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Lady Bird Johnson
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When I was a kid reporter, I covered a couple of events for television where Lady Bird Johnson was the featured speaker.

One was in Atlanta and the other was at Callaway Gardens.

I never met her personally, but I can remember in one of the speeches how passionate she was about beautifying our roads.

As the Interstate highway system was being built during President Johnson's administration, Mrs. Johnson became a staunch advocate for planting wildflowers along the roadways.

There are some places along the highway where there are beautiful flowers in a wide array of colors.

Her devotion to the project has often made me think of the former first lady, who died Wednesday at the age of 94.

I was in my early 20s at the time of her visit but was very impressed with what she had to say and thought she had both grace and class.

Oddly enough, Lyndon Johnson quietly worried about the looks of his wife and daughters, especially following the glamorous Jackie Kennedy.

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss published a book with transcripts of Johnson's phone calls and conversations from the Oval Office.

A number of the phone calls were made to the late U.S. Sen. Richard Russell of Georgia. That's what drew me to the book.

However, I laughed out loud at the transcript of a phone call made two days before Christmas in 1963 to a New York hairdresser named Eddie Senz to ask him to come quickly and do a little magic at the White House at a bargain price.


All right, now I'm a poor man, and I don't make much money, but I got a wife and a couple of daughters, and four or five people that run around with me, and I like the way you make them look, now how much...


I'm most flattered. I promise you just take my word for it that this is in confidence.


Well, this is your country, and I want to see what you want to do about it. Now, can you come down here and make them look better?


When do you want me to come?


That depends on how much it'll cost me.


It won't cost you anything to worry about, sir.


All right, because I just have to live off a paycheck, and I'm in debt. But I want to see if you can't come. I don't know whether the planes are flying this morning, but if you can't come and stay until five or six o'clock this evening. If you can't do that, I'll have to wait until next year.

(From "Taking Charge, The Johnson White House Tapes, 1963-1964" by Michael R. Beschloss.)

Later in the conversation, Johnson told Senz he would leave him "a hundred dollar bill."

Beschloss said that Johnson's net worth at the time was probably in the eight figures.

The thought of the president of the United States wheeling and dealing with a fussy New York hairdresser to make his entourage of women look good was just too funny.

When I heard that Lady Bird Johnson had passed away, I thought of that episode and the current upheaval over pricey hairdos. Maybe John Edwards should have studied up on LBJ's negotiating skills and he could have saved himself a few headaches and a few hundred bucks.

Harris Blackwood, a native of Social Circle, is on the editorial board of The Gainesville Times. Send e-mail to