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Lady Bird Johnson: An Oral History (Oxford Oral History Series) 1st Edition

16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199908080
ISBN-10: 0199908087
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Lady Bird Johnson gained her historic place as the nation’s First Lady in the wake of tragedy, the assassination of President Kennedy, and endured unflattering comparisons to Jackie Kennedy. But she left a strong legacy as a pioneer advocate for the environment and unacknowledged supporter of other crucial issues. She also left thousands of pages of diary entries and an oral history comprising 47 interviews recorded from 1977 to 1991, mostly at the LBJ Ranch but also at vacation venues. Gillette, who conducted the oral-history project, offers an intimate look at Lady Bird’s life of contrasts. He organizes the material chronologically, for the most part, from a lonely childhood to a whirlwind courtship and a long marriage, and LBJ’s political career, including their time in the White House. The interviews are sometimes candid and other times guarded; Lady Bird recalls the dynamics between an exhilaratingly charming husband and a shy and modest wife, political campaigns and thorny issues, and the trials of managing a marriage and raising children amid the turbulence of politics. --Vanessa Bush


"A crisp and absurdly endearing book... What's so uniquely winning about Lady Bird Johnson: An Oral History, and what makes me grateful to have picked it up, are the old-fashioned and now threadbare virtues it evokes and relentlessly champions. You will find yourself ennobled by Johnson's example and may wield this book like a sunlit talisman against your post-holiday depression." --Dwight Garner, New York Times

"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


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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Oral History Series
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199908087
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199908080
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.3 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,032,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Sandra Bowman on November 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think the writer took great care with the subject and gave us a balanced picture. It's an oral history, after all with questions and answers, but as I read it, I could hear her soft east Texas drawl.

She was a very gracious lady, but tough. Her kind is sorely missed in today's confused world. I recommend this book for anybody who wants a glimpse into this woman's life. Where she came from. Who her people were. How she met and married LBJ...if there were ever two people who were total opposites, it's LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson...and how their life together grew into one of great mutual respect...yes I believe he did respect her advise over everybody else who advised him. I also believe there was a great love. They were the perfect political partners, but I believe their marriage was also a great love story. Agree. Disagree. But, if anybody asks me who is my favorite First Lady, I have to say hands down, Lady Bird Johnson.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Spindrift VINE VOICE on February 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have always enjoyed reading about "First Ladies". Their personal stories are always graced with charming personal anecdotes, lovely descriptions of china patterns and menus, recollections of parties and luncheons, and most interesting of all, a chronological account of history, policy, and culture. It is not unusual for a president's wife to soften and discreetly buff the portrait of her husband that she portrays into a highly polished patina. I really don't expect for a first lady to reveal personal information about her marriage...infidelities and other indisgressions are never addressed. But in "Lady Bird Johnson: An Oral History" so many facts and periods of time are left out that it is fair to call her an unreliable narrator.

I enjoyed learning of both Lady Bird's and LBJ's early childhoods. Lady Bird was raised as a very wealthy young girl in an area of the country (Karnack, Texas) that was very poor. This no doubt greatly influenced who she was to become. She is very well educated. She had known Lyndon Johnson for only several weeks before they married. In fact, he proposed to her on their first date. I do not believe that it was her intention, certainly, but she gives the reader the impression that the poor but extremely ambitious LBJ married her for her money.

Lady Bird is the epitome of the charming Southern lady (remember--this book is in her own words) as she tells her story...and she is captivating. Ever the subservient wife (to be fair to her, the times totally dictated this) she peppers her prose with the most lovely of Southern coloquisms on every page. I was absolutely fascinated as she described the birth of her children. She was desperately disappointed that she was unable to give Lyndon a son...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joan Atkins on January 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mrs. Johnson's interviews are candid and very interesting. The interviewers questions are helpful in directing her memories to events of interest to a broad audience. I think everyone, young or old will be fascinated in this account of the life of an extraordinary woman in her own words.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By jem on January 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Oral histories are too often disappointing because of an unprepared interviewer or interviewee, but this is an example of the genre at its best. I often wondered how Lady Bird put up with Johnson's coarseness, verbal abuse, and infidelities, but she loved the man and expressed it by ignoring or forgiving his faults and trying her best to be his helpmate and feel secure in her love.

Most of her married life she kept dairies and used them to prepare for the forty-seven interviews that form this book. As the director of the oral history project at the LBJ Library, Gillette knew both Johnsons well and he is skilled at asking gently probing questions that fill the incidents she relates with rich details. One of the strengths of the book is watching the Southern belle raised in the paternalistic and racist south arrive in Washington in her mid-twenties as a Congressional wife who in her hat and white gloves left her calling card at the homes of Supreme Court, Senate, Congressional and cabinet wives on the appropriate visiting days. I was facinated by her evolution into the businesswoman who ensured her family's economic success, became a competent political campaigner, and won national admiration for the environmental "beautification" program she championed. It is the dramatic personal story of the women's liberation movement that swept the country during her lifetime.

Sometimes Lady Bird seems a bit artificial as the Pollyanna who creates her own happiness by never finding fault in anyone. She never mentions widespread doubts about fraud in LBJ's 1948 election to the Senate, his disastrous policies in Vietnam, or his flagrant flirting and infidelities. Ignoring such problems and focusing on new experiences as growth opportunities certainly gave her great satisfaction and many friends throughout her long and adventurous life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Young Georgian on July 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I always admire strong, independent women who speak their mind and do what they please. So I have no idea why I admire Lady Bird Johnson so much. I guess because I'm Southern, and Lady Bird epitomized Southern grace and hospitality from her sweet-natured drawl to her unassuming style. But as far as possessing independence or self-confidence, Lady Bird had little. In reading this book of interviews, I cringed at observations such as wishing she had listened to her husband more often "so she would know how to dress better." She seems almost obsessed with appearances, even criticizing how her daughter Lynda looked at birth. I very much enjoyed reading her own take on her fascinating life, but at the same time it made me feel so sorry for her, knowing that she must have led her life so concerned about what other people thought.

And while I don't think she was deliberately dishonest about certain subjects, I think she held her husband in such impossibly high regard that we don't get a full portrait of what he was like. She never directly addresses his infidelities or criticizes his other personality flaws, even going so far as to say she thought photos of him having a grand old time with young ladies during WWII (when she was not around) were delightful.

I'm glad I bought it, because I still like Lady Bird very much. She put up with a lot, and she was a real Southern Lady. I just got a far different - and much sadder - portrait of her than I had hoped to get, and it unsettled me.
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