Book excerpt: “Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight”

In her ebook “Woman Fowl Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight” (Random Home), creator Julia Sweig recounts the lifetime of the previous first woman and her surprisingly highly effective function in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s political profession.

Learn an excerpt beneath, and do not miss correspondent Mo Rocca’s interview with Julia Sweig on “CBS Sunday Morning” March 14!

Random Home

Chapter 1
The Surrogate

Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are wanted. And our obligation as a celebration is to not our social gathering alone, however to the nation, and certainly to all mankind. Our obligation is just not merely the preservation of political energy however the preservation of peace and freedom.

So allow us to not be petty when our trigger is so nice, allow us to not quarrel amongst ourselves when our nation’s future is at stake.

—John F. Kennedy, speech to have been delivered in Austin, Texas, November 24, 1963

When he got here to the White Home, immediately everybody noticed what the New Frontier was going to imply.

It meant a poet on the Inauguration; it meant swooping round Washington, dropping in on delighted and flustered outdated associates; it meant going to the airport in zero climate with out an overcoat; it meant a rocking chair and having the Hickory Hill seminar on the White Home when Bobby and Ethel have been out of city; it meant enjoyable at presidential press conferences.

It meant sprint, glamour, glitter, appeal. It meant a brand new period of enlightenment and verve; it meant Nobel Prize winners dancing within the foyer; it meant authors and actors and poets and Shakespeare within the East Room.

—Mary McGrory, The Night Star, November 24, 1963

Claudia Taylor Johnson drew her preliminary impression of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy not from a luncheon for spouses or a night social occasion in Washington, however quite, from Jack and Jackie’s 1953 Life journal wedding ceremony photos. Jackie, she thought, was “completely the essence of romance and sweetness.” When the newlywed Kennedys moved to Washington, actual life, because it turned out, was much more outstanding than the pictures. As a freshman senator’s spouse, Jackie was “a chicken of gorgeous plumage” who “could not have been extra gracious.” By comparability, Fowl felt, she and the opposite Senate wives have been “little grey wrens.” When the Kennedys married and Jack started his first time period within the Senate, the Johnsons had already been in that chamber for 4 years. Within the Washington, D.C., of the Fifties, the Johnsons and the Kennedys weren’t personally shut. They did not run in the identical social circles. The truth is, by the 1956 Democratic conference, Jack and Lyndon had develop into quasi-overt rivals. Elected Senate majority chief in 1955 and approaching the height of his energy in Congress, LBJ conveyed his standing to Woman Fowl, who dominated the roost of Senate wives. Regardless of the variations between their husbands, Fowl graciously inducted Jackie into the rigorously choreographed court-like world of Washington spouses, internet hosting her at their brick Colonial on thirtieth Place, Northwest, and in any other case brushing up towards her youth and glamour all through the last decade. Discovering Jackie impossibly younger, Woman Fowl labored to place her comfortable at these partner gatherings; Jackie appreciated Woman Fowl and made some extent of connecting with the Johnsons’ elder daughter, Lynda, simply eleven once they first met. However Washington was not fully new to Jackie: At fourteen, she’d moved along with her mom and her mom’s new husband to an property in Virginia’s hunt nation. She briefly attended the non-public women’ faculty Holton-Arms, and she or he completed her undergraduate diploma at George Washington College earlier than marrying Jack.

