July 15, 2007
Lady Bird Johnson Receives Her Goodbye
BY MARC SANTORA
AUSTIN, July 14 Past the images of escalating chaos in Vietnam, the
assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the
triumphant entry into space, at the top of a marble staircase at the
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library here, thousands of mourners filed past
the coffin of Lady Bird Johnson on Saturday.
Mrs. Johnson died Wednesday at the age of 94. At her funeral Saturday
afternoon at Riverbend Centre, representatives of first families
stretching back almost a half-century came to pay respect.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York sat next to her husband,
former President Bill Clinton. To Mr. Clinton's right was the first
lady, Laura Bush. Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife,
Rosalynn, sat on Mrs. Bush's other side.
To Mrs. Carter's right sat another former first lady, Nancy Reagan,
and in the next row was Barbara Bush, wife of former President George
Mrs. Johnson would have been no stranger to the complicated tangle of
ambition, achievement, respect and rivalry embodied by those gathered.
Bill Moyers, who was Mr. Johnson's press secretary, recalled the
tragedy that seemed to touch Mrs. Johnson's life at every turn,
including the death of her mother when Lady Bird was only 5 years old
and the event that resulted in her husband ascending to the Oval Office.
Mrs. Johnson was with her husband, then vice president, two cars
behind President John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated in Dallas.
"I have moved on stage to a part I never rehearsed," she told reporters.
But as the speakers at her funeral recalled, she quickly found her place.
"She seemed to grow calmer as the world around her grew more furious,"
Mr. Moyers said. He recalled her dignity when confronted with attacks
from opponents of the Johnson administration's advocacy of civil
rights and her compassion for the Kennedy family after the
assassinations of the president and, later, Robert F. Kennedy.
When not confronted with the turmoil of the outside world, Mrs.
Johnson had to deal with what Mr. Moyers called the "Vesuvius
eruptions" of her husband and "negotiating the civil war within his
As her children and grandchildren testified at the funeral, she was
one of few people who could accomplish that task.
More than 12,000 people paid respect to Mrs. Johnson while she lay in
repose. Lucinda Robb, her granddaughter, said the outpouring reflected
the special place Mrs. Johnson held in the hearts of the people of
this state. "It was the people of Texas coming to say goodbye to a
lady," Ms. Robb said.