LBJ’s daughter Luci watched him sign voting rights bill, then cried when Supreme Court weakened it

Jun 7, 2023, 6:04 AM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Luci Baines Johnson was a somewhat impatient 18-year-old on Aug. 6, 1965, when she happened to be on what she called “daddy duty,” meaning “I was supposed to accompany him to important occasions.”

The occasion that day was President Lyndon Johnson’s scheduled signing of the Voting Rights Act, which Congress had passed the day before. She assumed the ceremony would be in the East Room of the White House, where the Civil Rights Act had been signed the previous year.

“And that would probably take an hour and then I could be on my way,” she recalled in a recent interview from the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas.

Instead, her father met her and guided her to the South Portico, where the presidential motorcade was waiting. They were going to Congress.

Knowing a trip to Capitol Hill would take more time than she anticipated, she asked why.

“‘We are going to Congress because there are going to be some courageous men and women who may not be returning to Congress because of the stand they have taken on voting rights,’” she recalled her father telling her. ”‘And there are going to be some extraordinary men and women who will be able to come to the Congress because of this great day. That’s why we’re going to Congress.’”

Johnson, who stood behind her father during the signings, knew the significance of the law and asked him afterward why he had presented the first signing pen to Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, a Republican from Illinois, when so many civil rights champions were on hand.

“Luci Baines, I did not have to say or do anything to convince one of those great civil rights leaders to be for that legislation,” she recalled him saying. “If Everett Dirksen hadn’t been willing to be so courageous to support it, too, and more importantly brought his people along … we’d never have had a law.”

Johnson said personal relationships and events in her father’s life influenced his thinking on civil rights and voting rights, as well as many of the social programs he helped establish.

Some of that can be traced to his life before politics when he was a teacher in Cotulla, Texas, where most of his students were Mexican American. They were wonderful and eager, but often hungry and very poor, she said.

“He thought he’d grown up poor so he would understand what their plight was like,” she said. “But he had never gone without a toothbrush. He had never gone without toothpaste. He had never gone without shoes. He had never known the kind of discrimination that they had known.”

“He swore if he ever got in a position to change the trajectory of the lives of people of color” he would, she said.

Johnson said she was saddened Voting Rights Act mandating the way states were included on the list of those needing to get advance approval for voting-related changes.

“I cried because I knew what was coming. I knew that there were parts of this country, including my home state, my father’s home state, that would take advantage of the fact that there would no longer be an opportunity to have the federal government ensure that everyone in the community had the right and equal access to the voting booth,” she said.

“I have seen over a lifetime so much take place that has tried to close the doors on all those rights,” she said. “I’m 75 years old now, and my energies are less than they once were, but for all of my days I will do all I can to try to keep those doors open to people of color, people who are discriminated against because of their age, or their ethnicity or their physical handicaps.”

With the Supreme Court due to rule on another major pillar of the Voting Rights Act, Johnson said she wants to keep fighting to try to maintain her father’s legacy and protect voting rights.

“I don’t want to get to heaven one day, and I hope I do, and have to say to my father, it was gutted to death on my watch,” she said.


The Associated Press coverage of race and voting receives support from the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation. See more about AP’s democracy initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

United States News

FILE - A pedestrian traverses the rotunda inside the New Mexico Capitol, March 16, 2023, in Santa F...

Associated Press

New Mexico governor cites ‘dangerous intersection’ of crime and homelessness, wants lawmakers to act

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Citing what she calls the “dangerous intersection” of crime and homelessness, New Mexico’s governor is calling on lawmakers to address stubbornly high crime rates as they convene Thursday for a special legislative session. In issuing her proclamation, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham talked about a vulnerable segment of society that falls […]

36 minutes ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives on third day of the Republi...

Associated Press

FACT FOCUS: Trump, in Republican convention video, alludes to false claim 2020 election was stolen

DONALD TRUMP, alluding that the 2020 vote was stolen: “Whether you vote early, absentee, by mail or in person, we are going to protect the vote. That’s the most important thing we have to do is protect the vote. Keep your eyes open because these people want to cheat and they do cheat. And frankly, […]

1 hour ago

Supporters cheer as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives for a c...

Associated Press

‘One screen, two movies’: Conflicting conspiracy theories emerge from Trump shooting

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former president is shot, the gunman quickly neutralized, and all of it is caught on camera. But for those who don’t believe their eyes, that’s just the start of the story. For some supporters of former President Donald Trump, the failure of the Secret Service to prevent the attempted assassination point […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Hundreds attend vigil for man killed at Trump rally in Pennsylvania before visitation Thursday

SARVER, Pa. (AP) — Hundreds of people who gathered to remember the former fire chief fatally shot at a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump were urged to find “unity” as the area in rural Pennsylvania sought to recover from the assassination attempt. Wednesday’s public event was the first of two organized to memorialize […]

1 hour ago

California delegate T. Tran holds his phone with an image of Republican presidential candidate form...

Associated Press

What to watch as the Republican National Convention enters its fourth day in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Republican National Convention culminates Thursday with former President Donald Trump expected to accept the party’s presidential nomination, achieving a comeback four years in the making and anticipated even more in the past week in light of Saturday’s assassination attempt. Trump is expected to accept his third consecutive party nod in prime […]

1 hour ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Sanderson Ford

3 storylines to get you revved up for the 2024 Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals training camp is just a couple weeks away starting on July 25, and Sanderson Ford is revved up and ready to go.

Sponsored Articles



Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.



Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

LBJ’s daughter Luci watched him sign voting rights bill, then cried when Supreme Court weakened it