Planning to remodel her father’s house in 1934 as a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Claudia Taylor was introduced to Lyndon Johnson, born on August 27, 1908, while visiting an architect she was consulting for her work. They met again for breakfast the next morning, and before the end of the day, Johnson asked the young “Lady Bird” to marry him.1
Johnson took the presidential oath of office on November 22, 1963. Although three American presidents had been assassinated previously, Johnson was the first vice-president to be at the scene of his predecessor’s murder. “Just after our car made the left turn at the top of Elm,” said Johnson, recalling the tragic afternoon events that occurred in his native Texas, “I was startled by an explosion.” His car rushed to the hospital in a motorcade led by the convertible carrying a wounded John F. Kennedy, before Johnson agreed that it would be best for him to monitor the situation from the safety of Air Force One.2
“When I walked in, everyone stood up,” Johnson said, describing his first emotional moments aboard the aircraft with close friends, political associates, and Secret Service agents, waiting for Jacqueline Kennedy to arrive with her husband’s body. “A wall – high, forbidding, historic – separated us now, a wall that derives from the Office of the Presidency of the United States.” 3
1. Marie Smith, The President’s Lady: An Intimate Biography of Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson (New York: Random House, 1964), 39-40. Robert Dallek, Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 115-116.
2. Max Holland, ed., The Presidential Recordings: Lyndon B. Johnson – The Kennedy Assassination and the Transfer of Power, November 1963 – January 1964, Volume One (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005), 3. Lyndon Baines Johnson, The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency, 1963 – 69 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972), 8-12.
3. Ibid., 13.