JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO —
“President Johnson was a man whose legacy is as big as the Texas sky,” said Col. Philip G. Born, 37th Training Wing vice commander, during a public wreath-laying ceremony Aug. 27 at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.
This year marked the 111th anniversary of Johnson’s birth in a house on the sprawling ranch in the Texas Hill Country.
“Without the diversity he fostered and fought for, we would not have what is now the world’s premier fighting force,” Born added. “President Johnson was responsible for helping this diverse country coming together during a time of adversity, crafting a series of legislative acts that became known as the ‘Great Society’ and the foundation of that was the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
The colonel also noted that Johnson was one of only four people to serve as a U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, Vice President and President.
The park is located in Johnson City, Texas. The gravesite ceremony for the former president observes his birthday and the contributions he made to the nation. The national park, which sits on more than 600 acres, is also home to Johnson's childhood home, his school house and a graveyard, among other attractions.
The Johnson family graveyard is nestled in the shade of a number of large expansive trees, just a few hundred feet from the Perdanales River.
This year’s ceremony is a continuation of the tradition started Aug. 27, 1973, by Johnson’s wife, Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson just a few months after the former president’s passing. The event is now sponsored by the National Park Service.
Located about 50 miles west of Austin in the Texas Hill Country, the park protects the birthplace, home, ranch and final resting place of the 36th President of the United States. During Johnson’s administration, the LBJ Ranch was known as the “Texas White House” because the President spent about 25 percent of his time in office there.
While president, Johnson urged the nation “to build a great society, a place where the meaning of man’s life matches the marvels of man’s labor.”
Also speaking at the event was President and Mrs. Johnson’s granddaughter, Catherine Robb, who was the keynote speaker.
Catherine Robb, daughter of Lynda Johnson Robb and Charles Robb, is one of President Johnson’s seven grandchildren to carry on his legacy. Although Catherine grew up in Virginia, where her father was elected governor and then U.S. Senator, she moved to Austin to study at the University of Texas School of Law, earning her J.D. in 1998, with honors.
“I know my grandfather would have loved to have seen you all here today to celebrate his birthday,” Robb said. “This is a place where he got his sustenance, found his moral compass and got a chance to recharge. It meant so much to him to be able to come here for so many years.
“It really was a place to get back to his roots and reflected who he was,” Robb added. “He would greatly enjoy bringing foreign visitors here to show that a man could come from anywhere and achieve great things.”
Robb also recalled spending each Tuesday with Mrs. Johnson, cooking, watching PBS, or reading some of Mrs. Johnson’s favorite books.
She is also the founder, former chairman, and chair emeritus of the LBJ Library Future Forum. Having learned the value of philanthropy from her grandmother, Catherine also volunteers for several non-profits in the community, including Reading is Fundamental of Austin, Trinity Center, Back on My Feet, and Volunteer Legal Services.
“We all share in the beauty of this place, where we can continue to give thanks to President Johnson’s many contributions to America,” said Susanne McDonald, from the U.S. Parks Service and superintendent of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. “It was his home and now it is our national treasure.”