AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lady Bird Johnson’s wit, wisdom and love of beauty — in nature, in children and in democracy — were remembered yesterday as family, friends and presidents bade farewell at her funeral.
“It is unthinkable to me that she’s gone. She was so much a part of our landscape, so much a part of our lives,” Bill Moyers, a television host and former aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson, said at the service.
The former first lady died of natural causes Wednesday at age 94.
Along with her devotion to preserving wildflowers and native plants, Mrs. Johnson worked tirelessly for her husband’s political career, Mr. Moyers said. He recalled her marathon stumping through the South during the 1964 presidential campaign amid anger that raged at Mr. Johnson over his signing of the Civil Rights Act.
The first lady trudged on despite threats, hecklers and racist signs, Mr. Moyers said.
“Yes, she planted flowers,” he said. “She also loved democracy and saw a beauty in it.”
Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, first lady Laura Bush and former first ladies Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton attended the two-hour service at Riverbend Centre overlooking the Texas Hill Country.
Mr. Carter tapped his foot and Mr. Clinton swayed slightly to the music as a gospel choir sang an upbeat number near the beginning of the ceremony.
Members of the University of Texas Longhorn Band finished off the service with a rousing rendition of the “Eyes of Texas,” complete with many in the crowd of about 1,800 making the university’s “hook ‘em horns” sign with their fingers.
Mrs. Johnson attended the University of Texas and was once a UT System regent. Her husband’s presidential library is at the University of Texas at Austin.
Caroline Kennedy, Trisha Nixon Cox and Susan Ford Bales — daughters of former Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, respectively — also attended the funeral.
Mrs. Johnson’s daughters Lynda Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson and three granddaughters shared personal stories about the former first lady, whom they called “Nini.” They described her as an unselfish and gracious woman committed to her public duties and to her private family times.
The crowd heard stories about the trips Mrs. Johnson enjoyed taking in her later years, often with grandchildren in tow.
Harry Middleton, retired director of the LBJ Library and Museum, told about a breakfast meeting he had with her in New York’s Plaza Hotel dining room. Members of the music group the Village People were seated nearby in full costume as a construction worker, policeman and American Indian, and asked whether they could take their picture with her.
Mrs. Johnson agreed, then later asked someone who they were and said, “Well, I wonder if we just made the cover of their next album,” Mr. Middleton recalled, to lots of laughs.
“She was fun — just a whale of a lot of fun to be with. She had a delicious sense of humor, sometimes slightly mischievous, laced with surprises not always in keeping with her image,” Mr. Middleton said.
The funeral marked the second day of three days of ceremonies that began Friday with family prayer services and a public visitation at the library. The former first lady lay in repose nearly 22 hours, and more than 11,500 people paid their respects.
She is to buried today next to her husband at the LBJ Ranch at Stonewall.