New Photographic Exhibition Tells the Story of Lady Bird Johnson’s Journey from UT Austin to the White House
Personal photos from Lady Bird Johnson’s private collection now hang at the Moody College of Communication, telling the story of the former first lady’s journey from The University of Texas at Austin to the White House.
The black and white images, which are on display outside the Lady Bird Johnson Conference Room on the 5th floor of the Communication Building A, depict major milestones in Lady Bird's life, including her smiling in her cap and gown at her UT Austin graduation and standing beside her husband, Lyndon Baines Johnson, when he was sworn into office as president in 1963.
Moody College unveiled the photographic exhibition at a special event last week.
Lady Bird Johnson’s daughter, Luci Baines Johnson, gave moving remarks to a room filled with Johnson family and friends and Moody College faculty and students.
“Today, we celebrate mother’s memories coming home to the university where her love affair with communications began,” she said. “Our family will always be grateful to the university for the educational foundation it gave my mother and for the foundation she was able to give all of her family.”
Lady Bird Johnson graduated from UT Austin in 1934 with degrees in history and journalism and went on to run her husband’s congressional office, build a media empire, launch a groundbreaking environmental agenda while in the White House and advocate for women’s rights and the beautification of Austin. She served for six years on the UT System’s Board of Regents.
“Mother’s degrees in history and journalism from the university were a godsend to her as the wife and soul mate of Lyndon Baines Johnson,” Johnson said. “Her understanding of history and journalism uniquely prepared her to run my father’s congressional office while he was away in the South Pacific defending our country and to serve as the most trusted advisor when he returned to his career in the Congress and in the Senate and ultimately in the presidency.”
Photos in the exhibition previously hung on the walls at the family radio station, KLBJ, before they sold it in 2003. Then, they hung in the family office. Luci Johnson said she knew in her heart the final destination for the images. “The photos belonged to The University of Texas at Austin,” she said. “If only the university would have them.”
Another Johnson treasure is now also on display, this one inside the Lady Bird Johnson Conference Room, a replica of Lady Bird Johnson’s official White House portrait by Russian American painter Elizabeth Shoumatoff. The painting was hanging in the UT System building until the building was sold in 2017. It is now on permanent loan to hang in the Moody College conference room.
At the end of last week’s event, The Drag Audio Production House, which is housed in the Moody College, announced its forthcoming documentary podcast “Lady Bird,” which is expected to be released in June. The 11-episode series includes never-before-heard archival interviews with Lady Bird Johnson from the LBJ Presidential Library, as well as original interviews conducted with renowned historians, White House staffers, personal friends and the Johnson family.
The show’s host, UT Austin journalism student Jade Emerson, who graduates this month, gave remarks at the Moody College reception, crying grateful tears as she spoke.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to tell Mrs. Johnson’s story,” she said. “I feel so lucky to have been the person to do this.”
The trailer for the new podcast will be released to the public June 13. Those looking to view the Lady Bird Johnson exhibition can visit the 5th floor of the CMA anytime.