Conversation #3

When we moved to San Marcos, I was surprised to realize we had our own LBJ Museum. After all, the JBJ Presidential Museum is just up the road in Austin on the campus of The University of Texas. This museum has wisely, in my opinion, chosen to focus on Lyndon Baines Johnson’s connection to San Marcos, Texas State University, and the Texas Hill Country. From the Museum’s website:

“The Lyndon Baines Johnson Museum of San Marcos is dedicated to President Johnson’s formative years and how his early experiences as a college student and schoolteacher impacted the landmark legislation passed during his presidency from 1963-1969. President Johnson spent his college years in San Marcos at Southwest Texas State Teachers College – now Texas State University – from 1927-1930. Here he honed his political skills and developed a strong commitment to civil rights, education and eliminating poverty. President Johnson announced the creation of the Job Corps program on campus in November, 1964 and signed the Higher Education Act at the university in November, 1965.”

James Martin, the Director of the Museum, spent an hour with me telling me of the Museum’s history and showing me around the building on the Courthouse Square. Since much of the history he shared is available on the website so I won’t share it here, but what isn’t visible on the website is his passion for the story to be told here or, from what he told me, the passion of the members of the board and other supporters of hidden treasure.

It’s not a huge collection yet, but it does have some treasures, the desk on which President Johnson sighed the Higher Education Act just up the street at the Texas State Campus, a variety of pictures and portraits, and a collection of pens used to sign various pieces of legislation. I happened to be there the day after Carol Channing passed away so I was particularly taken by the picture of President Johnson dancing with Ms. Channing. I don’t now what the occasion was, but everyone was formally dressed and she sported a full “Dolly-style” feathered headdress. Something about the picture just made me smile. When I suggested the museum should tweet that picture given the timing, James let me know that most people who visit the museum don’t know who she is. (Suddenly, I felt a bit older than I had when I walked in the door.)

James also suggested I go see the LBJ MLK Crossroads Memorial. My husband and I have driven through the intersection where it’s located, but had missed both the memorial and the symbolism of the fact that we were on the intersection of LBJ Drive and MLK Drive. According to the Tour San Marcos website, it is the only such intersection in America. It was the starting point for yesterday’s community MLK Day march. The ending point was the Calaboose further down MLK Drive. This past Saturday we drove there to see the Memorial which is lovely. The inscription around the rim reads, “To stand for another’s freedom is to free yourself.” The same inscription is on the plaque in the ground and it is repeated in several languages. (We were there at the wrong time of day for a good picture of the plaque.)

LBJ MLK Crossroads Memorial

While James is from Ft. Worth originally, he has clearly adopted his new hometown. He has big dreams for the Museum and the role it could play in the San Marcos community as he works to improve the Museum and connect it to other institutions and museums in the community. He generously gave me a list of names of people I might want to talk with. I’m looking forward to meeting them and I hope you will enjoy reading about them.

As I expected, conversations with people about what interests them are great fun! I’ve heard from a couple of people that this project has inspired them to start up a conversation or two. I hope it inspires other readers and I’d love to hear from you about your adventures. After all, to quote Margaret J. Wheatley again, (see Bibliography page for the citation for Simple Conversations) “[i]f we can sit together and talk about what’s important to us, we begin to come alive” and I believe we will all benefit from such conversations!

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