Mourners say goodbye to former first lady at family ranch
The Associated Press
STONEWALL, Texas — Lady Bird Johnson arrived at her final resting place beneath a canopy of oak trees Sunday, beside the late President Lyndon Baines Johnson at the family’s ranch in the Texas Hill Country.
Relatives and close friends of the Johnsons said a final goodbye to the former first lady near the banks of the Pedernales River.
Grandson Lyndon Nugent said Johnson made all her grandchildren feel special, whether she was taking them on hiking and camping trips or, especially in her later years, quietly visiting with them at the LBJ Ranch.
His mother, 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, who died Wednesday at 94, was remembered as an astute businesswoman, a woman who worked to preserve nature and the devoted wife of a president.
“I’m not sure why she was so preoccupied with this, but she always seemed to be wondering if she had done enough for the world, regardless of her own condition,” Nugent said.
Along with Nugent’s remembrance, prayers and “Amazing Grace” completed the brief service, held in the Johnson family cemetery where the late president and more than 30 other extended family members are buried.
Lyndon Johnson, who died in 1973, was president from 1963-69. Once he left office, he and Lady Bird Johnson retired to the ranch and Austin.
Earlier in the day, thousands of admirers, many clutching bundles of the wildflowers she loved, lined streets in Austin and roads in the Hill Country as Lady Bird Johnson’s body was taken from the state capital to the LBJ Ranch, about 70 miles west of Austin.
Members of the crowd applauded and cheered as the procession passed through downtown Austin, and a few women blew kisses.
Outside Austin, people gathered along highways and in little towns, many holding American flags, some clutching wildflowers and some holding umbrellas against the hot sun.
Wildflowers and a sign reading “Thank You Lady Bird” adorned a tractor. Another sign read “God Bless a Great Woman.”
More people lined the streets of Johnson City, President Johnson’s boyhood home, and the main street was lined with little Texas and American flags stuck in flower pots.
In Austin, 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.
“It’s the passing of an era,” said Sarah Macias, 48, who works for the city’s parks department and came to watch with her husband and a co-worker.
Three days of ceremonies had started Friday with family prayer services and a public visitation at the LBJ Library and Museum. More than 11,500 people paid their respects over nearly 22 hours.
About 1,800 people, including family, friends and presidents, attended a two-hour funeral Saturday at Riverbend Centre overlooking the Hill Country. People in attendance included 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.
Associated Press writer Liz Austin Peterson contributed to this report.