I've always found names like that of her father to be interesting;
other "presidential" names that come to mind are George Washington
Carver and George Washington Ferris, inventor of the Ferris wheel.
Claudia's mother died when Claudia was just 5, so she was raised
by her father, her aunt and family servants. As a child, Claudia had
a nickname that reflected her love of nature.
When she graduated from the University of Texas in 1934, she
planned on becoming a newspaper reporter. Soon after, she met a
congressional aide whom she would soon marry. He proposed to her
only seven weeks after their first date, and they were married just
three weeks later.
Her congressional aide husband continued to climb the political
ranks. He won a congressional election in 1937 but vacated the
office to join the Navy during World War II. Claudia took over his
office. When he returned, he ran for and lost his first bid for the
U.S. Senate, but he became a U.S. senator when he won his next
In the meantime, in 1942 Claudia bought the failing KTBC-AM radio
station, which was later renamed KLBJ-AM, and turned it into a media
empire. She became the first person to broadcast a TV signal in
Texas when she opened KTBC-TV on Thanksgiving Day in 1952. The Texas
Association of Broadcasters honored her in 2007 with the prestigious
Pioneer Broadcaster of the Year award. Yet you probably have never
heard of Claudia Taylor.
By the way, in case you've never noticed, all radio and TV
stations east of the Mississippi River have call letters beginning
with the letter "W," while all stations west of the Mississippi
River have call letters beginning with the letter "K."
[to top of second column]
Claudia was a leader in both business and community service. She
served as honorary chairman of the national Head Start program to
give preschool training to disadvantaged children.
She was well-known for her environmental work, too. Her national
campaign for beautification resulted in the Highway Beautification
Act of 1965, and four years later she founded the Texas Highway
Beautification Award. Some of her work involved her close connection
to politics, and there's a reason for that.
She also received awards such as the Eleanor Roosevelt
Candlestick Award, from the Women's National Press Club in 1968; the
Medal of Freedom, from President Gerald Ford in 1977; the
Congressional Gold Medal; and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Medal of Honor in 2000.
During Claudia's time, it was unheard of for a woman to run for
president. There was nothing to prevent her from being married to a
president, though, which is exactly what she did when her husband
went on to become our nation's 36th president.
There's one other thing that I forgot to tell you earlier about
Claudia Taylor: The nickname she had as a young girl growing up in
Texas is the one she carried with her for a lifetime: "Lady Bird."
When she married Lyndon Johnson, she became Lady Bird Johnson.
The girl who was born in the "Brick House" later lived in the White
But you knew that all along, didn't you?
Paul Niemann's column has appeared in
more than 80 newspapers and counting. He is the author of the
"Invention Mysteries" series of books and can be reached at
Copyright Paul Niemann 2009