01 June 2011

LBJ Museum, etc.

1 Jun 2011--Had a great day today. We went out sightseeing again for our last day here before we go back to San Antonio tomorrow...went 4 different places, all of them different, but all of them interesting.

We started at the LBJ Library and Museum, on the campus of the University of Texas, and couldn't have had a more interesting afternoon. It was like a walk down memory lane, bringing back lots of childhood memories. Talk about a crazy time in our history!!!

Unlike any other presidential library in the country, the LBJ is free to the public because Johnson insisted on it before his death. The museum is a 3 story display, starting out with everything you ever knew, or didn't know, about LBJ. Here it just tells us that he was born in 1908 and his grandfather expected him to be a US Senator from the very beginning. It also tells us that Lady Bird was born 4 years later and that her real name was actually Claudia. She was nicknamed Lady Bird by her nanny as a baby and the name stuck.

After graduating from college LBJ actually worked as a teacher for a while before going into politics. They said that the 1st school he worked in was a very poor Mexican American school and that the experience affected him the rest of his life.

Prior to being picked by JFK to run as his Vice President, LBJ was a congressman and then Senator, ultimately rising to Senate Majority Leader.

Against the backdrop of a more prominent Vietnam presence, the Soviet Union's flexing its muscles in Berlin, and the Civil Rights movement, Johnson is about to become President.

Lady Bird started recording her thoughts that very day on a borrowed tape recorder.

Between finishing JFK's term and then his own 1st term, LBJ passed more laws than anyone in memory. They attributed that to not only the good will engendered by the assassination of JFK but also LBJ's vast knowledge of how the system worked due to his many years in the House and Senate.

Having seen poverty and discrimination first hand, notably when he was a teacher, LBJ gave a speech to the congress talking about how he never dreamed that he would one day be in a position to help the children of the Mexican American children he once taught, and then went on to say "let me let you in on a secret, help them is exactly what I plan to do!"

Space would not allow me to list all the laws as indicated in this picture, but below are a some of the major ones. Interestingly, I once heard someone say on TV that for people my age and older, how liberal or conservative you are can be directly related to how you felt about the things that happened in the 1960s. Very interesting concept! Of course, besides the laws that were passed, there were displays on everything from hippies and yippies, women's lib, war protests, civil rights marches and the black power movement, etc. What a decade!!!

I can't imagine a president, any president, being able to pass that type of legislation today. And unfortunately for LBJ, I think a lot of what he got done has always been overshadowed by the Vietnam experience. And then throw in the riots in the cities at the news of Martin Luther King's assassination, followed 2 months later by the assassination of Bobby Kennedy...what a nightmare it must have been to be president at that time in our history!!!

As we all know LBJ did not run for a 2nd term in 1968, instead retiring to his ranch where he died 5 years later in 1973. This blog entry can't possibly do justice to everything that was shown about him in this museum...I just wish you could all visit it. What I have put so far was just on the 1st floor of the museum, and I have only scratched the surface. There was one short film showing clips of the era that had background music that included Peter, Paul and Mary singing "Blowing in the Wind", Simon and Garfunkel singing "Sounds of Silence", and the Beatles singing "I Wanna Hold your Hand"! Almost made me cry. It was a great exhibit!

The 2nd floor of the museum had exhibits on The Freedom Riders taking their bus rides into the south (their was just a PBS special on this subject, but I missed it), and another whole section on the clash between the far left and and the far right at the time. It really seemed like the era was recreated in the past 10 years. Or I guess it just really never stopped. They had displays showing the likes of Abby Hoffman, Jane Fonda and her 1st husband Tom Hayden, the sexual revolution, etc. And on the right they had everything from the John Birch Society to George Wallace and the "state's rights" argument. And I hate to beat a dead horse, but this display said that the "state's rights" term was not even coined until the 1960s...so how could that be what they were fighting for during the Civil War???

On the 3rd floor they had a replica of the Oval Office as it looked when LBJ was president...the coolest thing was the phone system built into that round table.

They also had a display on all things Lady Bird. That is a replica of her office in the White House (seems so understated, huh?!), and her bowling ball and bowling shoes. You just gotta love someone who owns their own bowling ball! haha We also found out that Lady Bird was instrumental in the development of the hiking/biking trail at Town Lake...where Cathy and I went bike riding the other day.

From the Museum we drove over to the University Tower. This tower is part of the administration buildings for the Universoty of Texas, but you may recognize it as the tower from which a sniper massacre happened years ago. The 1st pic shows Cathy and I in front of a monument to WWII vets with the tower in the background, while the 2nd pic is from the steps of the admin building looking out on the city...that is the Capitol building in the center.

So, this is the deal about the sniper massacre, in case you missed the movie. In 1966, Charles Whitman, a UT student and former Marine, ascended the Tower and proceeded to rain bullets down on the passing students and faculty on the plaza below. He was standing behind the railing just below the clock in the 2nd pic. Before he went to the Tower he had already killed both his mother and wife, and then proceeded to kill 16 and wound 31 people before the cops were able to kill him. The whole event lasted 90 minutes. No one was ever quite sure why he did it, but at autopsy they did find he had a brain tumor, so some people thought that might have had something to do with it. The movie about the event was made in 1975 and Whitman was played by Kurt Russell...did anyone else see it besides me and Cathy?

Unfortunately, the Tower is open to the public only on Sundays, so Cathy and I just walked around the grounds and took what pics we could.

From the UT Tower we drove over to Austin's Historic 6th street Entertainment District. This is a 6 block section famous for its live entertainment and bars/restaurants.

When I saw this place I just had to stop in...Marie, make sure you show this to Jack...he will probably be mad at me again! haha

Some interesting buildings here in the district, most dating from the late 1800s.

The best building was the Driskill Hotel, built in 1886 and still running today. It was beautiful both inside and out, and is quite often used for Governors Inaugural Balls. It is also the place that LBJ and Lady Bird had their 1st date back in 1934.

Here is a little of the street scene. Although I am sure this area would be an absolute blast if you were in your 20s, I think these 2 spent too much time in the bars.

This building is actually downtown, but it kept catching my eye. I am going to have to ask Donna what it is.

And lastly, we drove over to Covert Park at Mt Bonnell, the highest point in Austin. You have to climb 100 steps before you get to the viewing area, but when you do you over look the Colorado River below and the city center on the horizen. It is amazing how so much of Austin is blanketed with tree cover...a really pretty city!


  1. Oh my!!!! That's a huge jackalope!!!!! What a riot!!!!! See you soon!!! Tia

  2. interesting stuff. Probably because it is in our time frame.
    Love the hotel. Gorgeous!!!!
    I can't wait to show Jack the jackalope.

  3. That building is the Frost Bank tower - appears to be an office building. (Google Earth rocks)!lol
    I will have to go to the LBJ library one of these days. I really like the place you walked up to look back at the city.