Love Letters Reveal LBJ's Dogged Pursuit of Lady Bird

The Atlantic

The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library has released a collection of private letters that show just how badly the former president wanted his would-be First Lady to fall for him. Mind you, Lyndon Johnson proposed marriage mere days after meeting Claudia Alta Taylor, so these letters reveal a back-and-forth as illuminating for Lady Bird's indecision as the future president's relentlessness.

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The previously unpublished letters, written between September and November of 1934, appeared online this morning at the library's website. In one, early in their relationship, she writes

Your letter yesterday sort of put me on the spot, didn’t it, dear? 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. And I’m coming to see you in January. Try and stop me! It’s the chief thing in the world I’m looking forward to…what made you say you didn’t think Gene and I would not really get there?

In a letter to her in November, shortly before they actually marry, he writes

To me it has always seemed a safe rule to take my cue as to my behavoir from the other persons attitude, so since you seem calm and cool and want plenty of time to “make up your mind” I think why not simulate indifference myself. I’m sure in some instances indifference may add charm. It might be best to abide by your decision with apparent calm acquiescence and just see what would happen. If you don’t know your own mind, I won’t press you, in spite of my ardent nature, and more than that I want it all to end as quickly as possible. Of course I’m hurt that you are undemonstrative and analytical in regard to your emotions. I’m afraid, dear, your instinctive reticence does not hold an appeal for my peculiarities of temperament.

The library's archivist, Claudia Anderson, knows that these aren't typical love letters, telling the Associated Press: "I would not really call these letters sentimental. He wants a commitment from her. ... His letters express that." 

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Now, mind you, it's not an entirely happy ending for these two. Note this interview with LBJ biographer Robert Caro, who discusses how he cheated on Taylor and treated her poorly: "His abusiveness towards her 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." 

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It's a popular time for revealing presidential letters: an exhibit at Nixon's library reveals the friendship between Nixon and Bill Clinton. Now that's a Valentine's Day treat!

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