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LBJ love letters: Romance in a time without Twitter

LBJ love letters: The correspondence between the 26-year-old future president and Lady Bird were made public for the first time Thursday — Valentine's Day — at the LBJ Presidential Library. The love letters will be available to view online.

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None of the letters is dated, but merely provides a day of the week. Fortunately for archivists, Taylor saved the envelopes — Johnson didn't — as well as the letters, allowing researchers to assemble what they believe is a chronological order.

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In one letter, Taylor defends her indecision on marriage, saying "everybody is so constantly urging" her to wait, that two months isn't long enough to know him. "My head aches," she writes.

Anderson said Johnson is "certainly romantic in these letters in that he is wooing her, he's trying to impress her and he makes various arguments why they should get married."

"I would not really call these letters sentimental. He wants a commitment from her. ... His letters express that," Anderson said. "They are fascinating."

She said the letters reflect characteristics that would come to be synonymous with the couple: "His impatience, his passion for helping people; her interest in conservation and nature."

He talks about getting jobs for people, his own job in Washington and complains how she doesn't write every day. Hers progress from, "I'm not so sure about this," to, "I adore you."

Ten weeks after they met, Johnson showed up in November 1934 at Lady Bird's widowed father's home in Karnack in northeast Texas, to press for an answer. Even as they made the 350-mile drive to San Antonio, she wasn't sure she would "commit matrimony," as Mrs. Johnson described it later.

But the couple married Nov. 17, 1934, four days after the last letter in the collection, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in San Antonio.

Johnson dispatched a friend, Dan Quill, who was postmaster in the Alamo city, to get a ring for the ceremony. It came from a Sears store and cost $2.50.

Lady Bird Johnson spent 34 years in Washington as her husband's political career took him to the chief executive's office after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Lyndon Johnson was elected the following year to a four-year term, but declined to seek re-election in 1968 amid growing civil unrest and challenges from his Democratic Party over his Vietnam War policies.

He and Lady Bird retired to their ranch and Austin, and Lyndon Johnson died in 1973. Mrs. Johnson died in 2007 at age 94.



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