Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Austin Journal: The Texas White House

porch of LBJ's childhood home (photograph by Hallie Cohen)
Mar-A-Lago is much in the news today, but if you drive through the Texas Hill Country through which the Pedernales river runs, you will come to Johnson City, the birthplace of our 36th president, which was also the home the legendary Texas White House. The LBJ ranch which also features reconstructions of the schoolhouse he attended as a boy and his childhood home are just some of the many sites in evidence along with Air Force One-Half the jet that ferried LBJ to the cherished retreat where he regaled leaders from all over the world. There you can view the dominos table where he intentionally cheated as a way of judging character. He respected those who called him on it. There were over 70 phone lines in the house and three televisions in many of the rooms to cover the three major networks whose newscasts LBJ watched like a hawk, using those phone lines to call company executives when he didn’t like what he was hearing. "Here amidst the familiar hills and under these expansive skies and under these beautiful oak trees that he loved so much, his earthly life had come full circle ...his roots were deep, right here in this spot in the hill country,” Billy Graham eulogized soon after Johnson’s untimely death at the age of 64 in 1973. Interestingly for all the majestic quality of the ranch it turns out that Lady Bird hated cows and cowboys who trampled on her beloved wildflowers -- which are still abundantly apparent as you drive through the grounds. Lady Bird would live on at the ranch until 2006 (she died in 2007). And when you tour through the house you find this inscription embroidered on the throw pillows in her bedroom "I slept and dreamed life was beauty. I woke and found that life was duty."

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