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Former US First Lady Buried in Texas


Former First Lady Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson was laid to rest, Sunday, on the Johnson family ranch in the Texas hill country west of the state capital. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Austin, on the reaction of the thousands of people who were paying their last respects.

To the accompaniment of the old spiritual "Amazing Grace," family and friends of the former first lady gathered beneath a canopy of oak and pecan trees, near the banks of the Pedernales River, for one last goodbye.

Lady Bird Johnson, who died of natural causes, Wednesday, at the age of 94, was buried next to her husband, President Lyndon Johnson, who died in 1973. The graves are located on the Johnson family ranch.

Speaking on behalf of the family, before the casket was lowered into its grave, Johnson's only grandson, Lyndon Nugent, spoke about what she had done for the world and her family.

"You taught us that was important to stand by your convictions, to support your friends, to love your neighbors. You taught us that it was important to do our part to leave the world a better place than we found it and you taught us in the best way possible, you led by example," Nugent said.

Thousands of people lined the roadways leading from Austin to the burial site, some with flags and flowers. Later in the day, many people gathered at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center or in the parks along Town Lake, an area that had been preserved for citizens - largely through the efforts of Mrs. Johnson.

She and the former president had come back to Texas when he left office in January, 1969. Lady Bird Johnson began her crusade for the environment by promoting the 1965 Highway Beautification Act. She devoted herself to other environmental causes after she left the White House.

Former New Yorker Ernest Mendez credits her for making Austin a particularly attractive city for nature lovers.

"I came out here in 1978 and I fell in love with the park and I know that she had a lot to do with this. That is what is keeping me here. I am glad that she had the foresight to try to preserve, you know, the environment," Mendez said.

Others enjoying the park on Sunday also had fond memories of the first lady. Teri Hardy of Magnolia, Texas, says she and her family were personally moved by the passing of a woman they regarded as a Texas legend.

"I found it very emotional when it happened. It was a real loss. She be truly missed," Hardy said.

Gena Lockwood, of Houston, also hailed the contributions Lady Bird Johnson had made to protecting the Texas environment and the state's abundant wildflowers.

"I feel she was ahead of her time, knowing that there has to be some beautification on the highways. She lived a long life and she is loved by so many people and she is a flower and a gem in the political system because of what she did. She is her own flower," Lockwood said.

In 1912, Lady Bird Johnson was born Claudia Alta Taylor, in east Texas. She gained her nickname, Lady Bird, from a family nurse who said the child was "pretty as a lady bird." She became first lady on November 22, 1963, when an assassin murdered President John Kennedy in Dallas. Her husband, who was vice president at the time, was sworn in as president. Lady Bird Johnson was credited by many for helping the mourning nation to recover. She is also remembered for her role in promoting her husband's civil rights programs and for advocating programs to help children from poor families receive an education.

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