On Nov. 17, 1934, Lady Bird Taylor got ready for her wedding in a hotel room in San Antonio, Texas.
“I was getting dressed and talking a mile a minute, still uncertain whether it would be wisest to jump out the window or go on and get married,” Lady Bird Johnson said in her LBJ Library oral history.
Just the day before, future President Lyndon Baines Johnson had convinced her to elope with him. They hopped in the car the next morning, driving away from her childhood home in Karnack, Texas. They passed through Austin. Just a few months ago, Lady Bird had graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in journalism. The entire drive, Lady Bird kept going back and forth about the wedding. She knew she wanted to marry Lyndon — she just wasn’t sure she wanted to marry him so soon. She had only met him two and a half months before, when their whirlwind courtship began.
Now, she found herself just minutes from walking down the aisle at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Her family didn’t even know about the wedding. She put on her best dress, walked across the street and stood on the steps of the church.
I visited that church in the spring of 2022 and stood on the same church steps she did when she was my age. Before I visited St. Mark’s, I never really understood her decision to go through with the wedding. But that changed when I visited the church. I realized that it took a lot of courage for her to walk down the aisle — to not run away, to go inside, to take a chance on the man waiting inside.
Sometimes decisions take years. Other times, decisions are made in a single moment. Standing on the church steps at St. Mark’s at 21 years old, Lady Bird made a decision that changed the rest of her life.
“I think by that time it all seemed inevitable. I can’t imagine myself fleeing from the church door. I think that I committed myself that far; that was it,” Johnson said in her LBJ Library oral history.
To find out more about Lady Bird and Lyndon’s elopement — and their following 38 years of marriage — stay tuned for The Drag’s “Lady Bird” coming out in 2023.