LBJ Presidential Library

Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron spoke as a part of the Tom Johnson Lecture Series on Thursday night.

Photo Credit: Michael Baez | Daily Texan Staff

The LBJ Presidential Library hosted its annual Tom Johnson Lecture Series on Thursday, recognizing baseball Hall of Famer Henry “Hank” Aaron.

Johnson served as executive assistant to President Lyndon Johnson during his presidency and later served as chairman emeritus of the Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation.

Each year, Johnson recommends a person who best represents the values of President Johnson to lecture in the series.

Aaron, this year’s honoree, is best known for breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record. During his 23-year career, Aaron won three Gold Glove Awards and the 1957 World Series with the Milwaukee Braves.

Aaron and his wife, Billye Aaron, founded the Chasing the Dream Foundation in 1999. According to Johnson, this foundation helps minority children achieve their goals.

“Both have been very active in civil rights, education, and active in the support of policies on the right side of history,” Johnson said. “They have supported many great black mayors and the legacy of President Johnson.”

Aaron said his father influenced his career path. 

“I remember getting into baseball because my father had his own baseball team,” Aaron said.

Throughout his career, Aaron said he always remembered his conversations with fellow baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson. Aaron said Robinson taught him baseball was about “touching home plate.”

“For many years, I led the league in runs scored and runs batted in — or runs scored simply — because I focused about what Jackie always said,” Aaron said.

Augie Garrido, Texas baseball head coach, said Aaron’s legacy is in keeping with the University’s philosophies. 

“Walter Cronkite once said, ‘What starts here changes the world,’” Garrido said. “In addition to that statement, our goal is to educate one student at a time for better society. [Aaron] is a man of integrity that has moved mountains for this country. He has changed the world for the better.”

Wild Art | 10.15.14

Texas Cheer practices outside of LBJ Presidential Library on Tuesday afternoon.
Chris Foxx | Daily Texan Staff

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Next week’s Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum will draw attention to a president who, until this semester, the University offered a class entirely about — President Lyndon B. Johnson. 

Forty-five years after the end of his last term, University classes, such as “The Johnson Years,” allowed students to look at Johnson’s presidency in-depth. Following this semester’s cancelation of the course, there are no longer any classes that focus solely on Johnson’s administration.

Harry Middleton, Johnson’s former speechwriter, taught the course while he was director of the LBJ library.

“I tried to be able to make those years come alive by bringing in as many of my colleagues from my White House days as I could,” Middleton said. “I think, modestly, I gave the students something close to a firsthand experience.”

Middleton said he believes legacies will fade no matter what happens, and it’s fortunate how certain events, such as the Civil Rights Summit, bring attention back to President Johnson and what he accomplished.

“I live in this retirement community, and I’m sure everyone here is on Medicare, and I wonder how many of them remember it was Johnson that brought it into effect,” Middleton said. “As we get into modern presidents, their day is coming and will fade and not many will remember — that’s the way life works.”

Johnson, ranked as the 11th-best president by CSPAN, graduated from Southwest Texas State Teachers College in San Marcos, which is now known as Texas State University. After being sworn into office following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Social Security Act of 1965. 

According to Middleton, Johnson affected people’s lives today more than any other president, and it’s important to continue offering classes on him.

“I wonder how many students at the University of Texas at Austin are in school because of the various educational programs that were passed in the Johnson years,” Middleton said. “We used to live in a segregated society, and we don’t anymore. … He’s relevant in that regard.”

Religious studies sophomore Alex Gaudio, who tried to get into the class before it was canceled, said he has never had a class that delved into Johnson’s presidency. Gaudio said he believes it’s important for politicians to learn from past administrations. 

“Every president uses previous presidents as a precedent,” Gaudio said. “The past matters.”

Government and Plan II senior Ben Mendelson was a student in “The Johnson Years” while it was still available and said it helped him learn about moments of history he would not have been taught otherwise.

“Being in that class and seeing history really come alive — the allure of watching him tell his stories about the man that he knew … was absolutely incredible,” Mendelson said.

Civil Rights Summit

Museum patrons get a look at the Legacy of Liberty Exhibit in the Great Hall of the LBJ Museum, which will be hosting the Civil Rights Summit from April 8-10, 2014.


Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

For the Civil Rights Summit in April, the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum has introduced the “Cornerstones of Civil Rights,” an exhibit that includes the original Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, both signed by President Johnson.

“The cornerstone documents of civil rights are all in one place for the first time ever,” said Anne Wheeler, communications director for the library.

According to Wheeler, the museum underwent a $10 million redesign in 2012 to incorporate interactive technology into exhibits to reach more college students. Wheeler said the number of visitors, which is approximately 10,000 people per month, has increased since the renovation.   

