrant, William “Polecat” Meier in 1894. In 1909 the President’s aunt and uncle, Frank and Clarence Martin, bought the house and added the main central portion of the home. The Johnson’s bought the home from Lyndon’s aunt in 1951. The house needed considerable shoring up, and the Johnsons made a number of additions, most notably the master bedrooms and the office wing.
The Texas White House was an important place to President Johnson as president and as a child. Here are some of his memories: “I first came to this house as a very young boy. This is the big house on the river. My uncle and aunt lived here. They would always ask all the in-laws to come here and spend their Christmas. Frequently, I would come here during the summer when Judge Martin, my uncle, lived here and I’d spend three months’ vacation from school riding with him and looking after the cattle. I kept coming back to this house. I guess I must have had a yearning to some day own it. But when we came here on one of the periodic visits in 1952, my aunt told me that she was in advancing years and poor health and she wondered if I wouldn’t buy the place. And I did.”
Mrs. Johnson recalls: “It was always Lyndon’s favorite time, particularly around sunset, from the earliest spring until cold weather drove us in. And we have lots of interesting pictures in this front yard. I remember Adlai Stevenson, and the Speaker, Mr. Rayburn and Lyndon. And indeed, I remember President Truman’s visit. I think he was here at least twice. Once was for the barbecue that we had for President Lopez-Mateos of Mexico down there in the grove on the river. He would have a long table and we have lots of pictures of the Chiefs of Staff, and Bob McNamara and MacGeorge Bundy, Lyndon all sitting out here doing business and General Westmoreland and various other people. And December was always the month of the budget. Whoever was in charge of the budget, they would come and stay days and days and they would work night and day. And even in December, there are mild days and frequently a part of that would be here. And the Washington shuttle, as we laughingly called it, a plane from Washington that would come down bringing a secretary of whatever department, McNamara of Defense or Freeman of Agriculture or Udall of Interior, to speak his piece for the needs of his particular department and, therefore, a lot of the work followed him.”
Lyndon Johnson was educated at a relatively small school called Southwest Teacher’s college in San Marcos, and he sometimes felt insecure about his education around the Ivy-leaguers and intellectuals that he dealt with in Washington. He liked to have his staff meetings under the stately live oak in the front yard of the ranch house and discuss the issues of the day ranging from the Vietnam War and Civil Rights to new grasses for the ranch. Many of his advisors were unfamiliar with Texas ranches and would have to defer to the President on these issues. Here on his home turf he had what sports fan call the “home field advantage”. He was more confident in persuading or twisting arms.
Library & Museum, University of Texas, Austin, Texas
The LBJ Library’s museum collection, like that of most history museums, is very diverse. Items range in size from coins and stamps to Oval Office furniture. Artwork ranges from a school room drawing to a commissioned painting by a famous artist. Domestic gifts are stored next to items from exotic locales.
The most important part of the collection is items directly connected to the President and the First Lady. These may be personal items such as clothing, but they may also be objects related to official duties and political events. They include awards and honorary doctorates as well as newspapers headlining significant events.
An exchange of gifts is almost always part of the ceremonies during visits from heads of state. These gifts are accepted by the President and First Lady for the government, not for themselves personally. The LBJ Library is the official depository for the head of state gifts given to the Johnsons.
Private individuals provide another source of gifts. These gifts may be purchased items, but are more likely to be products of the donor’s skills and artistry. They are indicative of their time, reflecting popular trends and interests of the 60s. Most were given as a sign of respect or affection for the nation’s leader. Not all of these gifts are in the museum collection, but a large representative selection can be found there.
The LBJ Library has enriched the museum collection by collecting artifacts related to the presidency-both the individuals who have held that title and to the office per se. Most of these are important artworks-portrait paintings and sculpture-but there are also ephemeral items and collectibles such as a set of Christmas gift prints given to White House and other staff from 1961 to the present.
There are two large collections at the LBJ Library of special interest. One is a collection of four thousand original editorial cartoons dealing with Lyndon Johnson’s political career and the issues that he faced as president. The other is a collection of over ten thousand items of political memorabilia beginning with the inauguration of George Washington and continuing to the present day.
Gravesite, Stonewall, Texas
President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s life came full circle when he was laid to rest in the Johnson Family Cemetery on January 25, 1973. In our mobile society, few people–let alone prominent world leaders–have so many of their lives’ significant moments occurring in one place. The cemetery is just a stone’s throw from the birthsite of Lyndon Johnson, and just down the road from the Texas White House, where our 36th President lived for over two decades. Throughout his life, President Johnson expressed his love for the Hill Country of Texas, “where people know when you are sick, love you while you are alive, and miss you when you die.”
Most of the people buried in the cemetery are related to Lyndon Johnson. His great grandmother, Priscilla Bunton, was the first person buried here. She passed away on April 28, 1905, during a violent storm, and her family was unable to cross the flooding river to lay her next to her husband in the Stonewall Community Cemetery. The family chose a grove of live oak trees on property belonging to Lyndon Johnson’s grandfather for Mrs. Bunton’s burial site. Her gravestone is the white Georgia marble marker with the lamb on top.
In 1937, LBJ’s father, Sam Ealy Johnson, Jr., was buried in the cemetery. Sam Johnson had been a state congressman who was much admired for procuring pensions for Civil War veterans and securing passage of legislation to improve Hill Country roads. Sam had many friends and benefactors, and a large crowd came to pay their respects to him. Lyndon Johnson had just recently been elected as a U.S. congressman, so the funeral was attended by the Governor of Texas and other important dignitaries.
In 1946, Frank Seward, a rock mason from Stonewall, built the wall enclosing the cemetery. The wall was constructed to give identity to the cemetery, as well as to minimize the harmful effects of Pedernales River flooding. Repairs were made on the wall after major floods in 1952 and 1959.
When the Johnsons lived in the White House, they had two beagles named “Him” and “Her.” These pets became famous when President Johnson was captured on film picking them up by their ears. Soon after that event, the beagles died in separate accidents. “Her” swallowed a stone, and “Him” was run over by a car. They were cremated and their ashes buried in the southeastern part of the cemetery.
While living at the Texas White House, President Johnson loved to visit the cemetery. He said, “I come down here almost every evening when I’m at home. It’s always quiet and peaceful here under the shade of these beautiful oak trees.”
President Johnson’s body lay in state at the LBJ Library in Austin, and then in state in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. President Johnson’s funeral at the LBJ Ranch took place on the cold and rainy day of January 25, 1973. He once told Mrs. Johnson, “When I die I don’t just want our friends who can come in their private planes. I want the men in their pickup trucks and the women whose slips hang down below their dresses to be welcome, too….” Hundreds of people attended the funeral, which was conducted by Reverend Billy Graham.
The beautiful trees in the cemetery are live oaks–a predominantly Southern tree. They are unique among oaks in that they are evergreen; they keep their dark green canopy year-round. After one of the trees in the cemetery died, Mrs. Johnson had a tree ring study conducted on it, and the tree was found to be almost 200 years old. The fuzzy, round plants growing on the trees are ball moss. Ball moss is closely related to the better-known Spanish moss. It is not actually a moss, but rather an epiphyte, or air plant. It attaches to the trees, but it derives its nutrition from the air, thus it is non-parasitic.
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