The Bugler

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Women's History Month: Claudia Taylor Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson spreads seeds on the site of the National Wildflower Research Center. Photo by Frank Wolfe. Public domain.

Glendale recently attended the 5th Brigade Drill Competition in San Antonio, Texas. One of the schools that participated was Claudia Taylor Johnson High School. First, it is unusual for a school to be named after a woman whereas there are many Washingtons, Kennedys, and Boones. But even though I think of myself as being pretty knowledgeable, I did not know who this Claudia Taylor Johnson was. A quick Google search and I knew immediately. She is known world-wide as the wife of Lyndon Baine Johnson, Lady Bird. Claudia was a remarkable woman in her right. History will tell you she didn't pursue Johnson, he pursued her! He was so relentless that she married him only ten weeks after their first date.

Claudia was always a strong student but she was very shy. She let her grades slip so she would not be selected valedictorian and have to stand up and speak in front of people. In 1959 she bettered herself by taking a public speaking class. It paid off well when it came to the passage of the Civil Rights legislature where she stumped constantly for the program her husband, President Johnson, had passed. Riding the train dubbed "The Lady Bird Special" she made a four-day trip stopping at 47 towns to press the message of Civil Rights. Over the course of this trip she spoke to over half a million people. This was the first time a First Lady had actively campaigned and she is credited with helping her husband, LBJ, win the South in the 1964 Presidential election.

She was also the national chair of the Head Start program, which was designed to provide early childhood education to low-income children and their parents. According to the Head Start website, over 33 million children have participated in Head Start.

She was the architect of the "Beautification" campaign and fiercely lobbied Congress and business people to restore beauty to the Washington, D.C. area. According to a website on first ladies, "Some two million daffodil and tulip bulbs, 83,000 flowering plants, 50,000 shrubs, 137,000 annuals and 25,000 trees were planted around or near the public buildings, masses of flowers where the masses pass." The website goes into great detail about all the things she did as far as trying to have billboards outlawed, to filming a series of specials teaching Americans about the National Parks and encouraging people to see America. In 1965 her work became the first major legislative campaign launched by a first lady, the Highway Beautification Act. After retiring to Texas she continued her love for wildflowers and helped create the Wildflower Research Center in 1982. The center has since been renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center. See Wildlife.org to learn more.

She is also the recipient of two of the United States' highest civilian honors, the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

5th Brigade JROTC Drill Team Championships

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