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Reading The Love Letters Of Lyndon B. Johnson

For Valentine's Day, the Lyndon B. Johnson library released letters from the courtship period between the late president and his wife, Lady Bird. Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin presents some of the highlights.

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Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEPHONE CALL)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Operator.

PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON: Could I have Mrs. Johnson?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yes, Mr. President.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's 1964, in the Oval Office.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEPHONE CALL)

LADY BIRD JOHNSON: Hello?

JOHNSON: Have you eaten?

JOHNSON: Yes, dear.

JOHNSON: Oh, why didn't you wait and eat with me?

JOHNSON: Dear, I had to come and get...

MARTIN: And that is President Lyndon Johnson on the phone with the first lady, Lady Bird Johnson.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEPHONE CALL)

JOHNSON: ...but I'm out here might be working.

JOHNSON: OK. Bye.

JOHNSON: Goodbye, looo aaa.

JOHNSON: Love you.

MARTIN: Last week, just in time for Valentine's Day, the LBJ library in Austin released a trove of about 90 love letters between the president and his wife.

CLAUDIA ANDERSON: They still sound in love don't they?

MARTIN: That's Claudia Anderson. She's the lead archivist at the LBJ library. And she said the letters chronicle a love story that started way back in 1934.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Lyndon Baines Johnson and Claudia "Lady Bird" Taylor met in Texas in September of that year. Right away, the president asked her out for breakfast.

ANDERSON: And they spent the day together sightseeing in Austin. And before the day was over he proposed to her.

MARTIN: Her answer: Let me think about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Johnson returned to Washington where he was working, and that's when the letter writing started.

ANDERSON: And he writes: Dearest Bird...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Reading) Dearest Bird, it was hard to leave you today. It is always hard to feel that you haven't quite won, though there may be some hope left in tomorrow. Good night, I love you, Lyndon Baines.

MARTIN: The man who would one day be known as the Master of the Senate kept pushing for a yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Reading) Dear Bird, I want to hear you say over and over again that I love you. You may remember...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Reading) Darling, your letter yesterday sort of put me on the spot, didn't it, dear? All I can say in absolute honesty is I love you. I don't know how everlastingly I love you so I can't answer you yet. And I'm coming...

MARTIN: Eventually, he gave her a ring, but still no decision. Their correspondence continued.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Reading) ...1934. Although I was thrilled to death when the operator told me in the lobby that you were calling, I couldn't help but feel let down after you had repeated your doubts.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Reading) Darling, darling, everybody is so constantly urging me to wait two or three months. If he loves you he'll wait for you, and so on and so on until my head aches.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Reading) I love you, thanks for the telephone call, Lyndon.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Reading) ...a hundred kisses. Devotedly, Bird.

MARTIN: In November, just two months after their first date, Johnson came to Texas to meet her. They planned to travel to Austin again. But, what do you know.

ANDERSON: They skip Austin and go on to San Antonio where they get married.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: And just like that, the most persuasive man in politics, got the yes vote that meant the most.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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