A woman who provided the flame, Claudia Alta Taylor was born on this day in Karnack, Texas, and nicknamed Lady Bird (1912-) as a child. The bookish, southern belle graduated from the University of Texas with a Journalism degree and married Lyndon Johnson in 1934.
"The way you overcome shyness is to become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid," she once said.
Lady Bird was considered a fine political asset. She genuinely liked public life and called her herself "a sounding board." As First Lady (1963-1969), her sweetness softened her husband's abrasive persona. President Johnson often praised his compliant partner as "the most wonderful wife a man can have" and "my dearest running-mate."
Mrs. Johnson described her life diplomatically: "I've spent 30 years learning the particular role of helper; I do not see myself as one in the front, although I do not pass lightly over my contributions."
Her contributions were great. To "sow some seeds of interest in nationwide beautification," she successfully spearheaded legislation to tear down billboards on interstate highways not zoned "commercial or industrial" and plant wildflowers along the side of the road.
The passionate environmentalist received the Congressional Gold Medal for The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center, founded on this day in 1982. In October 2002, she and her Committee for a More Beautiful Capital were selected as the first recipients of the U.S. National Arboretum's Gold Medal Award.
"Lady Bird Johnson has dedicated so much time and energy throughout her life to beautifying America," Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said. "To her credit, she has sustained this effort and built upon it, providing inspiration and encouraging community involvement throughout the country."
Be the flame. Burn with your passion.