Faces

Luci Baines Johnson: Vietnam War 'Lanced' LBJ's Gut Every Night

Luci Baines Johnson greets residents as she accompanies her mother, Lady Bird Johnson, to Savannah, Ga., on Oct. 8, 1964. i i

hide captionLuci Baines Johnson greets residents as she accompanies her mother, Lady Bird Johnson, to Savannah, Ga., on Oct. 8, 1964.

AP
Luci Baines Johnson greets residents as she accompanies her mother, Lady Bird Johnson, to Savannah, Ga., on Oct. 8, 1964.

Luci Baines Johnson greets residents as she accompanies her mother, Lady Bird Johnson, to Savannah, Ga., on Oct. 8, 1964.

AP

The 50th anniversary of President Johnson's signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is being celebrated this week at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas.

NPR's Don Gonyea spoke Wednesday to Luci Baines Johnson, the 66-year-old younger daughter of the 36th president, about some of the human dimensions of the presidency.

President Johnson's birthday letter to Luci Baines Johnson, dated July 2, 1964 — her 17th birthday, the same day the Civil Rights Act was signed. i i

hide captionPresident Johnson's birthday letter to Luci Baines Johnson, dated July 2, 1964 — her 17th birthday, the same day the Civil Rights Act was signed.

LBJ Library
President Johnson's birthday letter to Luci Baines Johnson, dated July 2, 1964 — her 17th birthday, the same day the Civil Rights Act was signed.

President Johnson's birthday letter to Luci Baines Johnson, dated July 2, 1964 — her 17th birthday, the same day the Civil Rights Act was signed.

LBJ Library

Here are some highlights from their discussion:

On the toll the presidency took on her father

"[The Vietnam War] was a personal burden. I saw it as if somebody was lancing his gut, every night — the sleepness nights," she says. "It was his cross to bear and we felt it very much at home as well as in a public way."

Recalling life in the White House during the Vietnam War

"Back then you could picket on Pennsylvania Avenue, and the walls of the White House are pretty thin and the last thing I might hear before I went to bed would be, 'Hey, hey LBJ! How many boys did you kill today?' and that might be the first thing I heard in the morning."

On the unspoken bond between first families

"The children of first families — they serve, too," she says. "So much of that common tie is of public service and of seeing your parents — who you adore —sometimes from your perspective gravely misunderstood."

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