“What we want to do is present the story of LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson in contemporary terms,” Wheeler said. “A big part of our exhibit is about LBJ’s legacy and how it affects people today — because you wear a seatbelt in your car because of a law passed during the Johnson administration.”

Wheeler said the cost of recent technology renovations is the main reason the museum decided to begin charging admission in November 2013. The highest ticket price is $8 for adults while tickets for UT students, faculty and staff to remain free.

“We don’t really feel like what we’re asking for is out of line,” Wheeler said. “In fact, it’s much less than most museums.”

Wheeler said, since the museum began charging for admission, the staff is now able to track where visitors, mainly history-loving tourists, live by asking for their ZIP code when they purchase a ticket.

“We’ll have a pretty good feel, probably in about three or four months, [about] exactly where people are coming from,” Wheeler said. “[Before], it’s been sort of a guess.”

Susan Binford, assistant dean for communications for the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said the Civil Rights Summit is a partnership between the Presidential Library, the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the LBJ Foundation. Binford said the Summit will not only be a celebration of past achievements in civil rights but also a reflection on current issues, such as women’s rights, gay rights and immigration.

“How do we draw on LBJ’s legacy of getting things done?” Binford said. “The short amount of time it took for him to pass such monumental legislation is not seen today. We have an opportunity to empower a whole new generation.”

Elizabeth Dupont, history senior at Texas State University who works at the front desk of the museum, said the information the LBJ Presidential Library provides continues to be relevant because race relations in the U.S. are still not as optimal as they can be.

“The fact that he got this legislation passed in the climate that he did shows we can aim for better,” Dupont said.

The George Washington Inaugural Bible will be on display at the LBJ Presidential Library on Monday, opened to the same pages — Genesis chapters 49 and 50 —  Washington placed his hand on as he took the oath of office.

At the time of his inauguration, Washington borrowed the Bible from St. John’s Lodge No. 1,  of the Ancient York Masons, which has owned the Bible since 1770. Since then, it has been used at the presidential inaugurations of Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush. When it is not on tour or in use by St. John’s Lodge No. 1, the Bible is normally displayed at Federal Hall National Memorial on Wall Street in New York City, the site of Washington’s inauguration ceremony.

The Bible, an ornate King James Version printed in London in 1767, will be in Waco for the installation of a new Masonic Grand Master of Texas. After the ceremony, it will be displayed at the State Capitol and lastly at the LBJ Library. At all times, three Masonic brethren will accompany the Bible to protect it.

Michael MacDonald, LBJ Library museum registrar, said the exhibit is an opportunity for University students to experience American history.

“It’s pretty much the beginnings of American democracy,” MacDonald said. “The same words repeated by Washington are the same words repeated by Barack Obama. It established the inauguration ceremony that has been part of our government for three centuries.”

According to Henry Brands, history professor and American presidents expert, although nothing in the Constitution specifies using a Bible while taking the oath of office, Washington’s use of this Bible set the precedent for many inauguration ceremonies thereafter.

“It is interesting because George Washington himself was not especially religious,” Brands said. “He believed in a god but not necessary Christ. But he knew most Americans were believing Christians, and knew that this would be important to them.”

George Filippidis, mason and chairman of the George Washington Inaugural Bible Committee, said when the Bible is not on display, it can only be used for swearing in an incoming lodge master, the U.S. president or the governor or mayor of New York.

“It is one of the biggest things we look at aside from the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution,” Filippidis said. “It is right behind those two in terms of national artifacts.”

Here in Austin, former President Lyndon Baines Johnson is considered a tragic figure whose many social programs (Medicare among many others) were marred by the war in Vietnam. Former President Richard Nixon, meanwhile, is viewed as Machiavellian, almost evil. Nixon is often most remembered for the Watergate scandal, in which his staff broke into the 1972 Democratic headquarters and tapped the phones of Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern. Nixon, despite his push for universal health care, his launching of the Environmental Protection Agency and his extension of Johnson’s programs, is remembered more for his “silent majority,” “southern strategy” tactics and crass interventions in Latin America. It’s time rethink this narrative, and the resources at the LBJ Presidential Library can help us do so.

Recently, allegations about Nixon staffers’ alleged meddling in the Vietnam peace talks have come back into the news, with an article by the BBC’s David Taylor citing Johnson administration officials saying that in October 1968, Johnson had knowledge of the parallel dialogue regarding his efforts to stop bombing in Vietnam but did nothing, fearing a political backlash should his surveillance of Nixon’s aides come to light. Taylor cites recorded telephone conversations between Johnson and then-U.S. Senator from Georgia Richard Russell to back his claims. This would seem to confirm the running narrative of a fiery Johnson pitted against a cold and calculating Nixon. However, other phone calls during that time period paint a more complicated picture. 

