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Aug. 19, 2008

LBJ State Park Gears Up for Celebration of Late President’s 100th Birthday

STONEWALL, Texas — The annual celebration of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s birthday takes on added significance Wednesday, Aug. 27, the date the Texas Hill Country native would have turned 100 years old.

The honoring of the birth of the 36th president of the United States begins at 10:30 a.m. in the Johnson family cemetery of the LBJ Ranch with the traditional wreath-laying ceremony. It was first held on Aug. 27, 1973, just over seven months after LBJ’s death. President and Mrs. Johnson’s daughters, Lynda Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson, will attend the ceremony.

During his presidency from 1963 to 1969, LBJ returned frequently to his Texas Hill Country ranch for a brief respite from world problems, to host heads of state and to strategize how to push through landmark national reforms, such as the Civil Rights Act and Medicare. He also spearheaded the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.

Aug. 27 promises to be a day of "firsts." For the first time, the National Park Service will allow personal vehicles to be driven onto the LBJ Ranch, starting at 9:30 a.m. Ranch visitors must first acquire a vehicle permit at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site visitor center, just across the Pedernales River from the NPS-operated LBJ Ranch. The test run of personal vehicles on the ranch will last through Sept. 30 at which time NPS will evaluate the results. During the roughly month-long experiment, no ranger bus tours of the ranch will take place.

In another precedent-setting move, the NPS will allow the public to view LBJ’s 1960s office in the west end of the Texas White House. The office has been restored and decorated with original furnishings and personal belongings. Additionally, on Centennial Day after the wreath-laying, the public will be able to tour the LBJ Ranch airplane hangar, where Johnson held press conferences and hosted family gatherings, movie screenings and parties. Park staff-guided tours will originate in the hangar. Visitors can see LBJ’s office, the Texas White House grounds and U.S. Secret Service command post.

Throughout the day, the public can enjoy refreshments at the state park visitors center and tour the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm to discover the kind of family games LBJ might have enjoyed as a child growing up on the Pedernales River around the turn of the 20th century.

The natural setting that had such an influence on LBJ is still intact and his impact on the nation still reverberates today, said Iris Neffendorf, state park and historic site superintendent.

"Here in the heart of the Texas Hill Country the public can still see the land and get a feel for the lifestyle of our nation’s 36th president by visiting the state park that he was so instrumental in creating to better understand why he loved coming home to this part of Texas," Neffendorf said. "This is where LBJ was energized with his can-do spirit whose legacy lives on in our world today through the many bills he signed for education, conservation, space and more."

LBJ’s 100th birthday also will be honored with special exhibits on the campus of his alma mater, Texas State University (formerly Southwest Texas State University) and at the LBJ Library and Museum in Austin, which hosts a barbecue and live music from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the lawn. The date marks the opening, too, of a new exhibit, "To The Moon: The American Space Program," which will run through July 20, 2009.

For more information about the LBJ 100, call the state park at (830) 644-2252 or national park at (830) 868-7128, ext. 244.

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RM 2008-08-19

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