Happy Birthday Lady Bird Johnson!

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lady Bird Johnson, who was born Claudia Alta Taylor on December 22, 1912, in Karnack, Texas. Her nickname stems from childhood, when a nursemaid remarked that she was as “purty as a little ladybird.” It turned out to be an appropriate moniker for the future First Lady, who spent much of her childhood outdoors in East Texas bayou country and developed a lifelong love and affinity for nature.

This set of six First Day Covers features a a different affixed Lady Bird Johnson (Forever®) stamp and a First Day of Issue color postmark. Click image for more info.

This set of six First Day Covers features a a different affixed Lady Bird Johnson (Forever®) stamp and a First Day of Issue color postmark. Click image for more info.

Mrs. Johnson will best be remembered for awakening the nation’s environmental conscience. “Getting on the subject of beautification is like picking up a tangled skein of wool,” she wrote in her diary on January 27, 1965. “All the threads are interwoven—recreation and pollution and mental health, and the crime rate, and rapid transit, and highway beautification, and the war on poverty, and parks—national, state, and local.”

Using the nation’s capital as a model, Mrs. Johnson, with the help and encouragement of philanthropist Mary Lasker, organized a committee that raised private funds to plant trees and flowering plants in the monumental areas of the city. Her efforts prompted local businesses and others in Washington, D.C., to begin beautification efforts in less touristy neighborhoods. She also encouraged community involvement in efforts to improve public spaces, schoolyards, and parks.

President Johnson supported his wife’s initiatives as part of his own strong commitment to the environment, and she worked with her husband to enact such landmark legislation as the Wilderness Act of 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Program.

First Day Cancelled Full Sheet

Celebrate the legacy left by a beloved First Lady with this full sheet of six Lady Bird Johnson (Forever®) stamps cancelled by four black postmarks. Click the image for more info.

Mrs. Johnson is perhaps best known for the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, which sought to control billboards and remove or screen junkyards that blighted the nation’s highways. She remained committed to highway beautification after leaving the White House and supported the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987, which allocated federal funds for landscaping projects using native plants, flowers, and trees along the highways.

In 1982, on her 70th birthday—when most people are focused on retirement—Mrs. Johnson dedicated herself to the creation of the National Wildflower Research Center. The center has grown into an international leader in research, education, and projects that encourage the use of wildflowers and native plants. In 1997, a new, larger facility in Austin, Texas—renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center—continues Mrs. Johnson’s commitment to promote the beauty and sustainability of native wildflowers, plants, and landscapes.

The Lady Bird Johnson Forever® souvenir stamps sheet was released November 30, 2012, and is now available for purchase online and in Post Offices.

Popular 1960s Stamps Find New Life in 2012

In the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Lady Bird Johnson promoted efforts to make America more beautiful. The U.S. Postal Service encouraged participation in their beautification campaign with the issuance of five stamps.

For the first stamp (the third stamp down in the image below), a 5-cent commemorative issued in 1966, artist Gyo Fujikawa illustrated the Jefferson Memorial glimpsed through the branches of a flowering cherry tree.

The daughter of Japanese parents, Fujikawa worked for various companies in her career as a commercial artist including Walt Disney Studios, which she deemed “a most memorable and profound experience,” one she credits for the attention to detail seen in her work. During her career she wrote and illustrated more than four-dozen children’s books, including Babies (1963), credited with being the first children’s book to show infants of many nationalities and races.

In addition to the 1996 Beautification stamp, Fujikawa’s other USPS projects include the 20-cent commemorative stamp honoring the 50th anniversary of the International Peace Garden, issued in 1982, and a 4-cent stamp issued in 1960 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first treaty to promote mutual understanding and good will between Japan and the United States.

Walter D. Richards designed four stamps urging citizens to embrace the Johnsons’ beautification campaign. Scenes of a street, a highway, a park, and a city, each enhanced by flowers and flowering trees, encouraged people to use plants to beautify their surroundings.