The tapes with the phone calls reveal that Johnson was conflicted over Nixon’s intervention, but also over his protege Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s handling of the war issue. Commenting on Nixon’s intervention he says, “It’s not very easy for me to work under those conditions, anymore than when Hubert [Humphrey] says he would stop the bombing ‘without a comma, semicolon, but period.’” At one point in the tapes, Johnson says that Nixon “has the right [electoral] formula” and predicts that Humphrey could hurt himself by positioning himself as a dove. All in all, the conversation reveals subterfuge, but also striking continuities. Johnson clearly favored Nixon’s position over former presidential contender and Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who had defeated LBJ in New Hampshire’s primary. “Up till now Nixon and the Republicans have supported me ... better than Eugene McCarthy, [Arkansas Sen. J. William] Fulbright and the rest of them,” Johnson says in the tapes. Johnson also makes the case that he sacrificed his political career to exit gracefully from the war, saying that “if [he] had wanted to sell the country out,” he would have left Vietnam “five months ago” and gotten “overwhelmingly reelected.” Johnson longs for continuity as he recalls his support for Eisenhower and a tradition of not undermining the commander in chief in the area of foreign affairs. Johnson emphasizes in his call to Humphrey the day before the proposed cessation that he is not announcing a peace, but a “discussion.” He fears that the North Vietnamese will “take advantage” of the temporary halt to the bombing.

The tapes reveal broad bipartisan suspicion of communist regimes and expose the healthy egos that prevented peace from then going forward, evidenced by the Nixon campaign’s maneuvering and Johnson’s demand that the bombing cessation be conditional. The LBJ Presidential Library’s exhibits generally and erroneously portray Johnson as tragically noble; they fail to question his dubious claims with respect to the Gulf of Tonkin attacks that triggered the escalation and fail to grapple with Johnson’s own conflicts with his predecessor John F. Kennedy and, before his death in 1968, Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign.

More generally, the tapes are one more example of how political interests and rhetoric mask a bipartisan consensus. Former President Ronald Reagan is remembered for his announcement heralding the end to the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, although Reagan’s election opponent that year, former President Jimmy Carter, negotiated the release. Former President George W. Bush successfully negotiated the status of forces agreement that withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of 2011.

Next time UT students visit the LBJ Presidential Library, they should reconsider the standard assessments of our former presidents and look not at each individual color but at the tapestry that weaves together U.S. foreign policy.

Knoll is a Latin American Studies senior from Dallas. 

Former U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton expresses his thoughts on gun control at the LBJ Presidential Library’s Future Forum Monday evening.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

As the national conversation about firearms remains hot following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, UT hosted a panel discussion Monday night about the issues of gun control and the Second Amendment.

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, Pflugerville Superintendent Charles Dupre and former U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton discussed the topic in a Future Forum, a panel discussion at the LBJ Presidential Library.

“It becomes too simplistic, and I think there is a huge middle ground,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said although the Supreme Court ruled in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller that citizens have a constitutional right to bear arms for self-defense purposes, legislative bodies can place reasonable restrictions on them. He said he proposed that people who wish to buy guns at gun shows be required to pass a background check.

But Sutton said because many people selling at gun shows will not run background checks, this will create a new class of criminal since they will simply go outside to the parking lot to sell. He also said that common knowledge regarding gun control is often wrong.

“The murder rate in Texas is as low as it’s been in recorded Texas history ... since the ‘50s,” Sutton said. “The ownership of gun rate has never been higher.”

Rodriguez said people would be hard-pressed to find a direct correlation between more guns and lower crime rate. He said he thinks a low crime rate is more correlated with socioeconomic factors.

Rodriguez said he agrees with President Barack Obama’s proposal to limit the high-capacity clip on rifles to 10 rounds. 

Sutton said he disagrees with Obama. He said this would be extremely difficult because in the U.S. today there are probably 100 million 30-round capacity clips. He also said people have rifles with high capacity clips for self-protection. 

Another issue discussed at the panel was guns in classrooms. Rodriguez said he is against a bill that would allow guns in the classroom or on college campuses.

He said if someone in a classroom starts shooting and another person tries to shoot him back, once the police department arrives, they will not know who the shooter is.

“Law enforcement officials are always cautious that these bills are making their jobs more difficult,” Rodriguez said.

Dupre said since Sandy Hook he has been speaking to school principals even more in order to understand their views on what the school district can do to continue increasing safety.

