Back to Index

Presidential Libraries:The L.B. Johnson Library



     David Crow reports on the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum at the University of Texas in Austin. He says:
     The Library occupies floors three through seven of the building and contains exhaustive LBJ archives. The museum is contained on the first, second and eighth floors; the last has a 7/8 scale reproduction of the Oval Office with period furniture and an exhibit on Lady Bird.
     Quite apart from political considerations, the complex is marvellous, an even-handed presentation of Johnson's achievements and shortcomings. The Museum contextualizes LBJ's sweeping civil rights legislation, War on Poverty and Vietnam policy against the background of a decade that began with crewcuts and ended with shoulder-length hair. Also on display are several letters from LBJ's private correspondence with Lady Bird, which testify to passionate romance.
     Interestingly, the couple's honeymoon was a car-tour to Mexico City! Lady Bird still reports to work regularly on the top floor and is well liked by the docents. Also present are audio tapes of LBJ conversations with Martin Luther King (of whom a statue was unveiled several weeks ago on the same walkway that features Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis) and a certain senator reluctant to serve on the Warren Commission because of the senator's antipathy toward the Supreme Court justice. LBJ "convinces" the senator to serve on the Commission with language that is forceful, if not exactly eloquent. Quoting Mel Brooks' depiction of Louis XIV: "It's good to be da king." Even my father, whose boredom with museums and cathedrals is notorious in our family, enjoyed the LBJ Museum. Regardless of whether one admires or despises LBJ, he was truly a remarkable man, possibly the last exponent (excepting Reagan) of the "imperial presidency".


     My comment: David, please give our best wishes to Lady Bird, for whom we all have great respect.. LBJ inevitably got caught up in politics and his reputation suffered. WAISer Robert Myers, who was his Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, talked with him several times when he was agonizing over the decision about running for reelection. He described in our TV interview the depression into which LBJ fell.
     Soon the C-Span series of programs on American presidents will come to LBJ. We shall then have an opportunity to see the building about which David is so enthusiastic.

Ronald Hilton - 10/22/99


Webmaster