Dear Lady Bird

Lyndon Johnson's dogged pursuit of Lady Bird further revealed in a cache of never-before-seen love letters.
Thu February 14, 2013 7:45 am
LBJ Library

“I’m sure that there is nothing that could be more distracting, disturbing and estranging to me than a continued evidence of indifference on your part. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and today Saturday and no sentiments of affection nor expressions of love,” 26-year-old Lyndon Baines Johnson wrote to Lady Bird on September 15, 1934, ten days after their initial meeting.

Lyndon had famously proposed to Lady Bird, only 21, at the end of their first date, breakfast at the Driskill Hotel followed by a drive through the countryside. Lady Bird, though she found the young congressional secretary “handsome and charming and terribly bright,” held back, wary to label this rush of initial interest as love. But the pair spent the next several days together, visiting Stonewall to meet his parents and the King Ranch to see the Klebergs. Lyndon then returned to Washington.

Over the next nine weeks, Lyndon and Lady Bird would continue their courtship at a distance, exchanging some 90 letters, postcards, and telegrams, up until they “committed matrimony,” in Lady Bird’s words, on November 17 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, in San Antonio. Until today, only seven of those had been released to researchers or the public.

“Many elements of their personality that we have come to know about them later in their lives show up in these letters,” said Regina Greenwell, a senior archivist at the LBJ Library. “You see LBJ’s ambition, determination, and persuasive powers.”

The earlier letters are characterized by Lyndon’s insistence that Bird declare she reciprocated his feelings. “Tell me soon, dear, just how you know you do feel—if feel you do,” Lyndon wrote in late September. “Your lack of decision hasn’t tempered either my affection, devotion or ability to know what I want.”

But, despite Lyndon’s repeated declarations, Lady Bird remained cautious: “Your letter yesterday sort of put me on the spot, didn’t it, dear? All I can say, in

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