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We owe so much to Lady Bird
Keep Liberty County Beautiful
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A few weeks ago, former first lady Lady Bird Johnson passed away.
Lady Bird spent a majority of her 94 years working vigorously to promote the appreciation and protection of our natural resources.
Claudia Taylor Johnson acquired her nickname supposedly as a young child when the family’s maid commented that she was “as purty (a southern word) as a bird.” The name stuck.
Lady Bird came to be known as the environmental first lady in the sixties during her husband’s term as president. Because of her tireless advocacy enhancing and protecting our country’s natural resources, more than 50 pieces of legislation for conservation and beautification became laws during her husband’s administration.  
Today, I think most people associate Lady Bird with the wildflowers often seen in areas along our nation’s highways. But her efforts extended far beyond those beautification projects.
Through her campaign for national beautification, the Beautification Act of 1965 was signed in to law. This law, known as “Lady Bird’s Bill,” created restrictions on outdoor advertising along major highways and the interstate system. It also required the removal or screening of certain types of junkyards along major highways. The law also encouraged scenic enhancement and roadside development.  
As a part of her legacy, the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act requires at least .25 of one percent of funds expended for landscaping projects along the highway system be used to add native flowers, plants and trees.
The implications of the term “beautification” evidently concerned Mrs. Johnson as it does many of us in the Keep America Beautiful effort.
Far too often, people assume it means projects that are trivial or cosmetic. Far from it! Beautification projects mean so much more. She emphasized that beautification means “clean waters, clean air, clean roadsides, safe waste disposal and preservation of valued landmarks as well as parks and wilderness areas.”
While Keep America Beautiful was originally formed in 1953, Lady Bird’s efforts brought national attention to the organization and its mission in the 1960’s.
She convened the White House Conference on Natural Beauty in 1965 and championed the findings of that conference through her public support of the Keep America Beautiful Program.
As KAB President G. Raymond Empson shares, “Lady Bird always believed that natural beauty was much more than cosmetics. She understood — and helped others to understand — that beautification efforts have a larger, ripple effect throughout all of society.”
Recent studies at the University of Illinois and the Wharton School of Business have proven beautification efforts, such as planting trees and flowers in public spaces and removing signs of blight such as litter and graffiti, increase property values, decrease crime, improve public health and can even improve student performance.
Lady Bird truly was ahead of her time. She recognized these connections and knew the value of taking care of our communities and enhancing our green spaces.
These days, we have so many “enviro-celebrities” and pseudo-environmentalists who have jumped on the “green” wagon because it is the latest cool thing to do.It is refreshing to remember this woman who was a true environmentalist with the drive to make her vision a reality. She was real. Her legacy was she legitimized environmental issues as a national priority. The environmental movement today owes her a tremendous debt of gratitude.
The next time you drive by wildflowers along the roadside, I hope you will say a brief prayer of thanks for this woman who will continue to live in the beauty of our country’s resources that she worked so hard to enhance.  
Thank you, Lady Bird!
For more information on Keep Liberty County Beautiful programs, contact me at 368-4888 or
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