When I was a teenager aching over the assassination of John Kennedy, politics seemed very present. The activities of the two daughters of Lyndon Johnson, who were in my generation, were almost as fascinating as the somewhat earlier trauma of Elvis going off to the army. Priscilla Presley, Linda Byrd and Lucy Johnson, in my early life these were examples of girls who lived lives much more interesting than mine, served as conduits to larger possibilities.
How strange it is that after decades of never thinking particularly about those presidential daughters, my life would intersect with one of them. And that interior design would be the conduit.
This year’s American Antique Show in New York City, which benefits the American Folk Art Museum, introduced a new program to involve a different state each year. This, the inaugural year of the new program, featured Texas. Linda Byrd Johnson Robb was selected as the Honorary Chairman of the Texas Delegation and I was named the Designer of Honor from Texas. This dual involvement thrust us side by side along with lots of distinguished Texans and New Yorkers at various events.
It was fascinating to get to know Linda Robb, to hear her anecdotes about life with her parents and husband, former Virginia governor and Senator Charles “Chuck” Robb. She was warm, funny, and very sharp. Years in the high beam of public service have obviously polished her yet she seems as natural and genuine as a long time friend. She joked about having to gather up some of her infrequently used "bling" due to the number of parties and events given in honor of the Texas Delegation. One of my favorite items was a beautiful diamond necklace she was wearing which had been created out of one of her mother's brooches.
At a small luncheon several of us pressed her to share some stories of her experiences. She alternated between some insights about her husband’s continued involvement, post official retirement, with national security issues, a brief accounting of how her father was somewhat involved in the Metropolitan Museum's obtaining the Temple of Dendur, and other interesting tidbits. There was also a fascinating discussion about etiquette at State dinners which had the immediate effect of all of us immediately paying more attention to our own manners as we munched and chatted through lunch.
Lest we became too overwhelmed with the seriousness of the conversations of the day, Linda pulled out lots of charming photos of her children and grandchildren, once again connecting to us all in a mood of normalcy and family.
Lady Bird seems to have bequeathed more than jewelry to this daughter... brains and beneficence. Who knew that winning an interior design prize would connect me to a little history?