LBJ and Lady Bird courtship love letters released
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Days after the congressional aide met the University of Texas history and journalism graduate in Austin, he boldly proposed marriage.
Claudia Alta Taylor, the 21-year-old rancher's daughter known to her friends as "Bird," was intrigued but thought Lyndon Johnson's proposal was much too impulsive. Her clearly smitten suitor, however, was persistent.
"It is an important decision," he wrote to her in one of the nearly 90 love letters the pair exchanged during their 10-week courtship in 1934. "It isn't being made in one night ... but your lack of decision hasn't tempered either my affection, devotion or ability to know what I want."
She replied that his proposal and repeated insistence "sort of put me on the spot, didn't it, dear? All I can say, in absolutely honesty, is — I love you, I don't know how everlastingly I love you — so I can't answer you yet."
The correspondence between the 26-year-old future president and the woman the world would come to know as Lady Bird are available for public review for the first time starting Thursday — Valentine's Day — at the LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas at Austin.
A few of the letters were previously released but not the entire collection, which also will be posted online.
"We've had several requests from researchers to release these," Claudia Anderson, the library's supervisory archivist, said Wednesday. "It just seemed like a good time to do it."
Unlike brief and instantaneous Twitter or Facebook posts or cryptic phone texts, the letters — most multiple pages — reflect a time when the handwritten note was the chief form of communication.
"Dearly Beloved," Taylor begins one, before reconsidering her salutation. "This sounds like a sermon — it isn't."
He signs them, "Lyndon," or "Lyndon Baines." She signs, "Bird." One closes, "Do you still love me? Devotedly, Bird."
Her stationery carries that name, given to her by a caretaker nurse who described her as "pretty as a lady bird." Her handwriting is very neat in thin black script.
His, also in script with thick dark black ink, is on letterhead from Washington's Dodge Hotel, where he lived while working as an aide to U.S. Rep. Richard Kleberg of Texas. Other letters are on Kleberg's office stationery, sent simply to "Miss Bird Taylor, Karnack, Texas," where her home didn't have a telephone. The envelope carries 6 cents postage, but some he sent by air mail or special delivery.