50th Anniversary-Lady Bird Johnson Grove

Trinidad Museum’s Photography Room Exhibit commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National and State Parks.  

First Lady Lady Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson (1912-2007), wife of the 36th President of the United States, visited Humboldt County twice: first on November 25, 1968 during a visit to Jedediah Smith State Park, and again on August 27, 1969, when she joined her Past President husband, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and their daughters Lynda Robb and Luci Nugent, their husbands Charles Robb and Ted Nugent,  President Richard Nixon and his wife, Pat Nixon, and their daughters, Tricia and Julie and Julie’s husband David Eisenhower, along with California Governor Ronald Reagan and other dignitaries for a unifying afternoon dedication in the grove.  At no other time in Humboldt County’s history have three United States Presidents, past, present, and future, gathered at one time.

The Eureka Times-Standard published an article by Heather Shelton on March 1, 2018 following the death of Rev. Billy Graham, a participant in the 1960 ceremony:

“On August 27, 1969, President Richard Nixon, former President Lyndon B. Johnson, California Gov. Ronald Reagan, Interior Secretary Walter J. Hickel, U.S. Rep. Don Clausen, U.S. Sen. George Murphy, National Park Service Director George Hartzog Jr., Laurance Rockefeller and the Rev. Billy Graham were in Humboldt County for the dedication of Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park.

“The Times-Standard recently received an email from Milton Phegley-a member of the Save the Redwoods League and a ‘local history junkie’-stating that Graham, who died Feb. 21, had been the last surviving principal participant of the dedication of Lady Bird Johnson Grove.

‘In giving the invocation that day, ‘Phegley said, ‘Rev. Graham called the site ‘a great cathedral under the sky.’…2018 is a landmark year for the Redwood National Park-its 50th anniversary-and also the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Save the Redwoods League.’ “

Lady Bird Johnson’s mission as First Lady was beautification and conservation.  She wrote: “My heart found its home long ago in the beauty, mystery, order and disorder of the flowering earth.”   Working with Congressman Don Clausen (representative from 1963-1982), Save-the-Redwoods League, the Department of the Interior, and State and Federal leaders, she championed the effort to preserve old growth redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) by encouraging formation of Redwood National Park, which today comprises some 133,000 acres, in Del Norte and Humboldt Counties.  Within the boundaries of the National Park are three existing California State Parks, Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast Redwoods and Prairie Creek.  Much of the land was acquired from private landowners, with positive and negative economic and social effects still in memory.  President Johnson signed into law legislation creating Redwood National Park on October 2, 1968, a few months before he left office.

Many of the trails and camp grounds in the park are well known to local residents and visitors, however, since Lady Bird Johnson Grove off Bald Hills Road about 20 miles north of Trinidad, with its serene 1.4 mile trail, is one of the most popular for its proximity to Trinidad, Trinidad Museum chose to highlight the Grove and its dedication, which brought political leaders to Humboldt County for a celebratory day in the awe-inspiring redwoods.

Special thanks to Redwood National State and National Parks, Orick, for the loan of most of the photographs, newspaper articles, and the oil painting by C. T. Wilson, and to Special Collections, Humboldt State University for permission to show the black and white silent video of the arrival of dignitaries at the Eureka-Arcata Airport and of the dedication ceremony itself on August 27, 1969.  The text of remarks made by President Nixon and Former President Johnson can be read in the binder next to the video.

Curators of the exhibit are Ashley Mobley, Alexandra Cox and Patti Fleschner.