Projects featuring Lady Bird Johnson’s voice offer new looks at the late first lady

Nov 10, 2023, 10:07 PM

A visitor views items on display at the Lady Bird: Beyond the Wildflowers exhibit at the LBJ Librar...

A visitor views items on display at the Lady Bird: Beyond the Wildflowers exhibit at the LBJ Library, Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

DALLAS (AP) — Texas college student Jade Emerson found herself entranced as she worked on a podcast about Lady Bird Johnson, listening to hour upon hour of the former first lady recounting everything from her childhood memories to advising her husband in the White House.

“I fell in love very quickly,” said Emerson, host and producer of the University of Texas podcast “Lady Bird.” “She kept surprising me.”

The podcast, which was released earlier this year, is among several recent projects using Johnson’s own lyrical voice to offer a new look at the first lady who died in 2007. Other projects include a documentary titled “The Lady Bird Diaries” that premieres Monday on Hulu and an exhibit in Austin at the presidential library for her husband, Lyndon B. Johnson, who died in 1973.

Lady Bird Johnson began recording an audio diary in the tumultuous days after her husband became president following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. The library released that audio about a decade after her death. It adds to recorded interviews she did following her husband’s presidency and home movies she narrated.

“I don’t know that people appreciated or realized how much she was doing behind the scenes and I think that’s the part that’s only just now really starting to come out,” said Lara Hall, LBJ Presidential Library curator.

“Lady Bird: Beyond the Wildflowers” shows library visitors the myriad ways Johnson made an impact. Hall said the exhibit, which closes at the end of the year, has been so popular that the library hopes to integrate parts of it into its permanent display.

In making her podcast, Emerson, who graduated from UT in May with a journalism degree, relied heavily on the interviews Johnson did with presidential library staff over the decades after her husband left the White House in 1969.

“Just to have her telling her own story was so fascinating,” Emerson said. “And she just kept surprising me. Like during World War II when LBJ was off serving, she was the one who ran his congressional office in the 1940s. She had bought a radio station in Austin and went down to Austin to renovate it and get it going again.”

The new documentary from filmmaker Dawn Porter, based on Julia Sweig’s 2021 biography “Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight” and a podcast hosted by the author, takes viewers through the White House years. From advising her husband on strategy to critiquing his speeches, her influence is quickly seen.

Porter also notes that Johnson was “a fierce environmentalist” and an advocate for women. She was also a skilled campaigner, Porter said. Among events the documentary recounts is Johnson’s tour of the South aboard a train named the “Lady Bird Special” before the 1964 election.

With racial tensions simmering following the passage of the Civil Rights Act, President Johnson sent his wife as his surrogate. “She does that whistle-stop tour in the very hostile South and does it beautifully,” Porter said.

“She did all of these things and she didn’t ask for credit, but she deserves the credit,” Porter said.

The couple’s daughter Luci Baines Johnson can still remember the frustration she felt as a 16-year-old when she saw the message hanging on the doorknob to her mother’s room that read: “I want to be alone.” Lady Bird Johnson would spend that time working on her audio tapes, compiling her thoughts from photographs, letters and other information that might strike her memory.

“She was just begging for the world to give her the time to do what she’d been uniquely trained to do,” said Luci Baines Johnson, who noted that her mother had degrees in both history and journalism from the University of Texas.

“She was just beyond, beyond and beyond,” she said. “She thought a day without learning was a day that was wasted.”

Emerson called her work on the podcast “a huge gift” as she “spent more time with Lady Bird than I did with anyone else in my college years.”

“She’s taught me a lot about just what type of legacy I’d like to leave with my own life and just how to treat people.”

“Every time I hear her voice, I start to smile,” she said.

United States News

China’s President Hu Jintao, shakes meets with singer-songwriter, Barbra Streisand, left, and...

Associated Press

Henry Kissinger, secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford, dies at 100

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the diplomat with the thick glasses and gravelly voice who dominated foreign policy as the United States extricated itself from Vietnam and broke down barriers with China, died Wednesday, his consulting firm said. He was 100. With his gruff yet commanding presence and behind-the-scenes manipulation of […]

3 hours ago

File - A truck passes oil pump jacks at dusk near Karnes City, Texas, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. On W...

Associated Press

US economic growth for last quarter is revised up to a 5.2% annual rate

Shrugging off higher interest rates, America's consumers spent enough to help drive the economy to a brisk 5.2% annual pace from July through September.

3 hours ago

Associated Press

A US Navy plane went into a Hawaii bay. Underwater video shows its tires are touching a coral reef

KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (AP) — Tires from a large airplane that’s been stuck in a Hawaii bay for more than a week are resting on parts of a reef, according to video the U.S. Navy released Wednesday as it figures out a plan to remove the aircraft. There were no injuries to the nine people […]

4 hours ago

FILE - Utah Food Bank volunteers load groceries for the needy at a mobile food pantry distribution ...

Associated Press

Total GivingTuesday donations were flat this year, but 10% fewer people participated in the day

NEW YORK (AP) — Nonprofit organization GivingTuesday estimates that donors gave $3.1 billion this year on what has become one of the most important fundraising days of the year — the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Donations were up $20 million on Tuesday, a 0.6% increase over last year before adjusting for inflation, the nonprofit said. GivingTuesday […]

4 hours ago

(Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)...

Associated Press

US Navy warship shoots down drone launched by Houthis from Yemen, official says

A U.S. Navy warship sailing near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait shot down a drone launched from Yemen, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Maui officials on standby to stop heavy rains from sending ash into storm drains

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Maui officials were on standby Wednesday to prevent ash from August’s deadly wildfire in Lahaina from flowing into storm drains after forecasters said a winter storm could bring heavy rain and strong winds to the island. The National Weather Service said rain falling at a rate of more than 1 inch […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @KTAR923...

The 2023 Diamondbacks are a good example to count on the underdog

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series as a surprise. That they made the playoffs at all, got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card round, swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and won two road games in Philadelphia to close out a full seven-game NLCS went against every expectation. Now, […]

Follow @KTAR923...

West Hunsaker at Morris Hall supports Make-A-Wish Foundation in Arizona

KTAR's Community Spotlight this month focuses on Morris Hall and its commitment to supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Arizona.



Importance of AC maintenance after Arizona’s excruciating heat wave

An air conditioning unit in Phoenix is vital to living a comfortable life inside, away from triple-digit heat.

Projects featuring Lady Bird Johnson’s voice offer new looks at the late first lady