The White House: The First Lady Bird

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Her 27 years with Lyndon as Congressman, Senator, Senate majority leader, Vice President and President have been rugged, sometimes lonesome, always at a hell-bent pace. Lady Bird suffered through four miscarriages and faithfully nursed Lyndon back to sleek and robust health after a near-fatal heart attack in 1955. She has efficiently managed the family finances over the years, and proved that she had much of old Cap Taylor's business savvy when she bought and, with Lyndon's help, nurtured a floundering Austin radio station into a multimillion-dollar corporation. "She can read a balance sheet as well as a truck driver can read a road map," says a former associate. As proof of that, there are now public Johnson balance sheets that depict Lady Bird's sizable financial holdings—even more sizable than her husband's.

Sing Along with U Thant. In the capital, where a woman of such exalted station rarely escapes the scratch of a well-aimed shiv, Lady Bird has come off remarkably unscathed. Some people wonder if she is a sort of self-created Galatea, playing the role of a politician's perfect wife, the possessor of a flawless mediocrity that generates warm admiration but no scorching envy. Brother Tony says that "Lady Bird has been in public life and in the public eye for so long that she has learned to be circumspect, even when she's in a situation where she can let her hair down." Others find her barefoot-folksy talk a little too much, as when she drawls, "He's noisier than a mule in a tin barn," or "I'm busier than a man with one hoe and two rattlesnakes." But the overwhelming majority of the people who know her give Lady Bird exceedingly high marks for personal charm and attractiveness. "I've never talked to anyone who didn't like her," says Blanche Halleck, wife of the House Republican leader. Lindy Boggs, wife of Louisiana Democratic Congressman Hale Boggs, and a longtime Lady Bird chum, is hard put to make her friend's virtues seem real. "I make her sound like a combination of Elsie Dinsmore and the Little Colonel," says Mrs. Boggs, "but this is the problem with Bird. When you talk about her, you make her sound too good to be true."

Lady Bird's accession to the White House did precipitate some clatter of dismay, however. "I suppose," cooed Nicole Alphand, wife of the French Ambassador to the U.S., "that now we will all have to learn to do zee bar-bee-cue." That has not yet become a problem, but Lady Bird has done her bit for zee folk music. Already a guitar-whacking bunch of folk singers called the New Christy Minstrels have entertained at a state dinner for Italy's President Segni, and Lady Bird recently capped a banquet for United Nations Secretary-General U Thant with a lusty audience sing-along of Puff, the Magic Dragon.

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