Many people think every first lady has her own postage stamp, according to Shirley James. "People often ask me: Don't all the first ladies have their own stamp?" says the former executive assistant to Lady Bird Johnson, who is thrilled that her former boss is about to become only the fifth first lady to have a postage stamp created in her honor. Stamps were also created for first ladies Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The U.S. Postal Service will begin issuing the Lady Bird Johnson Forever stamps in advance of Mrs. Johnson’s centennial birthday on December 22. A First-Day-of-Issue ceremony, free and open to the public will take place at 11 a.m. Friday, November 30, at the Wildflower Center. The stamps will be available there and later in your local post office.
Mrs. Johnson's Forever stamp will feature her official White House portrait – an oil painting by Elizabeth Shoumatoff. Five additional stamps - adaptations of stamps originally issued in the 1960s – will be issued along with the Lady Bird Johnson stamp. These commemorate the visible legacy left by her projects to enhance the beauty of cities and highways.
The idea for the stamp came from James – who is quick to point out that many influential people worked diligently to make the stamp a reality including Postmaster General W. Marvin Watson.
Alongside the Lady Bird stamp, the Postal Service is re-issuing five stamps that highlight Mrs. Johnson's efforts in conservation and beautification. Keep an eye out for these five stamps as well:
"How moving it was that all five of the living former first ladies showed their affection and admiration for Mrs. J by lending their support. Plus, there was a 'grassroots' campaign – with hundreds sending letters of endorsement.
"Mrs. J deserves a stamp," says James. "We associate her with 'beautification' and she made her mark on the American people with her great love for the environment. She created an awareness that has become even more vital today. But we mustn't forget that Mrs. J did so much more – especially for Head Start."
After receiving a call from James, Lyndon K. Boozer – whose mother, Yolanda Boozer, was a long-time secretary to President Johnson – joined in the effort to honor the former first lady whose husband was his namesake.
In 2007, Boozer successfully spearheaded a previous effort to rename the U.S. Department of Education federal building after President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
For the Lady Bird Johnson Centennial stamp, his first call was to Thurgood Marshall, Jr., who was an admirer of the Johnson family and of Mrs. Johnson in particular. President Johnson had appointed his father, Chief Justice Thurgood Marshall, to the U.S. Supreme Court. As it happened, Thurgood Marshall, Jr., was chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors, and he immediately lent his personal support with a letter of recommendation to the Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee.
"A lot of people who knew and loved Mrs. Johnson wanted to see this happen," says Boozer. "It's really nice to see her getting credit for her commitment to sustainability, conservation and the environment -- all before it was common knowledge that it was the right thing to do."
In a letter of support for the stamp, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote, "Lady Bird Johnson was a gracious woman, and one of our nation's most effective and influential first ladies. Her mark upon our country can easily be found in the legacy of her campaign to beautify our public spaces and preserve and protect our natural environment for future generations to enjoy. Often toiling in the shadow of President Johnson's oversized personality, Mrs. Johnson was a remarkable woman in her own right, full of energy, intelligence and compassion."
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe calls Lady Bird Johnson an environmentalist before the term became part of the American lexicon. The Lady Bird Johnson Forever stamp is the perfect show of gratitude for this environmental leadership on what would have been Mrs. Johnson's 100th birthday.
The Lady Bird Johnson stamps are being issued as Forever stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.