July 28, 2015


“The nature that we are concerned with, ultimately, is human nature.”  Lady Bird Johnson

Carol writes:   The Fredericksburg area’s most proud claim to fame is the fact that it was home to two very famous men from mid-20th century American history—Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and President Lyndon Baines Johnson—and we planned to learn a lot more about both during our stay in Fredericksburg.  The irresistible draw of the Hill Country is also due to the ambience created by a special blend of Spanish and German culture,
plus the natural features of its unique topography which provide an endless variety of outdoor activities.  We noticed that most of the license plates we encountered in our campground were from Texas, so we can vouch for the fact that many Texans vacation in the Hill Country. 

As we entered Fredericksburg, I must admit it seemed a little strange to see welcoming signs in German, in addition to restaurants with Bavarian-style architecture, 
complete with outdoor beer gardens.  German food was featured on almost every posted menu.  Al felt like he was in bratwurst heaven!

As for the origin of the German influence...

In the 1800s, thousands of German immigrants, mostly in search of cheap land and political and religious freedom, were among the first Europeans to establish permanent settlements in the Texas Hill Country.  Fredericksburg was named in honor of Frederick the Great of Prussia, and the heavy German connection continues to this day.


I have said many times that Al and I are unapologetic “presidential library junkies.” Some of our most interesting days during our travels have been the ones spent at a presidential library, which we find to be the best source of the memorabilia and history that we find so compelling.  In addition to the 9 presidential libraries that we have visited, we try to make an effort to visit other sites that have a presidential connection.  And here we were in LBJ country!

Just outside of Fredericksburg is the little town of Stonewall, which was center on the world stage from 1963 to 1969 as home of the so-called “Texas White House” during the term of President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

The driving self-guided LBJ Ranch Tour held great expectations for us.  We headed straight to the Texas White House,

our main point of interest.  We were fortunate to get on a ranger-guided tour that included just one other couple—practically a private tour!  Photographs were not permitted inside the house, but plenty were available on the Internet, so that is what I have used here.  All the rooms, with exception of Lady Bird Johnson’s bedroom, had been restored to the 1960s era with genuine period pieces owned by the Johnson heirs. 

We started in the President’s simple rustic office,

then into the den area where many world figures were entertained throughout the Johnson Presidency.

Notice the presidential recliner in its position of honor, with the set of 3 TVs on which President Johnson would often listen to all 3 network newscasts simultaneously.  LBJ had very strong feelings about how his administration was viewed in the press, and he didn’t hesitate to make a heated phone call to a network executive if he felt he was being treated unfairly.

After seeing the kitchen and dining room, the tour concluded in the bedrooms—first the President’s simple bedroom where LBJ died of a massive stroke in January 1973,

then Lady Bird’s separate bedroom, which her will stipulated should remain as it was when she died in 2007.

It was a fascinating visit to the home of an important historical figure from an era that was so pivotal in our nation’s history.  How generous of the Johnson family to allow us this most intimate peak inside...

LBJ was sworn in as President within an hour after the gruesome assassination of President John Kennedy. Rightfully so, he deserves credit for holding a grieving nation together after such a traumatizing event.  However, the relentless protests over LBJ’s subsequent Vietnam policy, as well as the horrendous loss of American life, eventually doomed the Johnson presidency. During this time, it was at his Texas ranch where LBJ found solace and rejuvenation.  He threw famous Texas barbecues for friends, as well as world leaders, under the stately live oaks that lined the grassy banks of the Pedernales River which flowed peacefully along the front yard of the ranch. 

Many a cabinet meeting was held beneath this ancient live oak.

The seminal ideas of many of LBJ’s Great Society domestic programs were born right at the LBJ ranch.

Outdoors there was much more—
the simple swimming pool,

Johnson’s historic cars,

a smaller version of Air Force One for flights to the ranch,

and the simple one-room schoolhouse where young Lyndon first attended school.

The Johnson Family Cemetery was elegant in its simplicity--no fancy presidential monument, just simple individual headstones fittingly large enough for a president and his wife, once again joined with the Johnson ancestors,

and just in sight of a re-creation of the home where LBJ was born.

Wow!  It had been a hot day on the LBJ ranch, much like the thousands of summer days President Lyndon Baines Johnson had savored in the Texas Hill Country over nearly 7 decades of life.  Certainly, LBJ was a complicated man, his presidency much debated at a time of tremendous national upheaval, but it was interesting to follow his meteoric rise from a simple Texas classroom teacher to the ultimate office of world power in the presidency of the United States.  We thoroughly enjoyed our detailed glimpse back into the history of his life.


As a lover of naval history, when Al discovered that the National Museum of the Pacific War was located in Fredericksburg, that museum rose to the top of Hill Country attractions that we wanted to visit.  The museum was right next door to what was once the historic Nimitz Hotel, built by Admiral Nimitz’s grandfather.  Today the hotel has been restored to reflect its historic ship-like superstructure from an earlier time.

Chester Nimitz was a German Texan whose grandfather was a seaman in the German Merchant Marine. 

Young Chester with his grandfather

Unable to obtain an appointment to West Point, young Nimitz studied hard and was rewarded with an appointment to the Naval Academy.  During WW I and between the wars, the Nimitz naval career blossomed to the point that just days after Pearl Harbor he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet. He was truly God’s gift to a nation at a time when the stakes could not have been higher.

The Pacific War Museum

is dedicated to all those who served in the Pacific War.  The chronological recounting of horrendous battles on land and sea, along with stories of individual heroism and bravery, caused one to reflect long after the museum visit was over.

Everything about this museum was first class and deserving of at least a full day’s visit.  The Memorial Courtyard

was filled with over 1800 plaques dedicated to those who served in the Pacific during WW II.  Many of the plaques were sponsored by family members honoring loved ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  Particularly touching were the plaques honoring our nation's battleships and the submarines on eternal patrol.  They truly are not forgotten.

After learning so much more about these two bigger-than-life figures who were called upon for service to the country during some very bleak times, my final thought was to give a silent prayer of thanks for the Texas soil that created and nurtured their leadership.

 “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”  Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

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