In 1934, a day after meeting her, Lyndon Johnson, a 26-year old congressional aide, asked Lady Bird Taylor to marry him. A few months later, Taylor yielded to Johnson’s pressure, and the two were married. Sam Rayburn, the Speaker of the House and a long-time friend to Johnson, later told him that marrying Lady Bird was the wisest decision he ever made.
Indeed, Lady Bird Johnson was a quick study. She graduated from high school at the age of 15, and the University of Texas at 20, finishing in the top 10 of her class. She stayed another year at Texas, earning a journalism degree. In 1943, with her husband (now a Congressman) off at war, Johnson used her inheritance to buy a small Austin radio station. In a matter of years, she transformed the debt-ridden radio station into a media empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars. According to one biographer, Lady Bird was the only first lady to have built and sustained a fortune with her own money.
Her business acumen extended into the legislative arena as well. When President Kennedy won Texas in the presidential election, Robert Kennedy credited Lady Bird for their close win of the state. In 1964, with her husband now President, Lady Bird broke new ground by campaigning independently of her husband, as she courageously embarked on a 1000-mile tour of eight Southern states, promoting the Civil Rights Act. A year later, she was instrumental in securing passage of the Highway Beautification Act, which reflected her abiding love of nature and the environment. It was the first of several environmental programs she would support and lobby for as First Lady. She also championed the Head Start program, and served as the program’s first national chair. And she was there at the end, the woman who wrote the words, “I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party,” as LBJ announced he was withdrawing from the 1968 presidential race.
On this President’s day, I made
Lady Bird Johnson’s Lemon Bundt Cake
PREP TIME: 20 minutes
COOK TIME: 1 hour, plus 30 minutes for cooling
WHAT TO GRAB:
1 cup butter, softened
1 2/3 cups sugar
10 egg yolks, lightly beaten
3 1/4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and lightly butter a Bundt pan.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg yolks until incorporated. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Re-sift another three times. Alternating with the milk, add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Mix until incorporated. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice, and beat for about 2 minutes.
3. Bake for 1 hour, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a serving platter and let it cool for another 15 minutes.
4. Serve with fresh fruit and whipped cream!