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Widow of Former US President Lyndon Johnson Dies

  • Ken Schwartz

A former first lady of the United States -- Lady Bird Johnson -- has died. She was 94. A family spokeswoman says the widow of President Lyndon B. Johnson died Wednesday at her home in Austin, Texas of natural causes. During her husband's presidency, Mrs. Johnson urged Congress to pass the Highway Beautification Bill, and she pushed to improve the look of the nation's capital. The couple had two daughters. Mrs. Johnson was admitted to the hospital last week with a fever and other undisclosed symptoms. VOA's Deborah Block has more.

Lady Bird Johnson's lasting legacy was her public grace in the face of tragedy, her tireless efforts to make America more beautiful and her steadfast support of her husband's political career.

She was born Claudia Alta Taylor on December 22, 1912, and got her nickname as an infant when a nurse said she was "purty [pretty] as a lady bird."

The rancher's daughter studied art and journalism at the University of Texas and graduated in 1934, the same year she met Mr. Johnson.

"I think we both knew that we were better together, than we were -- would be -- apart," she said in an interview with the television program 20/20.

Mrs. Johnson is credited with persuading her husband to support the early childhood development program known as "Head Start," and she campaigned with him for the war on poverty.

Mrs. Johnson was riding in a motorcade with her husband in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 when an assassin killed President John F. Kennedy.

Soon afterwards, Mrs. Johnson stood next to her husband aboard Air Force One as he took the oath of office as president.

"I felt like I was walking onto a stage for a part I had never rehearsed, hadn't even read," she said.

While President Johnson struggled with the Vietnam War, civil rights and social upheaval, Mrs. Johnson began her crusade to beautify America.

Lyndon Johnson left office in 1969 and died four years later. After her husband's death, Mrs. Johnson worked for environmental causes.

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