If Lyndon Baines Johnson was larger than life, the family ranch with which he identified, which he and Lady Bird fondly called their "heart's home," and which he made the Texas White House during his five years as president, was part of the reason. In this innovative history of the Johnson Ranch, its ethos and operation, Hal K. Rothman has told a story unlike any other in western history. It is a story of national and even international dimensions, yet truly grounded in the Texas earth. It is a story of the relationship between power and place in American culture.
The Johnson Ranch, to which LBJ took foreign dignitaries and national political leaders and to which he himself returned often while in office for renewal and perspective, represented the "real" America to many of its visitors. For many Americans (and perhaps for Johnson himself), the Texas White House evoked the national ethos about rural America and family ties, yet it also had rapid access by jet and the most sophisticated communications system in the world.
In this detailed and engagingly written account of the way the ranch was used during Johnson's years in public office, readers will learn who visited, how they were fed and entertained and how LBJ conducted the nation's business while there. Readers will also get a fascinating interpretation of the role of the ranch in forming Johnson’s own self-image, in promoting Johnson and his rags-to-riches story to the voting public, and in offering Johnson in retirement the one thing he truly craved: control. The Johnson Ranch offers a fascinating insight into the meaning of place in American politics and culture.
After the president's death, and in accordance with Johnson's wishes, parts of the ranch were incorporated into the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, which now consists of the Boyhood Home in Johnson City, the Birthplace, the Johnson Settlement, and the Texas White House. Through the experiences it represents, which are an integral part of Johnson's legacy, it has become one more way in which this dynamic president has influenced U.S. history.
What Readers Are Saying:
“Hal Rothman once again demonstrates his talents and range with this very readable book, which is as much a biography of Lyndon in Texas as it is a biography of his prototype presidential ranch. Those who know and cherish the Texas Hill Country will understand Johnson’s pleasure in his Western White House, and will chuckle at his use of it to teach others lessons about places they’d forgotten, or never knew. This is another splendid Rothman book.”--Dan Flores, author, Horizontal Yellow and The Natural West
“Hal Rothman once again demonstrates his talents and range with this very readable book, which is as much a biography of Lyndon in Texas as it is a biography of his prototype presidential ranch. Those who know and cherish the Texas Hill Country will understand Johnson’s pleasure in his Western White House, and will chuckle at his use of it to teach others lessons about places they’d forgotten, or never knew. This is another splendid Rothman book.” --Dan Flores, author, Horizontal Yellow and The Natural West
“. . . Rothman does a good job of proving the importance of ‘the home place’ in the America of the 1960s. . . Johnson wanted a place where he could be biggest and always right, and the ranch was–and during his five-year presidency became even more so–that place.” --Wichita Falls Times Record News
“Mr. Rothman does a nice job of explaining the politics of place, as well as describing the appeal of life on the LBJ Ranch.” --The Dallas Morning News
“Hal Rothman succeeded in illuminating the importance of the ranch to LBJ, both personally and politically. Throughout Johnson’s political career and especially after his ascendancy to the presidency, the ranch increased awareness of the Texas Hill Country and of the myth of the American West throughout the world. It also showed LBJ’s Hays County friends and nemeses alike that he had indeed ‘arrived.’” --East Texas State Historical Association
“By centering imaginatively around the ranch and its environs in that unique American region of the hill country of Texas, Rothman offers a useful approach to understanding the always fascinating Lyndon Johnson.” --Journal of American History
“. . . an interesting study. . . For the presidential years, Rothman’s narrative is strong and well informed, and he provides useful insights into an important aspect of recent presidents–their retreats. Indeed, Johnson’s symbolic use of the ranch is now being replicated by George W. Bush in his ‘Western White House’ near Crawford, Texas.” --Journal of Southern History
“Noted environmental historian Hal K. Rothman explores a landscape of myth, power, and personal meaning in LBJ’s Texas White House. Rothman’s work certainly succeeds in establishing the significance of the LBJ ranch as both political symbol and personal refuge.” --Western Historical Quarterly
“This is not an exhaustive study of Johnson’s entire career or a laborious treatise on the inner workings of the Senate or presidential administrations. Rotherman provided an innovative look at both Johnson and the role of place and symbols in modern American history. Texas and the South followed a slower, more cumbersome route than the rest of the nation in this progression. In this transition, Johnson’s ranch represented both the past and the future both symbolically and in reality. To Johnson, the image remained as important as its contributions, and Rothman cleverly captured the multiple meanings of the site.” --Southwestern Historical Quarterly