Monday, May 14, 2018

LBJ Home and Library

The Hill Country of Texas is the birthplace of the 36th President of the United States. He was born on August 27, 1908 on a ranch near Stonewall and died on the same ranch 64 years later. He was president during some of the greatest upheavals in American history, from the Vietnam war to the civil rights movement and the riots in American cities after the assassination of Martin Luther King. We visited both his homes in the Hill Country and the Johnson Library in Austin.  
Seems I have been meeting with presidents on a regular bases lately. I have always felt close to LBJ since his policies led to me being drafted and being stationed in Texas. We started our tour at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park which includes sites in Johnson City and the LBJ Ranch.
The home where Johnson was born. The original house was rebuilt in 1964 as a guest house for those visiting the ranch.
When he was four he learned to read at Junction School, a one room schoolhouse. He returned here in 1965 to sign the first Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
When he was five the family moved fourteen miles to Johnson City. He lived in this house until he was married to Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor.
Beautiful wildflowers on the ranch. One of Lady Birds signature projects was highway beautification which included planting flowers along the roadsides.
Johnson made over 70 trips to the ranch during his presidency, spending about one-fourth of his time at the Texas White House. He would fly to Austin on Air Force One and then on one of these smaller jets to the ranch. Johnson referred to these Lockheed Jet-Stars as Air Force One-Half.
The Johnson's bought this house from his aunt in 1951. It was originally a small one room home that is now nearly 8,000 square feet including his office. The oak tree in front of his office is known as the Cabinet Oak because he held so many meetings there. Lady Bird lived in the home until her death in 2007. Then the house and 600 acres were donated to the park service which has restored it to its 1960's style. No photos are allowed. 
When he was president the hanger was turned into a meeting and press room where they would show movies and hold news conferences. I loved this old Seeburg jukebox. My dad's vending business had several of these.
Johnson always said "All the World is Welcome Here" and when famous people visited he would have them sign their names on these friendship stones. Very neat! 
Lyndon and Lady Bird are buried in the Johnson Family Cemetery on the ranch. I find it amazing that this man who rose to the highest office in the land was born, lived, died and was buried all within a couple miles in Texas Hill country.
The LBJ Presidential Library is on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin. The mission of the library is best stated in the words of LBJ at the dedication in 1971,“It is all here: the story of our time with the bark off...This library will show the facts, not just the joy and triumphs, but the sorrow and failures, too.” Those words from a man who came to the office after one of the greatest tragedies of my lifetime, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963 and who was forced by the tragedy of the Vietnam War to not seek another term in the 1968 election. 
This limo that looks like the president's was purchased by Johnson after he left office. While it looks like the official limo, this one only weighs 5,000 pounds compared to the real one that weighs 10,000 pound with its bullet-proof armor.
This exhibit on LBJ's humor not only had the political cartoons but a speaking Lyndon telling jokes.
LBJ's first job was teaching Mexican-American children in a segregated school in Cotulla, Texas. The experience of having these students, who often came to school hungry, helped shape his ideas about the need for the government to help the poor and downtrodden.
The positions held by LBJ before he became president, from a member of the US House to Vice-President under Kennedy. He honed the political skills in the leadership positions in the Senate that he used to pass his domestic agenda as president.
Building on the legacy of Kennedy and his landslide election in 1964, Johnson signed nearly 1,000 pieces of legislation into law during his five years in office. 
LBJ's legislative agenda, the Great Society, was to be a continuation of FDR's New Deal. This picture is Johnson signing Civil Rights legislation into law in 1964. Laws banning discrimination in public facilities, interstate commerce, housing and the workplace were passed. The Voting Rights Act prohibited requirements that many Southern states had passed to stop Black Americans from voting. 
Other major legislation included Medicare and Medicaid. In education the ESEA and Head Start were passed. Johnson visited the Head Start program in Stonewall with treats so often the kids called him Mr. Jelly Bean for the candy he brought. In arts and environment, laws establishing the Public Broadcasting System were passed and new National Park sites were added to the system. In immigration, he signed laws that encouraged immigrants from areas other than Europe.
Mural with the various presidents Johnson worked with before he became president.
Other legislation was called a War on Poverty that helped lift many into the middle class through education.
This large exhibit show the struggle he had with the Vietnam War. He grew to believe that the war was not winnable, but did not know how politically to withdraw. This was the greatest flaw of his presidency.
Johnson was eligible to run for another term because he had only served 14 months of Kennedy's term. While he had planned to run in 1968, the events of the country turned against him so he announced his decision not to seek another term. This is a photo of Johnson addressing the nation and the manuscript used on the teleprompter. 
The Oval Office as it looked during his time in office. This seems to be part of every presidential library.
Also part of every library is a display of gifts the president and first family received while in office.

The special exhibit; Get in the Game, The Fight for Equality in American Sports is at the library until January, 13, 2019. The exhibits honors those who broke barriers and spoke out for equality in sports. The Washington and Jefferson College sweater belonged to Pete Henry who was an athlete and then athletic director at this Washington, PA school.
The exhibit has displays about the Negro league and Jackie Robinson becoming the first Black player in the Majors.
The Gold Metals won by Jessie Owens at the 1936 Olympics that was held in Nazi Germany. Hitler plan to show that Aryans were superior to others did not go so well.
The Tennessee Tornado, Wilma Rudolph, overcame a sickly childhood where she had to wear a leg brace, to compete in the 1956 Olympics. Then, in the 1960 games, she was the first American woman to win three gold metals in one Olympics. 
Cassius Clay before he became Mohammad Ali. He won the heavyweight championship and then gave it up because he refused to be drafted during the Vietnam War. This was an interesting exhibit that came right to the present with a display about Colin Kaepernick's protest against injustice.
Visiting presidential libraries is always interesting, especially how they handled the bad things that happened during their time in office. The LBJ Library did a very good job of balancing the good and the bad.
At the top of the hill near the RV park was this unique building, the Arc de Texas. It advertised wine and views. We thought it was a winery but it is an Inn and bar. 
We stopped for a wine, a Texas beer and a great view of Hill Country. It was an interesting place and well worth a stop for the view from the top.