Grateful American® Foundation

Written by Ed Lengel

Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Children

Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973), one of the towering political figures of the twentieth century, and the thirty-sixth president of the United States, was born in Texas, but spent much of his professional life in Washington, D.C.

He entered national politics as a congressman from Texas’s 10th district in 1937, served his tutelage under the great Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was elected to the Senate in 1949 during the administration of Harry S. Truman. But it was under Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, that Johnson truly distinguished himself as the Majority Leader of the Senate. Vice-President under John F. Kennedy, Johnson became president after JFK’s assassination. He completed Kennedy’s term, and was elected—in a landslide—on his own. The Vietnam war pushed him into a 1969 retirement, and a mixed legacy of huge successes in Civil Rights and social welfare, that were tainted by serious foreign policy fumbles in Vietnam.

In 1934 Lyndon Johnson married Claudia “Lady Bird” Alta Taylor (1912-2007); a tireless advocate of her husband and his career, she was one America’s most active First Ladies; her most enduring contribution was the Highway Beautification Act, and her work to improve public education.

The Johnson’s daughters have perpetuated their parents’ prototype of public engagement.

Lynda Bird Johnson

Born on March 19, 1944, in Washington, D.C., Lynda Bird Johnson took each of her parents’ names. One of her earliest gifts was a book about Fala, President Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier, which he inscribed: “To Lynda Bird Johnson from the Master of the Pup.” Living in the public from such an early age provided unique opportunities; when she was just five, Lynda threw a birthday party for Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn. Perhaps the political lessons settled in a little bit too deeply, because when Lynda Bird’s parents refused to let her ride a dangerous horse when she was nine, the girl exclaimed: “Well, Daddy is always making speeches about the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Just when are they going to start applying to me?” Lynda Bird attended public school and the Episcopal National Cathedral School for Girls in Washington, D.C., before going to the University of Texas, where she majored in history.[1]

Like all presidential children in the modern era, Lynda’s life was scrutinized—and so were her dating choices—including a relationship with actor George Hamilton. “If the date is new,” she told a reporter in 1966, “we go in a Secret Service car, and the agents can hear us. If the date is known, we can go in his car, with the Secret Service car following us, so that we can be seen.” Her priority was for a man who was “kind, considerate and stable,” and so, she married Marine Corps Captain Charles S. Robb in 1967 in the East Room at the White House. They would have three children as he, after serving in Vietnam, went on to become governor and a U.S. senator from Virginia.[2]

Like her mother, Lynda Bird focused much of her attention on raising her family and helping to buttress her husband’s political career. In 1979, she joined President Carter’s Advisory Committee for Women; subsequently, she chaired the board of the children’s literary organization, Reading is Fundamental (RIF). Now, she is a board member of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation.

Luci Baines Johnson

Born in Washington, D.C., on July 2, 1947, Luci (originally “Lucy”) Baines Johnson seemed to be the more “domestic” of the daughters. “Lucy…likes to sew and cook and play the piano,” their mother explained in 1960. The thirteen-year-old was deeply attached to her mother when her father was occupied with politics; she explained: “I just love stag parties. When Daddy goes to stag parties, Lynda and I get Mother.” In time, though, she would chart an independent path.[3]

Changing her name to “Luci” as a teenager, she went to public, integrated Washington, D.C. schools; later, she attended the National Cathedral School for Girls, and Georgetown University’s School of Nursing—though she never pursued the vocation.

Unlike her older sister, Luci lived in the White House several years; during those times she was a visible presence—not just because of her attendance at formal gatherings—but also because of her outspoken opinions, and unabashed love of the Beatles. Luci’s positions transformed her into a popular role model for American teenagers in the mid-1960s.[4]

And, during her pursuit of independence, Luci converted to Roman Catholicism on her eighteenth birthday in 1965; the following year, she married Patrick J. Nugent at Washington, D.C.’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, while antiwar protestors demonstrated outside. The Nugent’s had four children, eventually divorced, but she became a successful businesswoman in radio communications. Like her older sister, Luci has picked her philanthropies: children’s literacy, women’s health, education for nurses, and the American Heart Association.[5]

[1] Austin American-Statesman, Feb. 17, 1946, Jan. 12, 1949; New York Daily News, Jan. 16, 1954.

[2] Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb. 6, 1966.

[3] Indianapolis News, May 20, 1960.

[4] Mason City Globe-Gazette, Apr. 2, 1964; Associated Press, Aug. 12, 1964.

[5] UPI, Aug. 6, 1966; Associated Press, Nov. 16, 1989, Jan. 4, 2002.

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