The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

graduated from her alma mater, Wiley College. She was born March 21,
1915, in Marshall; raised by her grandparents, Marie and Tom
McKenzie; and enrolled at Wiley College after the Farmer family left for
Washington, D.C. She was still a student when she was employed by Lady
Bird Johnson, whose husband was then in the House of Representatives.
In an interview in 1974 with Mike Gillette, then oral history director of
the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Mrs. Wright said that she, too,
had been a student of Melvin B. Tolson. As he had earlier with Farmer,
Tolson made Wright see that conditions for African Americans in
Marshall, Texas, and elsewhere were not acceptable. "That was one of
the things that I realized later on in life, that this was the beginning of
my realizing what segregation was all about. Because I had come up with
the idea that this was a way life was going to be and there was nothing I
could do about it," Wright said. "But after I went to school there [at
Wiley College] then I began to learn that things were changing and
things would change.""17
Wright was enrolled in the school of home economics at the time Mrs.
Johnson called on Dr. Dogan to ask for a recommendation from him for
someone to work for her and her congressman-husband, Lyndon. "After
Mrs. Johnson had talked to him, he asked me how I would like to go to
Washington," Wright said. "I was quite elated when he spoke of going to
Washington, because I knew I'd never have an opportunity to go any-
where." Following a twenty-minute interview, Mrs. Johnson hired Mrs.
Wright and they set off to Washington. Records in the Lyndon B.
Johnson Presidential Library say she was hired September 2o, 1942, and
her employment with the Johnsons was her first full-time job.'" By the
time Johnson was in the White House, Wright was well known enough to
rate reference in many contemporary accounts about the Johnson
administration. Her recipes appeared in the food sections of newspapers
often, and her written challenge-served on a dinner plate in the White
House-for the president to follow his diet and avoid another heart
attack made newspapers all over the nation. Speaker of the House Sam
Rayburn called her "the best southern cook this side of Heaven."'9
One can only assume that Dogan saw something special in Zephyr
Black that caused him to recommend her to Mrs. Johnson. Since T. J.
Taylor, Mrs. Johnson's father, was very well known in the area, as was
7 Zephyr Wright to Mike Gillette, December 1974, interview, 3-4, Wright name file text of
AC 81 (tape 1 of 2) (Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, Austin, Texas; cited hereafter as
LBJ Library).
'1 Undated memo from the White House Press Office, received into central files May 17,
1966, WHCF Name File, container 512 (LBJ Library).
" Eric F. Goldman, The Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson (New York Alfred A. Knopf, 1969), 351
(Rayburn quotation). Goldman's description of Wright included "The Johnson home now


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed November 28, 2015.