“I don’t really believe that gun control has been seriously attempted in this country,” Rodriguez said. “We need to have a serious calm discussion on what reasonable restrictions are.”

Printed on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 as: Gun forum elicits mixed feelings 

A construction worker carries supplies down the staircase in the Great Hall of the LBJ Presidential Library. The library is in the final phase of a major redesign and will reopen on Dec 22, which would have been Lady Bird Johnson’s 100th birthday (LBJ Library photo by Lauren Gerson).

The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library is getting a new look later this month — and it is coming with a price.

When the LBJ Presidential Library unveils its new exhibit Dec. 22, the library will begin charging admission. Anne Wheeler, spokesperson for the LBJ library, said admission will remain free for students, staff and faculty with a UT ID. Admission prices for others range from $3 to $8. Previously, the LBJ Presidential Library was the only one of 13 presidential libraries that offered free admission. 

Admission to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum ranges from $3 to $6 while admission to the John F. Kennedy Museum ranges from $9 to $12.

Starting in December 2011, the library began undergoing a $10 million project by the Gallagher & Associates design studio to offer more interactive, technological exhibits.

Mark K. Updegrove, LBJ Library director, said the redesign of the library will provide context to legislation passed during the Johnson administration.

“Our goal is for visitors to better understand this largely misunderstood president,” Updegrove said in a statement. “Exhibits will explore all aspects of Johnson’s presidency, including the Vietnam War. President Johnson insisted that the LBJ Library present an unvarnished look at his Presidency — the triumphs and the turmoil. Now we share this story with new generations.”

During the design of the new exhibit, the library consulted with historians in order to ensure both accuracy and independency.

Some of the new features include access to previously-unavailable private telephone calls, an interactive decision-making Vietnam exhibit and more social media interactivity.

“President Johnson wanted the Library to use the best technology available, giving visitors a comprehensive, engaging experience,” Larry Temple, chairman of the LBJ Foundation, said in a statement.

Along with never-before-heard audio, the library is also now offering new videos on the Johnson administration.

Printed on Friday, December 7, 2012 as: LBJ Library opens new exhibits, will begin charging for admission

Texas Tribune CEO and editor-in-chief Evan Smith speaks with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library Monday evening. Hutchison, a senior Republican senator and a UT alumna, stated her desire to see higher education improve in Texas in the next few years without cutting the funds for academic research.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

As her 19 years in the United States Senate come to a close, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison reflected on a career of public service and offered her take on higher education at the LBJ Presidential Library on Monday evening.

Hutchison, the senior Republican senator from Texas and a UT alumna, participated in a discussion with Evan Smith, CEO and editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune. On several occasions Hutchison said quality higher education is necessary for Texas to compete in the global economy. An official said 450 people attended the event.

“For Texas, I want our state to be known and respected as a high-quality academic higher education-providing state,” Hutchison said. “I think the number of major companies that move here want an educated workforce. They want the research capabilities to do public-private partnerships and have great research, and they want students who have been around great research and great programs.”

Last year, Gov. Rick Perry challenged colleges and universities to develop degrees that cost no more than $10,000. Proponents of the $10,000 degree, including the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a nonprofit conservative think tank with ties to Perry, have also questioned the efficiency of research in higher education.

At the event, Hutchison said research plays a necessary and valuable role at major universities in Texas.

“I think that any talk of devaluing research is not productive and it is hurting our image,” Hutchison said. “We need to say, ‘Look, I’m not against experimenting with 4-year, $10,000 degrees, but you don’t do it at flagships.’”

Hutchison was first elected in 1993, making her the first woman to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate. After three consecutive re-elections, Hutchison announced in 2011 that she would not seek another term. Republican candidate Ted Cruz and Democratic candidate Paul Sadler are currently running to fill Hutchison’s seat.

History junior Taylor Guerrero said she hopes Hutchison’s successor will learn from her willingness to work across party lines.

“I think the next senator should be able to work in a bipartisan manner and to represent Texas the best that they can instead of just representing a certain percentage of Texans,” Guerrero said.

Hutchison said she has no plans to seek public office again but will continue to advocate the issues that matter most to her and to the state of Texas. Hutchison said one of those issues is seeing more universities in Texas gain Tier One status, which identifies schools with significant research programs but has no concrete definition.

“California has nine, New York has seven and we have three,” Hutchison said. “That’s not enough. We need to have three more, and we need to put the money into three more.”

Texas’ current Tier One schools are UT-Austin, A&M University and Rice University.

The crowd at the event included those not politically aligned with Hutchison.

“I decided to come out because of my interest in politics,” government senior Justin Perez said. “Even though I’m a Democrat, I think it’s important to hear what others have to say.”

Printed on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 as: Sen. set on education