Lady Bird Johnson
She was bold.
She was compassionate.
She was visionary.
She was an adventurer.
She was generous.
She believed in the power of healthy landscapes to transform lives.
Lady Bird Johnson worked tirelessly for the conservation and the environment. More than 200 laws related to the environment were passed during the Johnson Administration, many of which are credited to Mrs. Johnson's work. Among the major legislative initiatives were the Wilderness Act of 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Program, the 1965 Highway Beautification Act and many additions to the National Park system.
For 50 of those major initiatives related to conservation and beautification, President Johnson thanked his wife on July 26, 1968 for her dedication by presenting her with 50 pens used to sign these laws. She also received a plaque that read: "To Lady Bird, who has inspired me and millions of Americans to try to preserve our land and beautify our nation. With love from Lyndon."
Known as "Lady Bird's Bill" because of her active support, the 1965 Highway Beautification Act calls for control of outdoor advertising (for example, billboards) along the nation's Interstate system. It also required that junkyards along Interstate or primary highways were removed or screened and encouraged scenic enhancement of roadsides.
Mrs. Johnson also traveled nationally on nine trips to raise awareness of parks and scenic areas, came out against adding dams to the Grand Canyon, and wrote letters and spoke for the preservation of the California Redwoods and other historic sites.
Mrs. Johnson’s White House years included a focus on improving the nation’s capital that went beyond planting flowers. A key effort was cleaning up trash and controlling rats in the Shaw section of Washington, D.C. with the help of Howard University and high school students, supported by funding from her Society for a More Beautiful Capital.
Mrs. Johnson was highly involved in the President’s War on Poverty, and joined with Sargent Shriver to found Head Start to help preschool children from low-income families across the nation meet their health and other developmental needs.
Town Lake Trail
Inspired in her post-White House years by the beauty along the River Thames in London, Mrs. Johnson galvanized Ann and Roy Butler (then Mayor of Austin) and others to lead a campaign of adding plantings and removing trash along the banks of the river that runs through Austin’s downtown. Recognizing that people would go there for more than just a quick visit, she insisted that the trail extend the full 10 miles along what was later renamed Lady Bird Lake in her honor. The city also followed her suggestion of completing the Hike and Bike Trail in time for the city's July 4, 1976, centennial so that the trail could become a celebratory gift to the nation.
At Lady Bird Johnson's urging, Enchanted Rock was purchased by The Nature Conservancy to be set aside for posterity. The owners of the property were thinking of selling it, and a rock quarry developer was interested in the rock for its abundant granite. In 1984, it became an official State Natural Area.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
On her 70th birthday in 1982, Lady Bird Johnson and actress Helen Hayes founded the National Wildflower Research Center to protect and preserve North America's native plants and natural landscapes. Johnson donated funding and 60 acres of land in East Austin to establish the organization. It later moved to South Austin and was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in her honor. When Mrs. Johnson passed away a decade later, the center had just become part of The University of Texas at Austin, guaranteeing its permanent place in the national landscape. The center’s staff continue to be inspired by Mrs. Johnson's visionary approaches as they work to conserve, restore and create healthy landscapes in Texas and beyond.