Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Johnson (née Taylor; December 22, 1912 – July 11, 2007) was an American socialite and the First Lady of the United States (1963–1969) as the wife of the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson. She also served as the Second Lady of the United States from 1961 until President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963.
Notably well-educated for a woman of her era, she proved a capable manager and a shrewd investor. After marrying Lyndon B. Johnson in 1934 when he was a political hopeful in Austin, Texas, she used a modest inheritance to bankroll his congressional campaign, and then ran his office while he served in the Navy. She bought a radio station, and, later, a television station which generated revenues that made the Johnsons into millionaires. As First Lady, she broke new ground by interacting directly with Congress, employing her own press secretary, and making a solo electioneering tour.
Johnson was an advocate for beautifying the nation's cities and highways ("Where flowers bloom, so does hope"). The Highway Beautification Act was informally known as "Lady Bird's Bill." She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honors bestowed upon a US civilian.
Claudia Alta Taylor was born on December 22, 1912, in Karnack, Texas, a town in Harrison County, near the eastern state line with Louisiana. Her birthplace was "The Brick House," an antebellum plantation house on the outskirts of town, which her father had purchased shortly before her birth. She is a descendant of English Protestant martyr Rowland Taylor through his grandson Captain Thomas J. Taylor, II.
She was named for her mother's brother Claud. During her infancy, her nursemaid, Alice Tittle, said that she was as "purty as a ladybird". Opinions differ about whether the name refers to a bird or a ladybird beetle, the latter of which is commonly referred to as a "ladybug" in North America. The nickname virtually replaced her first name for the rest of her life. Her father and siblings called her Lady, and her husband called her Bird—the name she used on her marriage license. During her teenage years, some classmates would call her Bird to provoke her, since she reportedly was not fond of the name.
Nearly all of her maternal and paternal immigrant ancestors arrived in the Virginia Colony during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, likely as indentured servants, as were most early settlers in the colony. A native of Alabama, her father had primarily English ancestry, and some Welsh and Danish. Her mother was also a native of Alabama, of English and Scottish descent.
Her father, Thomas Jefferson Taylor (August 29, 1874 – October 22, 1960), was a sharecropper's son. He became a wealthy businessman, and owned 15,000 acres (6,070 ha) of cotton and two general stores. "My father was a very strong character, to put it mildly," his daughter once said. "He lived by his own rules. It was a whole feudal way of life, really."