Remembering America’s Steel Magnolia

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 16, 2007

Lady Bird Johnson, who died Wednesday at 94, came into the spotlight during one of America's darkest hours. While she didn't have the glamour of her predecessor, Jackie Kennedy, she was known for graciousness and dignity. Both qualities many lack in today's Washington.

While her husband, President Lyndon B. Johnson was considered rough and coarse, she was never intimidated by him. In fact, she often was credited for smoothing his rough edges.

While her husband dealt with historical issues like Vietnam and civil rights legislation, Lady Bird took on the project of making the phrase, &#8220America the Beautiful” a reality.

She is also credited with being the first conservationist in the White House since President Theodore Roosevelt.

She was also courageous in many actions including various trips to the South where she campaigned for civil rights.

After she returned home to Texas and became a widow she continued to wield a quiet political power. Politicians who wanted to advance their own careers from their Texas home, knew that one of the first people he or she had to sway was Lady Bird Johnson.

In her later years, beautification programs she began in the nation's capital swept cross country. Today, each spring, the interstates, including stretches of Butler County on I-65 transform into a plethora of color with tulips, daffodils, dogwoods and much more. These little touches of color always break the monotony of a long drive through Alabama. She has also spent many years lobbying for improvements at our national parks and other such locations, all in the name of making America beautiful.

Now, as a nation, we mourn her. She will be laid to rest at the LBJ Ranch in Texas in a private ceremony today. That was her way. Privacy was important to her.

Yes, she was no Jackie Kennedy, but her grace and dignity and ability to face her own obstacles made this fine Southern lady a ‘Steel Magnolia.'

Truly we wish there were many more like her. – Greenville Advocate