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Lady Bird Johnson Visits Alabama

Mar. 24, 1964 - Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson spent a day full of both future and past at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., today.

She felt the earth tremble with a static test firing of the Saturn rocket, which is scheduled to carry three men to the Moon by 1970. She expressed “awe of what the mind of man can accomplish.”

“I never dreamed it would be so loud,” she said of the ear-splitting thunder that accompanied the firing. “It was fantastic.”

Mrs. Johnson, whose parents were Alabama-born and raised, also lunched and had tea with 59 Alabama kinfolk who came to Huntsville from all over the state. There were almost twice as many as had first been expected, the oldest 87 years old, the youngest 8.

Mrs. Johnson, who was born Claudia Alta Taylor, reminisced about her childhood summers in Alabama, having come east from Texas with the aunt who reared her after her mother’s death.

Her guides on a tour of the rocket base were Wernher von Braun (pictured left), the center’s director, and James E. Webb, administrator of NASA. The Saturn rocket was described to her as “182 feet high — three feet taller than the White House” with enough thrust to power “100,000 Cadillacs.”

At the tea reception, the First Lady said: “Hearing the towns as we visited together today — Prattville, Birmingham, Wetumpka, Opelika, Montgomery — I could not help but recall the line from the song, ‘How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood.’”

Until she was a teenager, she said, “summertime always meant Alabama to me — the part of the world that meant watermelon cuttings, picnics at the creek, and lots of kinfolks every Sunday. I have loved this day — every moment of it.”


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