We were in Fredericksburg heading towards Austin along the Hill Country Trail via Johnson City when we saw that LBJ’s birthplace was right along the way so we decided to detour and check out the ranch where he was born and where he maintained a presence throughout his life in this lovely valley.

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Johnson of course became President when JFK was assassinated in Dallas on that fateful November day in 1963. We, those of us of age, still remember where we were during world shaking events and Kennedy was killed while we were living in Ethiopia. I remember my father coming into my and my brother Matthew’s bedroom around 2 or 3 in the morning and awakening us to tell of a world that would never be the same again. My father was very political, very opinionated and very devoted to the Kennedy dream and a lot of that ethos filtered down to my brother and myself. We were around 15 or 16 at the time, certainly old enough to realize the implications of the assassination of the leader of the free world and we spent the ensuing weeks pouring over every issue of the International Herald Tribune that we could get our hands on. We went to the movie theater, a one hall joint where you could smoke, eat anything you could  bring in, and looked at  “Movietone” reels about the life of JFK, the funeral and wondered about the future of “Camelot” without the young, inspiring, charismatic leader and his family to lead us on. The iconic image of a young John-John with his mother and sister standing behind him saluting as his father’s horse-drawn caisson rolled by is etched in the memory of every soul who watched the events that transpired over that week.

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We wondered, in that land so far away from reality, what would become of our country with a new leader whose tenor  was the antithesis of the Kennedy aura. He spoke in a different accent, he was seemingly boorish, and he looked so out of place standing next to the young widow and her children. But, LBJ would go on to become arguably one of the greatest presidents in the history of our country and the legacy that he passed on is today the very cornerstone of the foundations which this country stands on. There will be disagreement to that statement, but I believe history will bear me out, if it has not already.

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Born in Stonewall, Texas, LBJ and his family moved to the ranch outside of Johnson City when he was five years old. This picture is a recreation of his original home in Stonewalll that he had built during his presidency on the LBJ ranch.

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The Samuel E Johnson home, a modest structure that belonged to LBJ’s grandfather.

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And the home that his parents built that he subsequently inherited and later turned into the Texas White House was and still is a very gracious presence along the banks of the Pedernales River, a tributary of the Colorado River.

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The Holy Trinity Lutheran Church where the Johnson family often worshipped and where services were also held in German due to the large number of Germans who had immigrated to the area.

IMG_9292The Junction School is a one room school house that LBJ attended as a child, actually getting in as a four year old because of his thirst for knowledge and also most likely because all his pals were already attending.

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Education is the only passport from poverty. -Lyndon Baines Johnson. LBJ became known as the Education President, with over 60 bills being passed during his administration and it was fitting that he returned to The Junction School to sign the Elementary and Secondary Education Act on April 11, 1965. He claimed that no bill had ever done what this one was to do for the future of America’s children; “No measure I have signed, or will ever sign, means more to the future of America….”.

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Education, and education from an early age, has always been the passport out of poverty for every single person in the world. If only we could really enable every child in the world to have access to an education the world would be a far better place.

A beautiful, calm and serene part of the ranch houses the Johnson family cemetery.

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A signature part of the working ranch…

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Air Force One and a half that Johnson used as President to fly him from San Antonio to the ranch since Air Force One was too big to land on the mile-long landing strip behind the house. He originally was assigned the plane as Vice-President under Kennedy and flew it extensively all over the country until becoming President. He preferred the smaller 13 seat jet but the trappings of the office forced him into the larger plane for most trips, keeping the smaller VC-140 jet for use to and from the ranch.

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Johnson became one of the most prolific bill passing Presidents of our time, a majority of them dedicated to the betterment of the disadvantaged. His record was prolific but his legacy has been diminished and even tarnished because of his build-up of the Vietnam War, a pointless war that not he nor anyone else was going to win. It forced him from the presidency, giving us Richard Nixon and ushering in a new paradigm that left the dreams of at least two  generations on the floors of legislatures across this land.

But, if you go back into the history of LBJ’s congressional and Presidential life you will find so many bills that were passed that have become integral parts of social and welfare makeup. Over 100 bills alone were passed during the two legislative terms of his presidency…among them (gathered from Wikipedia)

Domestic Policy Actions

Foreign Policy Actions

Supreme Court nominations

Look familiar? A lot of these programs are on the shooting block today and their repeal will only set this country back decades not only in terms of domestic security but also in the eyes of the world who look to the United States as the moral, social and political beacon of the universe.

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Johnson liked foods of all kinds but at the heart of his recipes steak ruled supreme – all forms of steak (meat) from chipped beef to porterhouse, served at the White House and at BBQ’s at the ranch. LBJ was down home real! This recipe though not necessarily from the LBJ family recipe book is emblematic of the man and his legacy. Put your feed hats on – and enjoy!

perfect porterhouse steak

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