A book of photographs and stories.
The Texas White House is the centerpiece of the LBJ Ranch in the Texas Hill Country. Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson purchased the home from his aunt in 1951 and spent decades enlarging the house and surrounding properties. Today a public museum in the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, the ranch house reflects the residents who worked and entertained friends and associates from 1952 to 2007.
Unfortunately visitors can't take photos inside so this book provides an opportunity to view the house after a tour or, if you never get to visit in person. It is a great addition to any presidential or history buff's collection.
Photographs in book compliments of Scot Miller (suntomoon.com), David Valdez, The Johnson family, LBJ National Historical Park, Friends of LBJ National Historical Park and the LBJ Library and Museum collection.
Lynda Johnson Robb, elder daughter of the President and Mrs. Johnson writes of Russ’s book:
“Russ shares our passion for my parent's home on the LBJ Ranch. Mother wanted the public to see a real home not a decoration for House Beautiful. It really is a simple farmhouse that, for a time, was a presidential retreat. Mother wanted the house to look like she just stepped out to run an errand. Russ's book depicts the house beautifully photographed with a collection of stories and memories showing why it remains so special to us”.
Russ describes his book, December 2018
My Years at LBJ
Arriving in August 2006 for duty as the new superintendent of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park I was filled with excitement, anticipation and some apprehension. Over the past months I had diligently studied and read about President Johnson and his family. I had repeatedly seen Mrs. Johnson’s words, “our heart’s home” and her preface in the park’s management plan stating “don’t let it become a sterile relic of the past.”
Why apprehension? Was I up for the job? Would my efforts be satisfactory to meet expectations of a family still very much involved and interested in the LBJ Ranch and other resources of the park. Places and acreage that was the birthright of Lynda and Luci Johnson, had been donated to the National Park Service by their parents.
What I discovered was the Johnson family wanted a partner in conserving and sharing these places that were so important to their parents and to, as Luci says, “generations of Johnsons.” Mrs. Johnson and the family had continued to live in the ranch house and expose their children and grandchildren to this special place. In fact, with President Johnson’s death of 1973 before most were born, the grands referred to the LBJ Ranch as “Nini’s ranch”. Nini, their affectionate name for a woman they had learned had quite a legacy and who they adored.
Mrs. Johnson’s life-estate use of the ranch and Texas White House complex had allowed the public to visit the ranch on ranger-guided tours, but for the family to continue to enjoy the ranch and development within. She, Luci and Lynda had for years delighted in greeting tour buses jumping onboard to welcome everyone and share a few stories.
With Mrs. Johnson’s passing in July 2007 the life-estate of the Texas White House and buildings complex reverted to full ownership of the National Park Service. Our job, their park service family, was to be there and support the family in any way possible. We, the family and the nation had lost an incredible woman and her funeral procession would be lined with caring Texans and Americans for almost sixty miles between Austin and the LBJ Ranch.
One of Mrs. Johnson’s passions were parks and public places and the National Park Service was a great beneficiary of her devotion. Now, as we transitioned the Texas White House from private residence to public museum, we proceeded with the utmost respect for her wishes and the continuing pain and loss the family endured.
2008 was the 100th anniversary of President Johnson’s birth and the national historical park joined with the LBJ State Park and Historic Site, the LBJ Museum of San Marcos, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the LBJ Library and Museum to sponsor special events throughout the year. In that year was born the LBJ 100 Bicycle Tour, Barbecue on the Pedernales, Reflections of the 1960’s, and Movies Under the Stars.
Lyndon B. Johnson absolutely loved the Texas Hill Country, the LBJ Ranch and his Johnson City, Texas roots. He prided in sharing these places and the people who knew him best with anyone who would visit. And they came by the thousands. His boyhood home in Johnson City already a popular tourist attraction was joined with tours of his birthplace home on the ranch. Under close monitor by the President the National Park Service restored the cabin that served as home and headquarters of the cattle operation conducted by his grandfather and great uncle in the 1860’s and 70’s.
In December 1972, with only a month of life remaining, President and Mrs. Johnson gathered at the Texas White House with the Secretary of the Interior to sign paperwork deeding hundreds of acres of the LBJ Ranch and the Texas White House to the National Park Service. A final expression of their love for fellow Americans to donate their beloved and historic ranch.
Over my years as superintendent of the park I was absolutely thrilled at our progress. The Friends of LBJ National Historical Park was formed and with the full support of Mrs. Johnson, Luci and Lynda, thrived, supported and gifted around one-million dollars toward projects. I was fond of saying there was hardly a place in the park that had not benefitted from the Friends. We opened the Texas White House in December 2011 on the eve of Mrs. Johnson’s 100th birthday anniversary year of 2012. The Texas White House quickly became the “old faithful” attraction in the park. Everyone, thousands (sometimes a day) wanted to tour this famous ranch house.
The communities surrounding the park whole-heatedly supported our efforts and programs and we relished in the positive experiences provided people who sought out LBJ stories and wanted to witness special places for themselves. With the opening of the ranch the park’s visitation nearly tripled in subsequent years.
Through my years at the park I was welcomed into the “extended Johnson family” and was invited to sit and listen to stories told by those who lived, worked and knew the President and Mrs. Johnson. They shared a passion for those people and the accomplishments of the time. They laughed, cried, relished in the moments, and quietly reflected on times and places they would not have traded for the world. They had been a part and witnessed history as hundreds of bills passed with the sole intention of improving the lives of their fellow citizens.
Each man and woman spoke without hesitation of their admiration for LBJ and Lady Bird. It instilled in me a desire to share the story of a president often overlooked because of Vietnam. From those men and women who tried to match his pace and energy, I drew inspiration to do more.
Luci Johnson told me her Dad would sometimes tell her “Luci don’t tell me why you can’t do something; I want to now how you can. And Can Do was our motto to keep alive the spirit of the President and Mrs. Johnson.