5 Way to Honor Lady Bird
The legacy of the late Lady Bird Johnson lives on in the dozens of beautification and environmental projects that enjoy success today thanks to her vision and dedication. She once noted, “Wherever I go in America, I like it when the land speaks its own language in its own regional accent.” There’s no better way to honor the former first lady than to enjoy some of the many places in Texas that made her smile.
1) Walk in the Woods. Experience the East Texas ecosystem that first inspired her at Caddo Lake State Park (near her birthplace in Karnack), where you can rent canoes to explore the sloughs, hike the cypress-flanked pathways, and even stay in a cabin built in the 1930s by workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps. Call 903/679-3351; www.tpwd.state.tx.us.
2) Plant a Seed. Lady Bird Johnson founded the National Wildflower Research Center in Austin with her friend Helen Hayes in 1982. Now known as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, it recently became part of the University of Texas at Austin. The center has grown into a popular tourist destination, complete with gardens, hiking trails, a gift shop, restaurant, and plant sales. Call 512/232-0100; www.wildflower.org.
3) Visit Her Home. The LBJ Ranch House in Stonewall—part of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park since 1972—served as a political center for two decades, but it was also Mrs. Johnson’s home. Plans are afoot to expand public access to the ranch, but for now, your best bet is to visit the headquarters of the LBJ State Park and Historic Site, adjacent to the ranch, where you can board a bus for a 1 1/2-hour tour of the property. See www.nps.gov/lyjo and www.tpwd.state.tx.us.
4) Explore Her Life. The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, on the campus of UT-Austin, features an exhibit called The First Lady’s Gallery. With White House mementoes, Lady Bird’s original desk, portraits and photographs, video footage, and personal belongings such as letters and evening gowns, the exhibit tells the story of Lady Bird’s life. See www.lbjlib.utexas.edu.
5) Hit the Trail. As part of her beautification efforts in Austin, Lady Bird transformed the banks of Town Lake into an urban oasis complete with trees, hike-and-bike trails, and benches for resting and people-watching. In summer 2007, the Austin City Council authorized the renaming of the lake to Lady Bird Lake. For information on the trail, kayak or bike rentals, and other ways to enjoy the lake and its trails, call the Austin Visitor Center, 866/GO-AUSTIN; www.austintexas.org.