In newly released love letters, LBJ's sweet side comes to life

Wed Feb 13, 2013 7:16pm EST
 
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By Corrie MacLaggan

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Lyndon B. Johnson was so smitten when he met Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor in 1934 that he took her on a first date the very next day -- and asked for her hand in marriage.

Taylor adored her suitor but was worried about rushing into marriage, according to dozens of love letters between the two set to be released for the first time by the LBJ Presidential Library on Thursday, Valentine's Day.

In the pages of about 90 letters that the newly renovated library plans to post on its website, Johnson seems lonely and impatient, persistently urging Taylor to make up her mind. She says she wants to wait until they know each other better, though she also writes that she is afraid of losing him.

"All I can say, in absolute honesty, is -- I love you, I don't know how everlastingly I love you, -- so I can't answer you yet," Taylor wrote him shortly after they met that September.

Johnson, then 26 and working in Washington, D.C., as a secretary to Congressman Richard Kleberg, met Taylor, 21, through a friend while visiting Texas and asked her for a date the next morning. They had breakfast at the Driskill Hotel in Austin and spent the day sightseeing. That same day, he popped the question, asking her to become his wife.

After he returned to Washington, they spent two and a half months exchanging a flurry of letters and phone calls before going to San Antonio on November 17 to, as she later put it, "commit matrimony."

In the letters, Johnson implores her to write to him frequently.

"Give me lots of letters next week," he wrote to her. "I'm going to need them. Mix some ‘I love you' in the lines and not between them."   Continued...

 
A portion of a letter from future president Lyndon B. Johnson to Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor is pictured in this undated handout photo from the LBJ Presidential Library obtained by Reuters February 13, 2012. REUTERS/LBJ Presidential Library/Handout