Now it’s time to hit the road as we start the driving tour of the LBJ ranch, a place that served as a driving force in the life of our 36th president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, shaping how he viewed the world. The Visitor’s Center offers a car audio tour CD featuring information, soundbites and music, which really adds to the experience.
One of the first stops is Junction School, a one-room building near LBJ’s home where he learned to read. As president, LBJ went “back to school” to sign the Elementary and Secondary Education Act here in 1965.
LBJ’s birthplace is just down the road. You can walk up to the house and look in, but you can’t go inside. LBJ was born here August 27, 1908, the first child of Sam and Rebekah Johnson. The current structure was rebuilt in 1964 for use as a guest house.
When he was five-years-old Johnson’s family relocated to another house about 14 miles away “in town.” You can visit Johnson’s boyhood home in Johnson City, we did not have time on our trip. If you’ve been there, let me know if you think we should go back.
Back on the ranch, the Johnson family cemetery sits just across the road from LBJ’s birthplace (talk about coming full circle). President Johnson died in January 1973. Ladybird lived part time on the ranch until her death in 2007.
After the cemetery, you hit a long drive around the ranch itself where you may see cattle descended from LBJ’s herd. Per Johnson’s instructions, the site remains a working ranch, not a “sterile relic of the past.” Remember cattle have the right-of-way. The brochure also warns, “Nature can post hazards: be aware of fire ants, cacti, armadillo holes, etc.” I wonder what hazards are hiding under “etcetera?”
The drive takes you around the landing strip, too small for a “regular” Air Force One, so President Johnson had, what I call, a “mini Air Force One” to bring him to the ranch.
The hangar serves as the starting point for the Texas White House tour. Inside, you get tickets and look at exhibits on topics ranging from the Kennedy assassination to Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement. There are also some cool cars.
And check out the Amphicar. It’s an amphibious civilian car! LBJ apparently liked to surprise unsuspecting visitors by suddenly driving them into the river, and you can see pictures of LBJ driving the car in the water.
Next post: We’ve finally arrived at the Texas White House, featuring one odd holiday display!