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LBJ Library has Lady Bird Johnson home movies

LBJ Library has Lady Bird Johnson home movies
Monday, September 20, 2010 - 10:51am

AUSTIN, Texas — Future President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1939 gave his wife a 16mm movie camera in what turned out to be a gift to history.

Over the years Lady Bird Johnson shot home movies of her husband, their family and powerful friends. Her work as an amateur cinematographer resulted in almost nine hours of film archived at the LBJ Library and Museum.

The library recently converted the films to a digital format, making it easier for the researchers to examine, and for the public to view or buy the items, according to the Austin American Statesman.

One scene shows the couple's daughter, Lynda, at age 9, in a cowboy hat and Western outfit atop a golden horse named Peach Beauty. The horse stands near a white picket fence as the child chews pink bubble gum, pats the animal and then fiddles with her left boot.

Suddenly, another horse and rider appear in the frame.

"And there's Lyndon on the Tennessee Walker," Lady Bird Johnson says off-camera. "Quite a handsome Western gentleman."

Lady Bird Johnson shot that color movie clip in 1953 and narrated it more than 10 years later in the White House when her husband was the 36th president.

The earliest films are from Johnson's 1941 campaign across Texas for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Other movies show children's birthday parties and holidays, friends and visitors to the LBJ ranch in Texas, travel overseas and Mrs. Johnson's backyard "Victory Garden" during World War II.

"Look at my hydrangeas," Mrs. Johnson says with obvious glee in one movie. "What a gardener I was!"

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Robert Caro of New York, who is working on his fourth volume of his LBJ biography series, has viewed many of Mrs. Johnson's movies during his research.

"It's an illuminating addition to history," said Caro, "to be able to see people in history, not just Lyndon and Lady Bird, but Lyndon's staff members, family members. To see them in an informal setting and, therefore, get more of an idea of what they're like, you can't overestimate the importance of that."

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