WASHINGTON—Lyndon Baines Johnson's daughters, Lynda Robb and Luci Baines Johnson, returned to the Oval Office on Friday for a bill-signing that named the Education Department headquarters building after their father, the 36th president.
It was a Texas reunion for the Johnson daughters and their families and President Bush and first lady Laura Bush.
"We're all children of the Oval Office," Bush said, according to Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, who sponsored the legislation.
Bush, the 43rd president, was a frequent White House guest when his father, the 41st president, was in office. The Johnson sisters grew up in the White House during their father's presidency in 1963-69. LBJ, a Democrat, was the first Texas president and George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, both Republicans, were and are the second and third presidents from the Lone Star State.
"We had a wonderful day," Lynda Robb said by phone after the signing ceremony. "The Bushes couldn't have been nicer."
Laura Bush took the family group of about 20 on a tour of the residence.
Former first lady Lady Bird Johnson, 94, who's too frail to travel, attended the ceremony by phone. "The president placed a call to mother," said Robb, who said she was distracted by her own grandchild during the event.
"The president was no match for my grandchild," she said.
Lady Bird Johnson issued a statement after the signing, saying, "This will be a fitting tribute to Lyndon, who worked so hard to make life better for so many, and—were he alive—I can think of nothing that would please him more!"
"Lyndon wanted so much for the children of our country to have a healthy and rewarding life and he believed that education was the key to fulfilling that hope," the statement said. "His life was about education, and I believe that he would have wished to be remembered as the `education president.'"
Lawmakers were eager to move the bill quickly so that the former first lady would know that the Department of Education headquarters, near Capitol Hill, will be known as the Lyndon Baines Johnson Federal Building.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, a bill co-sponsor who attended Friday's signing, afterward emphasized the bipartisan nature of the day as well as the bipartisan support for the legislation, which passed both chambers on voice votes without objections.
"It's a great day for Texas," said McCaul, who represents the 10th District, once represented by LBJ.
The bill was stalled for several Congresses by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who objected to the "big government" that Johnson represented.
McCaul said two-thirds of the 32-member Texas delegation to the House of Representatives had supported the legislation this year, as well as both Texas Republican senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn.
The signing came at nearly the same time that the House challenged Bush's leadership on the unpopular Iraq war with a vote calling for a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops. Johnson coped with the unpopular Vietnam War.
But on Friday, the only parallels were Texas-based.
"Nobody needed an interpreter," Green said. "We all talked Texan."
(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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