To round out the weekend of legislators and legacies, we started at the LBJ Presidential Library & Museum. The Library is located on the grounds of the University of Texas at Austin, a scant distance from the Texas capitol, an appropriate sort of geographical as well as biographical tribute to a Texas politician and 36th President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson.
The Library “reopened” in late December 2012 following a yearlong renovation effort, and that effort paid off in terms of developing a contemporary look and feel for a large slice of Texas and US history.
The exhibits have been updated, modernized, and expanded to highlight more of LBJ’s presidency, particularizing on timely issues. One favorite new item was the “display” of several of LBJ’s private phone conversations the President – phones were interspersed through multiple exhibits, inviting visitors to “please hold for the President,” to listen in on conversations with anyone from other legislators to the press, pertinent to the exhibits. There were several theaters for short films…
dozens of pens used by LBJ to sign bills into law;
a talking LBJ mannequin;
the Oval Office…
and a favorite for poses: a cardboard LBJ giving the “Johnson Treatment.”
One small difference, discovered at the front door, is that the LBJ is no longer a free museum. However, the low cost of admission was well worth the updated exhibits. Even if you’ve been before, is definitely worth a return trip.
After several hours wandering the Library, we headed back to Huntsville, via the northern route, in order to stop for a late lunch at Meyer’s Texas BBQ in Elgin, Texas. Despite being a large group, there wasn’t a lot of talking until we had all wrapped up our lunches, which everyone agreed was well worth the wait.
It was a long weekend of touring the capitol, meeting with and getting an in-depth glimpse of a legislative office’s inner workings, touring LBJ’s multiple shrines, and experiencing Austin in a whole new way. But for the students, who range from graduating this May to just starting this year, it was an experience they agreed they won’t forget. During the return trip, we usually recap the excursion’s events and discuss lessons learned and favorite stops and sights, and this trip was no exception. For our regular readers, though, we thought that with eight students, compiling one list seemed an efficient way to present favorites:
- Fogo de Chao: “Wow. So much food.”
- Frank & Angie’s: “We’re not vegetarians, but we really loved the vegetarian pizza. Definitely worth a trip back someday.”
- Meyers BBQ (Elgin): The BBQ, especially the pulled pork, was a hit, but the banana pudding “took the cake.”
There were many options from which to choose, but the figures made from aluminum were a big hit. The fact that Benini made them using his tractor probably added to the mystique and attractiveness.
- Capitol Hill Workshops: “It was really eye-opening – the work that goes into running a legislature. And we appreciate the Hill staffers who took so much time to really explain things to us.”
- Benini Sculpture Ranch: “Spending time with the artist was amazing. He shared so much with us.”
- LBJ Presidential Library: For many of the students, their first trip to a presidential library.
Favorite “Non-Art” Artifacts or Exhibits:
- The Johnson Treatment Audio Tapes: The photo backdrop in the LBJ Library gift shop was almost as big a hit as the audio tapes found throughout the museum.
- The pens LBJ used to sign bills into law: The Great Society to be furthered by the next generation…
- The Johnsons’ bedrooms: The Johnsons’ clothes of the day and closet space in the Texas White House was the point of much speculation.
It was a great trip. We had the chance to meet legislative staff and expand our networks; meet a very interesting artist; sample some good food; do a Segway Tour of Austin; and meet with SHSU alumni. We can’t wait for the next trip.