Lady Bird Johnson, who worked tenaciously for the political career of her husband, former U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson, died Wednesday afternoon at the age of 94.
Theformer first lady diedin her home inAustin,Texas, with her friends and family at her side, family spokeswoman Elizabeth Christian said.
Johnson, whose husband died in 1973, hadspent a week in hospital with a low-grade fever last month. She was alsohospitalized with a stroke in 2002 that left her with difficulty speaking, but didn't stop her from making public appearances.
The daughter of a Texas rancher, Johnson spent 34 years in Washington, D.C.,while her husband served asa congressional secretary, a U.S. representative, a senator, vice-president and president.
"People often ask me about walking in her shadow, following in the footsteps of somebody like Lady Bird Johnson," Luci Baines Johnson, one of Johnson's two daughters, said in a 2001 interview.
"My mother made her own unique imprint on this land."
Former U.S. president George Bush once recalled that when he was a freshman Republican congressman from Texas in the 1960s, Johnson welcomed him to Washington with kindness, despite their political differences.
He said she exemplified "the grace and the elegance and the decency and sincerity that you would hope for in the White House."
As first lady, she was perhaps best known as the determined environmentalist who wanted roadside billboards and junkyards replaced with trees and wildflowers.
She raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to beautify Washington, D.C. The $320 million US Highway Beautification Bill, passed in 1965, was known as "The Lady Bird Bill," and she made speeches and lobbied Congress to win its passage.
"Had it not been for her, I think that the whole subject of the environment might not have been introduced to the public stage in just the way it was and just the time it was," Harry Middleton, the retired director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library once said.
"So she figures mightily, I think, in the history of the country if for no other reason than that alone."
Turbulence of Vietnam War
Johnson'sWhite House years also were filled with the turbulence of the Vietnam War era. Her husband was president from 1963 to 1969.
The first lady often would speak her fears and hopes into a tape recorder, and some of the transcripts were included in the 2001 book Reaching for Glory, Lyndon Johnson's Secret White House Tapes, 1964-1965, edited by historian Michael Beschloss.
"How much can they tear us down?" she wondered in 1965 as criticism of the Vietnam War worsened. "And what effect might it have on the way we appear in history?"
Lady Bird Johnson received a bachelor of arts degree in 1933 and a bachelor of journalism degree in 1934.
That's the year that,through a friend in Austin, she met Lyndon Johnson, then secretary to Richard Kleberg, a Democraticcongressional representativefrom Texas. The day after their first date, Lyndon Johnson proposed.
They were married within two months, on Nov. 17, 1934, in San Antonio.