Texas Presidential Trail

    Posted on Monday, Jul 24, 2017
    Living and studying next to the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, most of us may have already visited this famous institution and beautiful site at least once during our time attending graduate school here at Texas A&M. Well, there is another president in American history that has very close bonds to Texas – Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th president of the United States, in office from 1963 to 1969.
    This past weekend, me and my friends traced the LBJ trail in central Texas and visited several sites related to this significant 1960s figure. The first one is Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Stonewall, about 50 miles west of Austin. This 1600-acre site consists of the birthplace, childhood home, a working ranch, retirement house, as well as the family cemetery of LBJ. Even when he was in office, the president spent one fifth of his time living and working at this ranch with all his close advisors and staff. The site witnessed many historical moments in the 60s, including important decisions regarding the Great Society programs, the Vietnam War, and the Civil Rights acts. The tour through the “Texas White House” (LBJ’s house on the south edge of the ranch) was amazing, as the National Park Ranger shared a lot of interesting stories of the former president and first lady, and many of the settings and objects were left untouched from their original conditions, since LBJ past away in the early 70s and Lady Bird past away in 2007. Colors and patterns of the 1960s fashion came back to life, when I peeked through Lady Bird Johnson’s walk-in closet in the house. The limousine and jet plane the first family used to travel around Texas were also kept on site. We particularly enjoyed the actual ranch part of the estate. We were able to touch the cattle and goat, who were the descendants of the livestock LBJ raised by himself.
    The other site we visited during the weekend was the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin. The site was chosen because Lady Bird graduated from UT-Austin, although the president went to another school in south Texas. The library and museum was first opened to the public in 1971. All the public papers, recorded telephone correspondence, photos, and original Oval Office furniture are all kept in its archive. Exhibitions led us through a historical timeline of LBJ’s political career, along the way with many documents and objects on display, that have become the 1960s icons (for example, the Kennedy/Johnson campaign posters for 1960). Because of the series of Civil Rights legislations passed during LBJ’s era, the library has been used to commemorate many special occasions related to this great achievement, including the Civil Rights Summit of 2014, when Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all gave their speech at the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.
    Visiting presidential sites is definitely a great way to learn American history, politics and culture, and they remind us of the legacies that are still influencing our lives today. Since LBJ was only one of the two U.S. presidents that were actually born in Texas, you might wonder where is the other one we can go visit. Well, Eisenhower was born in Texas, but was raised in Kansas. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home is in Abilene, Kansas, 140 miles west of Kansas City. And for the other Texas-grown president we are all very familiar with (although he was born in Connecticut), George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum is in University Park, a northern suburb of Dallas.

    Mingqian Liu | Architecture

    Mingqian Liu is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of Architecture.

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