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The KHOU-TV Collection - Press Barbecue at LBJ Ranch (1963)

Houston Metropolitan Research Center

Silent | 1963

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  •  The self-appointed “King of Barbecue” Walter Jetton holds up a rack of ribs. To the right of President Lyndon B. Johnson is Secretary of State Dean Rusk.  
  •  KHOU reporter Nick Gearhart chats with First Lady Lady Bird Johnson 
  •  President Johnson takes White House Press Secretary Pierre Salinger for a horseback ride. The horse Johnson is riding is named Lady B, while Salinger’s mount is called Old Point.  
  •  The ranch house, later known as the Texas White House, decorated in anticipation of West German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard’s visit  
 
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Shortly after assuming the position of president, Lyndon B. Johnson welcomed West German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard for an official state visit. Rather than hosting a formal State Dinner in Washington, DC, however, the new president invited the chancellor and his entourage to Stonewall for a barbecue, the first presidential barbecue in history. The state dinner—dubbed the Sparerib Summit—was not the weekend’s first barbecue. On December 27, two days before Chancellor Erhard’s arrival, the President and First Lady hosted some 200 reporters and photographers. Lady Bird Johnson gave a guided bus tour of the ranch, while Lyndon Johnson showed White House Press Secretary Pierre Salinger around on horseback. The President’s favorite pitmaster, Walter Jetton, catered the meal. This news footage captures the event and many of its activities, including KHOU reporter Nick Gearhart speaking with the First Lady.
The digital preservation of this collection was made possible by a grant to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image and the Houston Public Library from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.
 
Many more films from the KHOU-TV Collection are available on the Houston Public Library Houston Area Digital Archives website.
Thirty-sixth president of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, was born on a hill country farm near Stonewall, Texas, on August 27, 1908, to Samuel Ealy Johnson, a former Texas legislator, and Rebekah Baines Johnson. He attended Southwest Teachers College, now Texas State University, graduating with a degree in history and social science in 1930. LBJ spent one year as principal and teacher in Cotulla, educating impoverished Hispanic elementary school students. He became the secretary to Texas Congressman Richard M. Kleberg in 1931; the four-year position helped him gain influential contacts in Washington. Johnson married Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor on November 17, 1934.
 
LBJ acted as Director of the National Youth Administration in Texas from 1935 to 1937. Johnson won his first legislative election in 1937 for the 10th Congressional District, a position he held for 11 years. He was a firm supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal and in 1940 acted as Chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee. In 1948, following his service as a Lieutenant Naval Commander during World War II, LBJ ran as the Democratic nominee for Senate. In a cloud of controversy, he narrowly defeated former Texas Governor Coke Stevens and easily beat his Republican opponent in the general election. Before winning his second Senate term, LBJ was elected Majority Whip in 1951, became the youngest ever Minority Senate Leader in 1953, and was voted Majority Leader in 1954. Johnson unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960 but was selected to be Vice President under John F. Kennedy. 
 
Johnson was sworn in as Commander and Chief aboard Air Force One following President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, and won reelection in 1964. As President, he passed landmark legislation with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Debate over military efforts in Vietnam intensified in late 1963 when the President stated that the United States would not withdraw from Southeast Asia. Escalation of the war against North Vietnam brought disapproval from Democrats, claiming the efforts were misguided, and from Republicans who criticized the administration for not executing sufficient military vigor. Antiwar protests, urban riots, and racial tension eroded Johnson’s political base by 1967, which further dissolved following the Tet Offensive in January 1968. On March 31, 1968, Johnson announced that we would not seek a second presidential term.
 
After returning to Texas, Johnson oversaw the construction of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum on the University of Texas at Austin campus. Throughout his political career, LBJ was an influential figure in Texas affairs; his policies brought military bases, crop subsidies, government facilities, and federal jobs to the state. After suffering a massive heart attack, Johnson died at his ranch on January 22, 1973. In February of the same year, NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in honor of one of the country’s most influential Texans.
Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor was born in Karnack, Texas, on December 22, 1912. Lady Bird, the nickname given by nursemaid Alice Tittle, attended high school in Marshall and junior college at Dallas’ St. Mary’s Episcopal College for Women. From 1933 through 1934, she received a Bachelor of Arts in history and a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. 
 
Mutual friends introduced Lady Bird to congressional aide and rising political star, Lyndon Baines Johnson. LBJ proposed on the couple’s first date and the two were married a month later on November 17, 1934. Lady Bird financed her husband’s first congressional campaign for Austin’s 10th District using a portion of her maternal inheritance. During World War II, Lady Bird ran the congressional office while LBJ served in the US Navy. In 1943, Lady Bird purchased Austin Radio station KTBC. The station proved an integral part of the LBJ Holding Company and became the main source of the Johnson family’s fortune. 
 
LBJ’s political career gained momentum in the post-war years, and in 1960, he became Vice President to John F. Kennedy. Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as Commander and Chief aboard Air Force One following President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. As First Lady, Lady Bird initiated the Society for a More Beautiful National Capitol and worked with the American Association of Nurserymen to promote the planting of wildflowers along highways. In 1964, the First Lady traveled through eight southern states aboard her train, “The Lady Bird Special,” to foster support for LBJ’s presidential reelection and the Civil Rights Act. She was influential in promoting the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, referred to as “Lady Bird’s Bill,” and the Head Start program.
 
Following the death of LBJ in 1973, Lady Bird turned her attention to Austin. The Town Lake Beautification Project transformed Austin’s downtown lake, renamed Lady Bird Lake in 2007, into a useable recreation area. On December 22, 1982, Lady Bird and Helen Hayes founded the National Wildflower Research Center outside of Austin. The Wildflower Center was established to increase awareness and research for North American flora. In 1977, the former First Lady received the highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1988. Lady Bird died of natural causes on July 11, 2007, survived by two daughters, seven grandchildren, and  ten great-grandchildren.