AUSTIN (KXAN) – People from across the country visited the LBJ Presidential Library, to celebrate former President Lyndon Johnson’s birthday.
Johnson ascended to the Presidency after President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Today, the LBJ Library offered birthday cake to celebrate what would have been his 108th birthday.
President Johnson was born on August 27, 1908 in the hill country town of Stonewall. He grew up in the area, graduating from Johnson City High School in 1924 when he was only 15. (The city was named after Johnson’s uncle, Samuel Ealy Johnson, who donated the lane the town was founded on.)
“To come from a place like Johnson City, when we visited his house, it was hard to believe a President of the United States lived there at one time and started his political campaign on the porch,” Frank Thigpen, who visited the Library Saturday said.
Thigpen drove from North Carolina with his friend Robin Moore. They typically take at least one trip a year. This year, they chose Austin.
“We picked Austin because of where we are right at this moment, [the] LBJ Library,” Thigpen said.
The two remember the Johnson administration and say laws he signed still impact people today.
“I remember in the 60s when it was passed, and seeing Lyndon Johnson sign that bill, and I thought, ‘What is that?’ Well i know what it is now. It’s outstanding for people 65 and over,” Thigpen said.
Moore is a retired educator and says Johnson’s efforts to bridge the racial divide in school were necessary for equality.
“He knew that true equality was not going to occur until you had equality of educational opportunities,” Moore said.
Patricia Touhy, a retired librarian who also visited the Library Saturday, says bills President Johnson signed helped guide the course of her life and her mother’s.
In 1965, Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Before the law, most public schools where Touhy lived in Corpus Christi did not have libraries, but the Act changed that.
“It gave her a wonderful way to use her education and to help children in Corpus Christi have a better education experience and go on to do better,” Touhy said.
Touhy’s mother built up a collection of 10,000 items in her school library in just two years.
Another law Johnson passed helped Touhy follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a librarian as well.
“I later came to the University of Texas and it just so happens I became a librarian as my mother and in fact got a student loan to help me through graduate school and it was one of those programs started by the Higher Education Act that was passed under LBJ’s tenure,” Touhy said.
After a little more than five years in office, Touhy says touring the exhibits remind her of all LBJ did.
“As you tour the exhibit, you hear and see values that are core American values and he upheld them at a time that it was very difficult because of the racial divides in this country,” Touhy said. “I feel like we are a much better and stronger country because of him. We have strong economic and social and political divides today, but this would be a far different and a much worse country without the contribution that LBJ made to all of us as Americans.”
Thigpen and Moore agree.
“I think he was sincere in education and civil rights and helping people. I really do. I don’t think that was something just to make him popular,” Thigpen said.
“He was an amazing man, a man ahead of his time,” Moore said.