Lady Bird Johnson Laid To Rest

Monday, July 16th 2007, 7:22 am
By: News On 6

STONEWALL, Texas (AP) _ Locusts whistled and crickets chirped in the searing Texas heat as Lady Bird Johnson was buried in a ceremony that recognized her life as a first lady, a conservationist, and a grandmother.

Though she was known for her business acumen and tenacious crusades for the environment, her grandchildren said she also took time to make each of them feel special.

On Sunday, they and other family members and friends said their last goodbyes as the former first lady was buried under a canopy of oak trees alongside her husband, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, near the banks of the Pedernales River on the LBJ Ranch.

Lady Bird Johnson enjoyed playing cards with her grandchildren, taking them hiking and camping, or bringing them on rides around the ranch, grandson Lyndon Nugent said.

``You were a great friend to us all,'' he said. ``Take care, dear friend.''

The first lady's daughter, Luci Baines Johnson, reminded her children for more than three decades that it was important to spend as much time as possible with their grandmother, whom they called ``Nini,'' because ``she might not be here tomorrow,'' Nugent said.

``Sadly, tomorrow has arrived,'' he said.

Johnson died Wednesday at age 94 of natural causes. Her husband died in 1973.

Toward the end of her life, Johnson gradually lost some of her vision and suffered a stroke that left her with difficulty speaking. But she still managed to enjoy the Texas wildflowers each spring and make some public appearances.

The casket was carried to the grave site by military body bearers. Along with Nugent's remembrance, the service included prayers and the singing of ``Amazing Grace.'' As they departed, daughters Luci Baines Johnson and Lynda Johnson Robb smiled and greeted a few of the about 300 people attending the service.

Earlier, thousands of admirers, many clutching bundles of wildflowers and American flags, lined streets in Austin and roads in the Hill Country as the former first lady's body was brought from the state capital to the LBJ Ranch, about 70 miles west of Austin.

People in the crowd applauded and cheered as the procession passed, and a few women blew kisses. Motorcycle police officers escorted the navy blue hearse that displayed a cluster of little orange wildflowers. Johnson family members followed in two limousines and waved.

``It's the passing of an era,'' said Sarah Macias, 48.

Retiree Kate Hill handed out sunflowers from her garden to people waiting for the procession. Hill said Johnson's work inspired her to convert her grassy lawn into an expanse of wildflowers and other native plants, and she wanted to thank the former first lady for the beauty.

Along the Hill Country route, well-wishers waited in lawn chairs and set up greeting signs.

One sign atop a tractor on a rural stretch of roach read ``Thank You Lady Bird.'' Another said, ``God Bless a Great Woman.''

In Johnson City, President Johnson's boyhood home, a main street was lined with small Texas and American flags stuck in gravel-filled flower pots.

The procession and burial capped three days of ceremonies that started Friday with private family prayer services, then a public visitation at the LBJ Library and Museum.

On Saturday, she was eulogized in a two-hour funeral service attended by former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, first lady Laura Bush and former first ladies Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.