Lady Bird Johnson
Few Americans names are as synonymous with efforts to beautify the United States with native plants as that of the former first lady, whose lifelong love of nature translated into national policy during her husband Lyndon Johnson’s presidential years. The Beautification Act, enacted into law by Congress in 1965 was the direct result of her campaign for nationwide scenic enhancement, particularly in regard to roadside development.
Known as "Lady Bird’s Bill," the legislation mandated control of outdoor advertising, including removal of certain types of signs along many of the nation’s highways. She also led an effort to beautify Washington, D.C., creating a "garden city" that became a model for other U.S. metropolitan areas.
Returning home to Texas after her husband’s term of office ended, Johnson focused much of her efforts on educating the public about the ecological advantages of gardening with native plants – an interest that led her in 1982 to cofound the National Wildflower Research Center on 60 acres near Austin that she donated to the project. In 1997, the center was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Now covering 279 acres and displaying more than 700 plant species, the center demonstrates how native plants conserve water and minimize the use of polluting fertilizers and insecticides.
In inducting her last year into the Conservation Hall of Fame, NWF’s board of directors noted that "Lady Bird’s support of native plants was a major part of her efforts to make America not only more beautiful but also more ecologically sound." The wildflowers gracing many of the nation’s roadways are living monuments to her foresight and commitment.
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