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Mike Howard remembers Lady Bird Johnson

MikeMoscow, Idaho — July 11, 2007
By Diane Rice

As the world watches news of the funeral arrangements being made for former First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson, who died in her sleep today at age 94, ApHC member and trail boss Mike Howard prepares to leave for the Johnson ranch in the heart of Texas Hill Country near Stonewall, Texas.

Mike, of McKinney, Texas, has a long history with the family of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Mike’s relationship with the Johnson family began during his years as a Secret Service agent, during which he was assigned first to President and Lady Bird’s daughter Lynda Bird (now Robb)—whose godfather he is—then to President Johnson, then to Lady Bird. “I worked a total of 10 years with them,” Mike says.

After talking with Lynda Bird today, Mike says the funeral will follow an outdoor meal for approximately 500 guests. “That’s the tradition here,” Mike says. “When someone dies, we feed everybody.”

The invitation-only funeral ceremony will take place at a church located along the Pedernales River next to the LBJ Ranch cemetery, followed by a service at the LBJ Library that will be open to the public. The former first lady will be interred at the ranch cemetery. Presidents Clinton and Carter, and possibly President Bush, are expected to attend.

Lady Bird, who was known for her beautification efforts—planting wildflowers and restricting billboards along highways—was instrumental in passing the Highway Beautification Act in 1965. Even after her stroke in 2002, Mike says she continued to work for her passion. “Every year, she gave an award for the best roadside park or rest area. She was involved up until just a few months ago.

“She never said anything bad about anyone,” Mike adds fondly, “—except one person: Colonel Sanders [of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame].

“We were driving from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard one time and she said, ‘Oh, that awful man, I just wish he wouldn’t do those billboards like that!’

“She wasn’t talking about him necessarily—just what the signs looked like,” Mike explains.

Mike relates that his Appaloosa and LBJ’s Tennessee Walker—a gift from former Tennessee Governor Buford Ellington—were pasture buddies. “LBJ made fun of my spotted horse,” Mike says, “but my horse was the only one that could stay with that Tennessee Walker. He had what George Hatley calls that Nez Perce shuffle.”

In addition to daughter Lynda Bird, Lady Bird leaves a daughter, Lucy Baines Johnson Turpin.

8 Comments

  1. Richard Lankford Said,

    July 13, 2007 @ 7:45 pm

    Just wanted to say what a nice article about Mike Howard and President Johnson’s family.
    Richard

  2. Carla Inman Said,

    August 22, 2007 @ 3:44 pm

    We visited Austin last spring. Our favorite place was the Johnson ranch. Thank you for your lovely remembrance. I have a Tennessee Walker and would have loved to have ridden her all over that beautiful ranch.

  3. Kathrine Said,

    November 20, 2007 @ 9:09 pm

    Hey Mike, Glad to know you are still riding those spoted ponies. How is Martha? Thought of you often. Email me back.

    KH

  4. Anne Flanagan Said,

    April 1, 2008 @ 9:20 pm

    I’m wondering if you could lead me to my mother’s (Margaret Ortstein) cousins, Bill and Bob Driscoll?

  5. james t rogers Said,

    February 22, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

    hello mike, read your story long ago in the book. found it on web today, good friend of your friend ron thompson at huntingdon, tenn.

  6. Dr. Susan J. Berger Said,

    July 18, 2009 @ 6:23 pm

    Hi Mike,
    You, Martha, and your beautiful granddaughter were our table companions (me, my mom and dad) on the 10-day Panama Canal cruise. I’d love to reconnect with you.
    Susie

  7. Peggy Malone Said,

    September 23, 2009 @ 4:58 am

    Oh my goodness…A rush of Chief Joseph Trail Ride Memories came flooding in. Your voice echoes forever as our Emcee..through rain or shine..you were and are a real trooper! Miss you and Martha..Your pickin’ friend..Peggy Malone

  8. Pat McCanne Said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

    Just inished reading the new book published about the Secret Service at the time of JFK…interesting to find your name mentoned . Send your email address if your have one.
    would love a visit before we are aoo REALLY too old!
    Pat

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