cover image Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight

Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight

Julia Sweig. Random House, $32 (560p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9590-9

Sweig (Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know), a senior research fellow at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, portrays First Lady Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson (1912–2007) as “a prodigiously disciplined participant, actor, witness to, and student of history” in this revealing biography. Drawing on the diary recordings Johnson began making shortly after the assassination of President Kennedy, Sweig contends that Lady Bird effectively served as her husband’s vice president while he filled out the remainder of JFK’s term. She was also a key factor in LBJ’s decision to run for president in 1964, eliciting his doctors’ approval and drafting a memo of pros and cons “that would set the course for the arc of the Johnson presidency.” Sweig details Lady Bird’s opinions on the Vietnam War, Great Society programs, and civil rights legislation, as well as her own policy agenda, which included urban planning reforms, natural conservation programs, and home rule for Washington, D.C. Johnson also hosted “doers” luncheons, highlighting the achievements of professional women, and supported the arts while working to preserve LBJ’s physical health and cultivate his political legacy. Sweig brings her subject to life with exhaustive research and fluid writing. This polished account takes the full measure of the “disarmingly modern” partnership between Lady Bird and LBJ. (Dec.)