AUSTIN, Texas — Days after the congressional aide met the University of Texas history and journalism graduate in Austin, he boldly proposed marriage.
Claudia Alta Taylor, the 21-year-old rancher's daughter known to her friends as "Bird," was intrigued but thought Lyndon Johnson's proposal was much too impulsive. Her clearly smitten suitor, however, was persistent.
"It is an important decision," he wrote in one of the nearly 90 love letters they exchanged in their 10-week courtship in 1934. "It isn't being made in one night ... but your lack of decision hasn't tempered either my affection, devotion or ability to know what I want."
She replied that his proposal and repeated insistence "sort of put me on the spot, didn't it, dear? All I can say, in absolutely honesty, is — I love you, I don't know how everlastingly I love you — so I can't answer you yet."
The correspondence between the 26-year-old future president and the woman the world would come to know as Lady Bird are available for public review for the first time starting today — Valentine's Day — at the LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas at Austin.
He signs them, "Lyndon," or "Lyndon Baines." She signs, "Bird." One closes, "Do you still love me? Devotedly, Bird."
The name was given to her by a caretaker nurse who described her as "pretty as a lady bird."
Claudia Anderson, the library's supervisory archivist, said Wednesday that Johnson is "certainly romantic in these letters in that he is wooing her, he's trying to impress her and he makes various arguments why they should get married."
"I would not really call these letters sentimental. He wants a commitment from her. ... His letters express that," Anderson said. "They are fascinating."
The couple married Nov. 17, 1934, four days after the last letter in the collection.