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Mary McDermott Cook, Luci Baines Johnson, Jim Ryan

On October 26, the Dallas Arboretum hosted its Great Contributors Dinner honoring Luci Baines Johnson, daughter of President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson. Benefiting the garden, the evening began with a cocktail hour in the Entry Plaza with country music of Texas by the Dave Alexander Band, twinkling lights and artfully arranged pumpkins.

 

The evening featured all things Texas as its theme. As guests entered, Carly Carroll sang “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon Us” and invited guests to join her. Jim Ryan, Dallas Arboretum board chairman, welcomed the 270 guests and told them that a wonderful evening awaited them.

 

Mary McDermott Cook, whose family has known the Johnson family, spoke next. She said that both she and Luci were blessed with amazing fathers and mothers. As friends, Mary and Luci have traveled together, laughed and cried together. Mary thanked hers and Luci’s parents for allowing them to be able to make an impact in Texas and the U.S.

 

Bill McIntyre, who was a page in Washington D.C., assisting U.S. Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson from Texas.  He got to know the Johnson family through attending church with them and having Sunday dinners at their home. All told, Bill and Luci have known each other for more than six decades.

 

About 270 guests enjoyed a delicious Texas White House VIP dinner including a Texas Steakhouse “wedge” salad, a duet of Bastrop Cattle Company Filet Mignon with Chicken Fried Lobster Tail, green beans and baby carrots. Dessert was a Hill Country Molten Chocolate Lava Cake with Bing Cherry Sauce.

 

After dinner, Rena Pederson, author, journalist and one of the most powerful women in the state, according to Texas Monthly, moderated a lively discussion with Luci. Luci’s career incorporates a wide range of business and philanthropic commitments having served as chairman of the board of the LBJ Holding Company. She has had a lifetime commitment to social justice, health care, education and the environment. Her accolades are numerous.  

 

Some takeaways:

Mrs. Jackie Kennedy wrote Lady Bird a letter letting her know how thrilled she was that Luci, then 13 years old, would be able to attend her first State dinner with the Sudanese leaders. Both Luci and her sister, Lynda, attended, but the parents didn’t.

 

Lady Bird had many firsts:

  • She was the first to hold the Bible for her husband’s inauguration.
  • She was the first to have a press secretary, Liz Carpenter.
  • She was the first lady to campaign on her own for LBJ.
  • She was the first to take a Whistle Stop tour through the South where he wasn’t popular.

 

Luci on her mom:

“She married a man she adored every day of her life.”

“She had his best interest at heart.”

“She loved him with all her heart.”

 

Lady Bird was a historian and a journalist along with her good friend, Margaret McDermott. In fact, LBJ gave her a video camera allowing Lady Bird to take videos documenting much of their public life.

 

On Lady Bird’s first date with LBJ, he asked her to marry him.

 

Luci remarked, “We used Margaret McDermott’s and Mary McDermott Cook’s names as verbs. You’ve been ‘Margaret McDermotted.’ You knew when they asked you something, the only answer was ‘yes’ because your horizons would be enriched and your life brightened.”

 

In addition to beautification and conservation, Lady Bird was also involved in the arts, water pollution, Ellis Island, but she was instrumental in getting Head Start started. In 1965, Luci began a lifelong commitment to Head Start, where she worked for 20 years. “Kids, given a chance, will succeed.”

 

When asked to be an honorary chair, her mother instilled in her daughters if they could give the three T’s: time, talent and treasure. If you can, then do it with gusto.

 

At the end of Lady Bird’s life, Luci spent six days a week with her, while a niece spent one day a week. Luci talked about how she valued that time of getting to be with her mom who was often helping her father in her early years.

 

After the entertaining discussion with Luci recounting plenty of stories, Jim Ryan, Shirley and Bill McIntyre and Mary McDermott Cook presented Luci with the Great Contributors Award. Luci remarked, “How honored and grateful I am that I’ve been McDermotted. How grateful I am that you’re part of my family.”

 

Special thanks to the sponsors:

Platinum: Lyda Hill Philanthropies, Shirley and Bill McIntyre; The Eugene McDermott Foundation.

 

Gold: Lisa and Mac Tichenor; Tom and Charlene Norris Family Fund; Holly and Tom Mayer & Cindy and Charles Feld.

 

Silver: Nancy Albertini and Steve Metzger; Marilyn Augur; Kathy Bishop; Joe Buskuhl; Robin and Jim Carreker and Patty and Bobby Nail; Cheryl and Steve Coke (in honor of John Dryden); Alfred and Kathryn Gilman Family Giving Fund; Holly and Phillip Huffines; Caroline L. Hunt; Carolyn and William Kelley; Julie Kosnik; Howard Meyers; Gloria and George Tarpley; Charlotte Test; Anne and Walt Waldie; Joan and Alan Walne; Marilyn and Ben Weber; Carolyn Wittenbraker-Arkay Foundation; Lynda and Mark Wolf.

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