Johnson Family Cemetery
Photo by Laurence Parent
President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s life came full circle when he was laid to rest in the Johnson Family Cemetery on January 25, 1973. In our mobile society, few people--let alone prominent world leaders--have so many of their lives' significant moments occurring in one place. The cemetery is just a stone’s throw from the birthsite of Lyndon Johnson, and just down the road from the Texas White House, where our 36th President lived for over two decades. Throughout his life, President Johnson expressed his love for the Hill Country of Texas, "where people know when you are sick, love you while you are alive, and miss you when you die."
The Retirement Years
On March 31, 1968, President Johnson shocked the Nation by going on television and announcing, "I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President." He served out his term then retired to the LBJ Ranch in January, 1969. Though often plagued with poor health, he spent his final years writing his memoirs and overseeing the construction of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum on the campus of the University of Texas. He was also active in community affairs and attended numerous local events. He loved to ride around the ranch in his white convertibles overseeing the cattle operations and visiting with the many children who were growing up on the ranch. He often listened to the song "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" by B. J. Thomas while driving around the ranch in his Lincolns. President Johnson heard this song when he saw his favorite movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. On January 22, 1973, he was in his bedroom when he suffered his third heart attack and passed away. He was 64 years old.
LBJ Library Photo
The History of the Cemetery
Most of the people buried in the cemetery are related to Lyndon Johnson. His great grandmother, Priscilla Bunton, was the first person buried here. She passed away on April 28, 1905, during a violent storm, and her family was unable to cross the flooding river to lay her next to her husband in the Stonewall Community Cemetery. The family chose a grove of live oak trees on property belonging to Lyndon Johnson’s grandfather for Mrs. Bunton’s burial site. Her gravestone is the white Georgia marble marker with the lamb on top. In 1937, LBJ’s father, Sam Ealy Johnson, Jr., was buried in the cemetery. Sam Johnson had been a state legislator who was much admired for procuring pensions for Civil War veterans and securing passage of legislation to improve Hill Country roads. Sam had many friends and benefactors, and a large crowd came to pay their respects to him. Lyndon Johnson had just recently been elected as a U.S. congressman, so the funeral was attended by the Governor of Texas and other important dignitaries. In 1946, Frank Seaward, a rock mason from Stonewall, built the wall enclosing the cemetery. The wall was constructed to give identity to the cemetery, as well as to minimize the harmful effects of Pedernales River flooding. Repairs were made on the wall after major floods in 1952 and 1959.
While living at the Texas White House, President Johnson loved to visit the cemetery. He said, "I come down here almost every evening when I’m at home. It’s always quiet and peaceful here under the shade of these beautiful oak trees."
The President’s Funeral
President Johnson’s body lay in state at the LBJ Library in Austin, and then in state in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. President Johnson’s funeral at the LBJ Ranch took place on the cold and rainy day of January 25, 1973. He once told Mrs. Johnson, "When I die I don’t just want our friends who can come in their private planes. I want the men in their pickup trucks and the women whose slips hang down below their dresses to be welcome, too...." Hundreds of people attended the funeral, which was conducted by Reverend Billy Graham.
The Scene Today
The most prominent gravestone in the cemetery is the gray one with the Martin name on it. Frank and Clarence Martin were President Johnson’s aunt and uncle. The President bought the ranch from Frank Martin in 1951. President Johnson’s gravestone is the tallest marker in the main row. To the right are his mother, Rebekah; his father, Sam Ealy, Jr.; and his paternal grandparents, Sam Ealy Sr. and Eliza. To the left of the President is where Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson is laid to rest. The remaining headstones belong to the President’s brother, Sam, and his three sisters, Rebekah, Josepha and Lucia. Rebekah’s husband, Oscar Bobbitt, is also buried in the main row as well as Lucia's husband, Birge Alexander.
Drawing by Diana Motiejunaite Warren 1997
The Live Oaks
The beautiful trees in the cemetery are live oaks--a predominantly Southern tree. They are unique among oaks in that they are evergreen; they keep their dark green canopy year-round. After one of the trees in the cemetery died, Mrs. Johnson had a tree ring study conducted on it, and the tree was found to be almost 200 years old. The fuzzy, round plants growing on the trees are ball moss. Ball moss is closely related to the better known Spanish moss. It is not actually a moss, but rather an epiphyte, or air plant. It attaches to the trees, but it derives its nutrition from the air, thus it is non-parasitic.
The Johnson Family Cemetery is privately owned by the Johnson family. Please respect their requests and do not enter the cemetery.
Did You Know?
Lyndon Johnson's first career was as a teacher and principal of a Mexican-American school in Cotulla, Texas. He later taught debate in Houston. Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park