Lady Bird Johnson: An Oral Historyby Michael L. Gillette
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Over a span of eighteen years, Lady Bird Johnson recorded forty-seven oral history interviews with Michael Gillette and his colleagues. These conversations, just released in 2011, form the heart of Lady Bird Johnson: An Oral History, an intimate story of a shy young country girl's transformation into one of America's most effective and admired First Ladies. Lady Bird Johnson's odyssey is one of personal and intellectual growth, political and financial ambition, and a shared life with Lyndon Baines Johnson, one of the most complicated, volatile, and powerful presidents of the 20th century. The former First Lady recounts how a cautious, conservative young woman succumbed to an ultimatum to marry a man she had known for less than three months, how she ran his congressional office during World War II, and how she transformed a struggling Austin radio station into the foundation of a communications empire. As a keen observer of the Washington scene during the eventful decades from the 1930s through the 1960s, Lady Bird Johnson shares dramatic accounts of pivotal moments in American history. We attend informal dinners at Sam Rayburn's apartment and opulent social events at grand mansions from an earlier age. Her rich verbal portraits bring to life scores of personalities, including First Ladies Edith Bolling Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Pat Nixon. An informal, candid narrative by one of America's most admired First Ladies, this volume reveals how instrumental Lady Bird Johnson's support and guidance were at each stage of her husband's political ascent and how she herself emerged as a significant political force.
"Gillette, former director of the LBJ Library's oral history program, has selected and edited these interviews, but the book belongs to Lady Bird Johnson. It captures her celebrated warmth, independence, pride in her own and her husband's achievements, and her ability to stand back and honestly assess her own and his motives, successes, and failures.... Anyone interested in LBJ's election to Congress and his leadership of the Senate, Texas politics, the Johnsons's radio station, the crisis of Kennedy's assassination, and the Vietnam War will find Mrs. Johnson's reflections, from intimate knowledge, informative, delightful, and often riveting." Publishers Weekly, starred review
"[I]t is clear that Gillette is a master interviewer who is familiar and comfortable with his interviewee. ... The depth and detail of Johnson's memories are truly amazing, and her journalistic education shines through in her vivid descriptions of places, events, and emotions. ... [Gillette's] ability to seamlessly intertwine Lady Bird's recollections with those of others is one of the most impressive aspects of this book." Sound Historian: Journal of the Texas Oral History Association
"Here's history at its best-as seen firsthand by a charming, clever, and canny woman. Lady Bird Johnson's voice, often funny and always elegant, rings out through these pages. A wonderfully readable book filled with unique insights about some of the most powerful people of the 20th century." Cokie Roberts, political journalist and author of Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty
Meet the Author
Michael L. Gillette directed the LBJ Library's Oral History Program from 1976 to 1991. He later served as director of the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives and is currently the executive director of Humanities Texas in Austin. He is the author of Launching the War on Poverty: An Oral History.
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