Discover Austin: Lyndon B. Johnson Ranch - Episode 33
We're going on another road trip to visit the Lyndon B. Johnson Ranch in Stonewall, Texas for this episode of Discover Austin. Stonewall is nestled in the Texas Hill Country, between Austin and Fredericksburg. The ranch offers a fascinating look at Johnson's time spent in Central Texas. History buffs should know, when visiting the national park you should consider a visit to the State Park as well as the Johnson City District in nearby Johnson City, Texas.
Lyndon Baines Johnson was the 36th President of the United States. He was born, lived, died, and was buried at the LBJ Ranch.
President Johnson was born on August 27, 1908. Though the house in which he was born was demolished before he started his political rise, it was reconstructed in the 1960s to its original size and appearance. The ranch that LBJ would one day amass was not owned by his parents when they owned this house. In fact, the house and various parcels of land changed hands among several family members before LBJ started to buy it up in 1951.
This is the one-room school house in which LBJ first attended school. It was a very short walk from his home and was a typical school house of that era. His time at this school was short, though, as his family moved to Johnson City after he had attended this school for just a few months.
This is the main structure at the ranch and is known as the Texas White House. Johnson spent much time here during his time as senator, vice president, and president. We are not allowed to record video inside the house, but the tour shows you his office, the living room, family room, dining room, kitchen, and bedroom suites (yes, suites plural because the Johnsons had separate bedrooms). Most of the rooms are restored to their appearance from the presidential years, while the bedrooms retain the appearance from the time of LBJ and Lady Bird’s deaths. There is a great big oak tree estimated to be 300 years old in the front yard. It is known as the Cabinet Oak because the president loved to sit under the tree while conducting the country’s business. There is a swimming pool as well. All of it offers a great view of the Pedernales River. Out behind the house is the collection of Friendship Stones. Instead of a simply signing a guest book, Johnson had friends and dignitaries sign their autographs in wet concrete.
An airplane informally known as Air Force One Half is also on display. Because the ranch landing strip was too short for Air Force One, Johnson would fly into Austin then take a JetStar from there to the ranch. This particular plane was rescued from a military airplane graveyard and the exterior restored. There were several of this model aircraft that LBJ used while both vice president and president. While he actually flew on this plane when vice president, there are no records confirming that he flew on this one as president. Also nearby are several of LBJs cars, including his beloved convertible.
This building was once the airplane hangar. After he became president, he needed a large area for press and guests to gather so it was converted for that purpose. Now it houses the gift shop and some exhibits.
At Johnson’s request, the ranch is still a working ranch, just as it was when he owned it. While the number of cattle is much lower than during his lifetime, there are still cattle that descended from those LBJ owned. When you take a drive around the property, you get the opportunity to pass by the Show Barn to see the ranch operations.
While at home on January 22, 1973 Lyndon Baines Johnson suffered a heart attack and passed away. He was 64 years old. Three days later he was buried in the Johnson Family Cemetery right here on the ranch. Other family members are buried here, including Lady Bird.
The house and a portion of the ranch was donated to the park service while LBJ was still alive. It came with the stipulation that they retained lifetime rights to occupy the property. Indeed, Lady Bird Johnson lived here part time until her death in 2007. Since I’m a real estate broker, let me interject a real estate tidbit. Most people believe that the ranch was transferred to the government by using what is known as a Lady Bird Deed. That is completely wrong. The reason a Lady Bird Deed is so named is simply that the attorney who created it used the names of the Johnsons in an example he shared to help others understand how it worked. In fact, the Lady Bird Deed had not even been conjured up at the time the Johnsons transferred the ranch ownership.
Even if you aren’t a history buff, every Central Texan should spend at least one afternoon visiting the LBJ Ranch. I’m Craig Smyser, thanks for joining me for this road trip episode of Discover Austin.