U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson Personal Life Part 2

About the U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, personal life and marriage, history and biography.

36th President

LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON

After four miscarriages, Lady Bird finally gave birth to two daughters, Lynda Bird and Luci Baines. Thus the entire family (including the dog, Little Beagle Johnson) had the initials L.B.J. With their parents constantly busy, Lynda and Luci were raised largely by hired help. As Luci commented candidly about her father: "Eventually, I learned to love him as a person, not as a father--because he seldom had time to be a father." Nevertheless, LBJ took great pride in his children, and in 1968 he announced, "I'm the luckiest man alive. None of my girls drinks or smokes or takes dope and they both married fine men."

During the White House years, Lady Bird established herself as the most influential First Lady in history, barring only Eleanor Roosevelt. She campaigned effectively for her husband aboard her own "Lady Bird Special" and helped win approval for "the Lady Bird Bill," a significant piece of highway beautification legislation that eliminated thousands of billboards and junk heaps. Despite her prominence and popularity, Washington buzzed with rumors concerning the President's roving eye. He did little to hide his obsession with feminine beauty. Once he turned down a highly qualified woman who applied for a position on his staff because "she's got everything but good looks." On another occasion he spotted a lovely reporter at one of his press conferences; told her, "You're the prettiest thing I ever saw"; and hired her the next day as a writer in one of his offices. Angered by his many special attentions to attractive female journalists, the male members of the press corps dubbed Johnson "the Lochinvar of the Pedernales." During the last months of his administration, romantic gossip concerning the President centered on the unlikely figure of Doris Kearns--a blond, brilliant Harvard graduate student in her early 20s who had written a celebrated "dump Johnson" article for The New Republic. When Kearns came to Washington as a White House fellow, Johnson took an immediate interest in her. They spent many hours alone together, but Kearns has always insisted that the President simply "needed someone to talk to," and that he identified her with his mother. As was his custom, Johnson presented his young friend with modest gifts. Always an expansive gift giver, Johnson had increased the standard presidential gift allowance to new heights as he dispensed bowls, lighters, tie clasps, scarves, electric toothbrushes, and waterproof watches--all bearing the LBJ initials and inscribed with what came to be the presidential motto: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." One after another, Johnson gave Kearns a total of 12 electric toothbrushes carrying the presidential seal. When LBJ left the White House, Kearns helped him with his memoirs, and after his death she began a psychohistory of Johnson, based upon their long and intimate conversations.

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