The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 9

The Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Lady Bird herself, Dogan would have wanted the best of his Wiley stu-
dents to accompany Mrs. Johnson to the nation's capital. Well educated
as well as an excellent cook, Zephyr Black was popular with Johnson
family intimates, and probably had among the most recognized names
of any member of a president's personal staff. Because she was so well
known, Johnson knew he could strike a cord of sympathy, especially
among more moderate southerners who admired her, when he used her
to personalize the need for the public accommodations portion of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964. He did so often.
Johnson's wife and greatest confidant, Claudia Alta Taylor, was born
in a small, northeastern Harrison County community called Karnack on
December 22, 1912. A family servant said she was cute as a "Lady Bird"
and the nickname stuck. Lady Bird may have come by her concern for
civil rights through her mother, Minnie Lee Patillo, who was a suf-
fragette as well an integrationist.20 Claudia Taylor graduated from
Marshall High School third in her class with an all-A average.21 She con-
sidered herself shy, even dowdy, so she chose to attend St. Mary's, an
exclusive girl's school in Dallas operated by the Episcopal Church,
before she entered the University of Texas in 1930. She graduated in
1934, having earned a bachelor of liberal arts in 1933 and a bachelor's
in journalism in 1934. She married Lyndon Johnson on November 17,
1934, and became, in his estimation as well as in others, one of his most
effective campaigners. He was first elected to the House of Representa-
tives in 1937, where he remained until 1948, when he was elected to the
Senate. She ran his office for him while he served in the Navy during
World War II. In 1957, as Senate majority leader, he shepherded a civil
rights bill through the Congress. It may have been watered down, and
Johnson certainly had a hand in weakening the enforcement provisions
of it, but it was the first civil rights legislation to be passed since the civil
rights acts of 1873-1875.22 Lady Bird herself recognized the significance
included that ornament whom Mrs. Johnson had achieved from the home economics depart-
ment of tiny Wiley College m Marshall, Texas, Mrs. Zephyr Wright." In addition to Goldman,
Sidey, Anderson, Dallek, Cahfano, and Valenti also mention her So does the president's broth-
er, Sam Houston Johnson However, Johnson puts an uneducated black dialect m her mouth,
which Moyers said was entirely inappropriate, since Wright, whom the president normally
referred to as "Ms. Wright" or "Sweetheart," was well educated and elegant of speech. Moyers to
Beil, interview.
0 "What seemed downright incredible to Karnack, [Minnie Patillo Taylor] declared herself a
suffragette and an integrationist of whites and blacks. Votes for women she could only talk
about, but integration she practiced by inviting Negroes into the Brick House for long conversa-
tions, leaving T. J. Taylor shaking his head," in Goldman, Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson, 340.
.1 "Lady Bird Johnson's Montage of Memories," Marshall News Messenger, May 13, 1978, Lady
Bird Johnson file (Harrison County Historical Museum, Marshall, Texas).
"2 "LBJ," prod. David Grubin (episode of "The American Experience"), David Grubin
Productions (PBS, 1992).


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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. ( accessed September 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.