A quiet Texas woman who once turned down a class valedictorian's medal because she feared public speaking, Lady Bird Johnson found herself pulled suddenly into service as first lady when her husband Lyndon B. Johnson became president amid tragedy.
Along with tenaciously supporting his public service, she was a champion for the environment and the preservation of native plants and wildflowers.
When she died Wednesday, at age 94, Mrs. Johnson was remembered as loving and gentle, yet strong in spirit and in her dedication to her family and her passion for nature.
The cause of death was "respiratory failure, actually natural causes when you get right down to it," said family friend and spokesman Neal Spelce.
"Mrs. Johnson was a true, strong Texas woman," Spelce said, comparing her to historic Texas political women like Ann Richards and Barbara Jordan. "Mrs. Johnson personified that strength, but yet she did it with a very genteel, gracious, quiet, soothing exterior."
She spent her final hours in her Austin home, beside family and friends who sang hymns, read from the Bible and reminisced, he said. Dr. Marci Roy, a neurologist who treated Mrs. Johnson for several years, said in a statement released by the family that it was the most peaceful death one could hope for.
"It's the end of a long, well-lived life," Roy said.
Mrs. Johnson returned home late last month after a week at Seton Medical Center, where she'd been admitted for a low-grade fever.
She was hospitalized with a stroke in 2002 that made speaking difficult. But even after that she continued to make public appearances and in May attended an event at the LBJ Library and Museum featuring historian Robert Dallek.
Her love for the environment and the preservation of native plants and wildflowers remained, despite her medical setbacks. She occasionally visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center she founded and delighted in the wildflowers around Austin's Town Lake, the AP reports.
After Johnson died of a heart attack in 1973, Lady Bird shunned active party politics.
In 1988 she received the Congressional Gold Medal for her environmental and humanitarian work, becoming the first wife of a president to do so.
Despite a 2002 stroke that affected her mobility and speech, she remained active in running a family business that operated radio and television stations in Austin for 60 years until 2003.
The Johnsons had two daughters, Lynda Bird, who is married to Charles Robb, the former Virginia senator and governor, and Lucy Baines, who is married to Ian Turpin. She had seven grandchildren -- six girls and one boy, Reuters reports.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik
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