An achieved equestrian, Jackie summered within the Hamptons and Newport; had studied at Miss Porter’s College, Vassar, and the Sorbonne; and spoke French and Spanish. Woman Fowl had studied French, briefly, and her Spanish was nonetheless restricted to what she had picked up throughout her childhood in Texas. Jackie was twenty-three years outdated, Fowl’s age when Lyndon had already served for 2 years within the Home. Whereas Fowl labored assiduously to grease the wheels of Lyndon’s political workplace with limitless socializing, charity occasions, and journey forwards and backwards to and throughout Texas, Jackie struck Fowl as being uninterested within the tedium of the sport, content material to spend her early years married to Jack as a society photographer for the Washington Instances-Herald, taking a course in American historical past at Georgetown, or repairing to Hickory Hill, the nation home in McLean, Virginia, that the newlyweds had bought and later gave to Bobby and Ethel. Even when outward the cultural indicators of their variations have been rife, inward, the parallels between Woman Fowl and Jackie ran deep. Every had made her mark in Washington because the younger, newlywed spouse of a younger, bold husband. Each quickly needed to deal with their husbands’ infidelities and the humiliation of understanding that their very own political and social circles knew of and, certainly, usually facilitated the habits. Miscarriage after miscarriage plagued their quest for offspring. And by 1960, each had husbands for whom severe sickness made the prospect of demise loom massive – Addison’s illness dogged JFK all through his grownup life; melancholy, coronary heart illness, and different itinerant maladies bothered Lyndon. Each their husbands smoked and drank an excessive amount of. But, it was not till the 1960 marketing campaign that Jackie and Woman Fowl had actual event to totally consider one another. By pairing their husbands on a shock presidential ticket, the social gathering conference that summer season in Los Angeles pressured upon the 2 ladies a fast, at occasions uncomfortable bond, however one which ultimately grew right into a lifelong empathy and sudden intimacy.

*    *    *

Neither Lyndon nor Woman Fowl went to the 1960 Los Angeles conference with the ambition of touchdown the vice-presidential slot. Having turned down Joe Kennedy’s earlier provide to finance an LBJ-JFK ticket in 1956, Lyndon had as a substitute delivered the Texas delegation for JFK’s personal failed bid for the vice presidency in the course of the Democratic Nationwide Conference in Chicago that 12 months – former Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson was the presidential nominee – on the floor a magnanimous gesture, however one unambiguously meant to telegraph to the younger senator and his household that LBJ had the ability to behave as kingmaker inside the social gathering. However by the top of the last decade, Joe, Jack, and Bobby made their play to construct a nationwide profile and group to elect Jack to the White Home. By 1960, a lot to the Kennedy clan’s distaste, they wanted LBJ, for his regional roots and political chops. In assessing his personal prospects for a presidential run, Johnson remained clear-eyed that whereas as majority chief he might manage huge help within the U.S. Senate, his leverage in Congress wouldn’t robotically translate into the nationwide stature crucial for a profitable presidential run. After working as a congressional staffer after which operating a New Deal youth employment program in Austin, he received his first Home seat in a particular election in 1937 with ten thousand {dollars} in financing from Woman Fowl’s inheritance. He went on to win it handily, and principally unopposed, in 1938, 1940, 1942, 1944, and 1946. He misplaced a bid for the Senate in 1941, and in 1948 he approved a fraudulent voting operation to safe victory towards a main opponent, successful by simply 87 votes, earlier than successful within the basic election that 12 months.

Ambivalence, the prospect of loss, the suggestion of illegitimacy – these have been fixed themes in Lyndon Johnson’s political profession. From Woman Fowl’s perspective when it got here to nationwide workplace, her husband had been “deeply unsure about his potential, his well being, his being a southerner, whether or not that was an excellent factor for him to do.” But, by the top of 1959, Lyndon, she recalled, had about “sucked the orange dry” from his tenure as Senate majority chief. “We have been reaching some extent of no return, a sure defining of pathways” main towards a presidential bid for Lyndon. Regardless of his mentor Congressman Sam Rayburn and his longtime aide, future Texas governor John Connally, pushing LBJ to publicize his marketing campaign for the highest of the ticket extra aggressively, Woman Fowl’s husband had as a substitute run an undeclared, ambivalent marketing campaign in 1960. Fowl had been at her dying father’s bedside in a hospital in Marshall, Texas, a visit she would make 5 occasions that 12 months, when what she knew to be a halfhearted Lyndon lastly introduced his candidacy simply three days earlier than the kickoff of the 1960 conference in Los Angeles. By then, Bobby Kennedy’s nationwide technique for his brother’s marketing campaign enabled JFK to trounce LBJ by greater than double within the first delegate poll. The night time after the bruising defeat, Woman Fowl and Lyndon handled themselves to “the perfect night time’s sleep we might each had in a very long time.” However the defeat was a humiliation, and solely the primary.

Excerpted from “Woman Fowl Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight” by Julia Sweig. Copyright © 2021 by Julia Sweig. Excerpted by permission of Random Home, an imprint and division of Penguin Random Home LLC, New York. All rights reserved. No a part of this excerpt could also be reproduced or reprinted with out permission in writing from the writer.

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