LBJ Love Letters: He Proposed on First Date
Letters between Lyndon Baines Johnson, Lady Bird released
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2013 12:34 PM CST
The signature of Lyndon Johnson, then 26, is seen on a love letter sent to Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor, then 21, at the LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas, Feb. 13, 2013.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

(Newser) – In a Valentine's Day treat, the LBJ Presidential Library released today the full set of letters exchanged by a 26-year-old Lyndon Baines Johnson and a 21-year-old Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor when they were courting in 1934. LBJ was quite taken with Lady Bird—so much so that he proposed marriage on their very first date, which took place just a day after they first met, Reuters reports. She was unsure and wanted them to get to know each other better, at one point writing, "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."

There are nearly 90 letters from the 10-week courtship, all of which are now posted online and will also be available for review at the library in Austin, Texas, the AP reports. The letters include salutations like "Dearly Beloved," sentiments like "I adore you," and signatures like "Devotedly, Bird." But don't expect a whole lot of romance, says the library's supervisory archivist: "I would not really call these letters sentimental. He wants a commitment from her. ... His letters express that." Of course, there is a bit of "wooing," she adds, in that "he's trying to impress her and he makes various arguments why they should get married."

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Feb 15, 2013 12:53 AM CST
Note this interview with LBJ biographer Robert Caro, who discusses how he cheated on Taylor and treated her poorly: "His abusiveness towards her [Lady Bird] was sort of a matter of legend among their friends, not only because of his affairs, which were carried out sometimes very openly, but because of the way he treated her and the way he excluded her from the political part of his life." To me, the most striking thing was the way he would talk, and yell at in front of other people, this woman whose overwhelming characteristic was her shyness, her dread of having to do something in public. He was always comparing her to other women at parties. One was Nellie Connelly -- now that was the wife of the governor of Texas, John Connelly. Nellie Connelly was a very beautiful woman. Nellie said to me I could never understand how she stood it. Every woman sympathized with her.
Feb 14, 2013 9:55 PM CST
My fifth grade teacher, Elsie Garrett, once told our class that she went to college with Lyndon Johnson at S.W. Texas Teachers College. She said he asked her out for a date and she accepted, only to find out that he was "too handy", I think was the way she put it. She said this when Johnson was still president and the class just sort of laughed it off. Now when I think back on this I suppose it was true, but I wonder what "Lady Bird" would have thought of this.
Feb 14, 2013 4:43 PM CST
Of course he wanted to marry her ASAP. He was a po' Texas teacher and she the daughter of a wealthy family. That they even met is weird.