Lady Bird Johnson has died at 94. Former First Ladies generally lived very long times.
A very long time ago, I was reading an article on the Secret Service. Apparently, if a SS agent had done something to piss off a superior once too many times, he was sent to Independence , Missuri in order to guard Bess Truman, who was very old and had Alzheimer's syndrome. Few people knew she was still alive and of those, no one wished her harm, so the job was unrelievdly boring. I thought of this when I read in the Daily News that Former First Lady Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson had died at the age of 94 yesterday.
What was remarkable about Mrs. Johnson was that, until she became First Lady at the murder of JFK, she had a day job. This was in 1963, and most rich married women spent their lives just being decorous. Not Lady Bird, she was a media mogul.
Back when her husband was a lowely congressman, she used her inheritance to by a moribund radio station. Robert Caro denounces the way LBJ managed to get the broadcast licence (he denounces everything LBJ did in that book), but while he was doing his thing in Washington, she actually ran the radio station, and turned it into one of the most profitable in Texas. By the time LBJ became Vice President, the Johnsons were filthy rich, and it wasn't (primarily) due to influence peddling, it was due to Lady Bird's business savvy. She wound up owning radio and TV stations throughout the southwest.
She was also an enviornmentalist, and her "Beautify America" campaign was the first time since the Teddy Roosevelt administration over a half century before that saving the natural beauty of the United States and fighting polution became a true priortiy. People tend to forget that the Johnson administration was the most progressive one, vis a vis domestic policy, of all time, with the possible exception of FDR's. That was partly due to Lady Bird's influence.
Generally, former first ladies vanish into oblivion. True, there are exceptions, Jackie O was tabloid fodder for the rest of her life, that is after her second marriage, but in general, they want to get as far away from "the life" as possible. Mrs. Johnson, like Mrs. Polk and Mrs. Cleveland before her (Benjamin Harrison's trophy wife doesn't really cound), outlived her spouse by decades and decades and decades, pretty much only showing up for the opening of Presidential Libraries and getting on with her life.
She won't be missed except for her family, her mark on history was too long ago. She died very rich and very old. Somthing we all should do.