WASHINGTON — Lyndon Baines Johnson, whose only Washington memorial has been a hard-to-find grove on an island in the Potomac River, finally has a monument suitable to his larger-than-life legacy — the Department of Education building.
The daughters of the nation's 36th president, relatives, associates and friends gathered Monday morning on the steps of the large education headquarters across from the National Air and Space Museum to dedicate former Federal Building 6 in honor of the Texas Democrat — the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education.
Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, a Texan, presided at the ceremony, which featured Johnson's daughters Lynda Robb and Luci Baines Johnson, their spouses, children, most of their 11 grandchildren and such notables as Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, former Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and former Johnson aide Joe Califano.
"More than 60 education laws were part of the vast number of legislative measures that made up the Great Society," Robb said. "But Daddy wasn't as interested in the number of laws he helped enact as he was in the number of lives those laws help enrich."
"It's a thrilling experience for all of us," said her sister, Luci. "It's a wonderful day of achievement." She said the day was "a great love feast."
"Nothing meant more to my father than education."
Hutchison, who sponsored the bill honoring LBJ in the Senate, said Johnson as president pledged "to make this the century of the educated man."
"And I know Lady Bird would have added 'and woman, too,'" said Hutchison as the Johnson daughters nodded their heads and laughed. Lady Bird Johnson died July 11 but was aware of and pleased with the planned dedication.
Texas Democrats, with support from some Texas Republicans, agitated for years to get the education building named for Johnson. But a fellow Texan, former House Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who disliked Johnson's "big government" polices, blocked the effort.
Congress approved the name change earlier this year when the Democrats won control of both chambers. President Bush, another president from Texas, signed the bill in March.
LBJ had a lengthy Washington career as a member of the House of Representatives and Senate, Senate majority leader, vice president and president from 1963-1969.
"This is one of the proudest moments of our lives," Robb said, standing next to her sister. "This would have meant so much to both of our parents."