The stamps, issued in 1969, were one among many of Richards’ projects for the U.S. Postal Service. Lady Bird Johnson introduced them to the public in January 1969. You can watch the video of her press conference here.

In addition to the Beautification of America series, Richards’ work appears on more than 30 other U.S. postage stamps, including a twelve-stamp architectural series that featured images ranging from Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda at the University of Virginia to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater; the series was issued from 1979 to 1981. More information on each of his stamp projects can be found on the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum website.

This year USPS celebrates the centennial of the birth of Lady Bird Johnson and commemorates her beautification work with the release of a souvenir stamp sheet featuring adaptations of all five original 1960s stamps designed by Richards and Fujikawa. The souvenir sheet was issued last week and is now available online and in Post Offices nationwide

The Lasting Legacy of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

In just 10 days, USPS will issue a new sheet of 6 stamps honoring Lady Bird Johnson and her dedication to environmental and conservation projects. The First Day of Issue ceremony will take place at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas. Johnson—popularly known as “our environmental First Lady”—cofounded the center, then known as the National Wildflower Research Center, with her great friend, actress Helen Hayes, in 1982.

At that time, Hayes was one of the best-known actresses in the world. Like Johnson, she also had a lifelong passion for wildflowers and natural beauty. “Ever since I was very young,” she wrote in the forward to Betty Castro’s The Wildflower, “I liked to creep off to a field near my grandmother’s farm in Maryland, find a patch of wildflowers—red clover or field daises or such—curl up in it, and dream beautiful dreams.”

Proud of her role in the institution’s founding, Hayes noted in the Winter 1985 issue of the Center’s newsletter: “I joined Lady Bird Johnson . . . in the establishment of the much needed organization, based on my personal understanding and love for what we have been generously given by nature’s beauty . . . I am proud to be a part of this effort.”

Both women participated directly in the center’s work, attending countless fundraisers, benefits, and other events to raise contributions.

This keepsake features a sheet of 20 Helen Hayes stamps plus a First Day of Issue color postmark. Click for more info.

“Helen Hayes gave so generously of her talents and in the giving, brought joy into countless lives. I’m deeply grateful to have shared her life,” Johnson later wrote in the Center newsletter. “I will especially feel her spirit in the wildflower fields she loved and the legacy of native plants she championed through the work of the National Wildflower Research Center, which she co-founded with me. She will remain a national treasure in our hearts.”

Over the years, the center grew to be an international leader in research, education, and projects that encourage the use of wildflowers and native plants. Today it continues Johnson’s commitment to promote the beauty and sustainability of native wildflowers, plants, and landscapes. It was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1997.

The Lady Bird Johnson (Forever) stamp sheet and other related philatelic products may be pre-ordered online. The First Day of Issue ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will take place Friday, November 30, at 11 a.m. CST. The 2011 Helen Hayes (Forever) stamp and related philatelic products are still available online.

Helen Hayes licensed by CMG Worldwide, Indianapolis, IN

Environmentalist Lady Bird Johnson To Be Immortalized on Stamp

Forty-seven years ago today, Congress signed into law the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, known as “Lady Bird’s Bill” because of Lady Bird Johnson’s keen interest and active support of its passage. We are delighted to announce today that the U.S. Postal Service will celebrate this and other of Mrs. Johnson’s achievements with the release of the Lady Bird Johnson Souvenir Forever stamps sheet.

The dedication ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 11 a.m. on November 30, 2012, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

“The Postal Service is proud to issue this historic Forever stamp honoring a beloved First Lady who worked tirelessly to make the United States a more beautiful place,” says Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. “Lady Bird Johnson’s legacy lives on along our nation’s roadsides, and urban parks and trails, which she so diligently worked to preserve and beautify, and now on a U.S. postage stamp to commemorate her contributions for forever.”

To learn more about Lady Bird Johnson (1912–2007) and events celebrating the centennial of her birth, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Centennial website. You can preorder the souvenir sheet now for delivery in early December by visiting The Postal Store or by calling 800-STAMP-24.