Lady Bird Johnson released from Austin hospital

Friday, June 29, 2007

White House portrait
Lady Bird Johnson and an unidentified woman look on as Muriel Humphrey, wife of Vice President Hubert Humphrey shovels dirt around a dogwood tree planted along I-95 in Virginia, during her "Landscape-Landmark Tour" on May 11, 1965.

Former First Lady "Lady Bird" Johnson was released Thursday after a week at Seton Hospital after being admitted for tests because she was not feeling well. She is the widow of Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States from 1963 to 1969. She is best known for her conservation and beautification efforts involving wildflowers and roadsides.

As President Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, criss-crossed States by road during the 1964 presidential campaign, she informed her husband of her feelings about the roadside junkyards they saw along the way. Inspired by her comments and enthusiasm from audiences, he observed "If it's beautifying they want, it's beautifying they'll get." Recognizing that "ours is an automobile society," the President did not want to curtail roads. He wanted to make roads the "highways to the enjoyment of nature and beauty." Lady Bird thought that her love of seeing Texas highways in spring had influenced her husband. She enjoyed the results of Texan wildflower conservation programs which began in the 1930s.

One of the most prominent results of the President's beauty initiative was the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. It created restrictions on billboards and junkyards. As expected, it had been controversial. When the House considered its version of the bill on October 7, the debate lasted into the early morning hours of October 8. A pointed but tongue-in-cheek amendment by Representative Robert Dole (R-Kan.) to strike out the term "Secretary of Commerce" wherever it appeared in the bill and insert the words "Lady Bird" lost by a voice vote. Saying, "Beauty belongs to all the people," the President signed the bill and gave the first pen to Lady Bird, along with a kiss on the cheek.

In 1982, she founded the National Wildflower Research Center to continue the mission of changing public attitudes toward native plants. In 1997 it was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.