Last summer we found ourselves in Independence, Missouri and visited the Truman Presidential Library and really enjoyed our time there. Since then we have made sure that visit the libraries we come across on our travels. When it was time to plan our route from Florida to Seattle we had multiple reasons to go thru Texas, friends, barbeque, and three Presidential Libraries.
As Leslie has noted we started our Texas travels in Austin where we visited the Lyndon Banes Johnson Presidential Library and Museum. The Library is in downtown Austin on the grounds of the University of Texas.
Like a few of the other Libraries there was a Presidential limousine in or near the lobby area. This limo is the one that Johnson used after he left office in and around Austin and is not armored. According to Wikipedia future Presidential limousines will be destroyed to keep secret the protection methods.
Johnson’s history in Congress and relationships he developed coupled with the events of the time enabled Johnson to push thru a lot of landmark legislation that affected everything from arts and humanities to civil rights to head start and highway safety to urban mass transit. The Library did an excellent job of highlighting the various bills that Johnson signed. Seeing the row of pens really made it clear how many federal bills were passed during his time in office.
Johnson’s Oval Office was different than any of the others we have seen. He always wanted to know how each of the networks were reporting the news of the times and had a console that contained three television sets and a remote (not like the remotes of today) that allowed him to pick which audio to listen to. It also had a teletype machine in it – how the times have changed. Johnson’s Oval office had a dark green rug with the Presidential Seal kind of embossed in it – very different than the others we have seen.
Like the other libraries, Johnson’s included exhibits of letters written to the President. One that really caught my eye was the one with the picture of the Smothers Brothers. There is not a lot I remember about my youth, however I do remember watching the Smothers Brothers.
It is interesting how much outrage there was that Nixon was taping conservations he had in the Oval Office. There was an exhibit in which you could listen to phone calls between Johnson and others that were taped. One that really struck me was a conservation he had with Robert Kennedy where they were talking about things that could be done to support various candidates and Johnson asked Kennedy to help him apply some pressure but not to let it known it was coming from the White House.
The Library included one of the more extensive sections devoted to First Lady. The Library included a lot of information around Lady Bird’s environmental crusades and identifies her as the First Lady of the Environment. It was the only library that included a mockup of the First Lady’s office. Of course the Library also included the china; Leslie likes Lady Bird’s wildflower pattern.
There were three special exhibits at the library when we were there. The first was entitled Photojournalism and the Presidency. It was interesting reliving moments in history by seeing photos that you recognize from the past. The second was a tribute to 3417 Texans that gave their life in Vietnam. It was a very well done memorial that really brought home the human cost of the war by way of the 3417 dog tags.
The third special exhibit was George Washington’s personal copy of “Acts Passed at a Congress of the United States. It is a bound copy of the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the acts passed by the first Congress in 1789. In it you can see Washington’s notations where he highlighted the powers of the President of the United States. By Article 2 Section 3, Washington wrote required – this is the section that talks about the President giving the Congress the State of the Union. The book was purchased by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association in an auction in June of 2012 for 9.8 million. It is currently touring the 13 Presidential libraries operated by the National Archives and will be part of a privately founded Washington Presidential Library that is being built in Mount Vernon. Sorry they did not allow pictures of Washington’s book.
The Johnson Library was the largest library we visited so far and really enjoyed the hours we spent there. The next blog entry will cover the Bush Libraries.