On Aug. 27, 1969, Lady Bird Johnson Grove was officially dedicated to its namesake, the former first lady. A big ceremony was held, and a kind of incredible presidential entourage flew in for the ceremony.
In addition to the woman of the hour, the dignitaries included President Richard M. Nixon, former President Lyndon B. Johnson, California Governor (and future president) Ronald Reagan, the Revered Billy Graham and others.
Ferndale native son Don Clausen, who represented Humboldt in Congress at the time, and who was and early and strong advocate for Redwood National Park, was at the airport along with hundreds or thousands of other well-wishers (and protesters) to greet the presidential plane — pretty sure it was the Air Force One of its day — as it touched down at ACV that afternoon. Clausen had carried the bill naming one corner of the new national park for Lady Bird, who had taken up conservation as her particular cause during her husband’s time in office.
It happened to be Lyndon Johnson’s birthday. Archival footage (see below) shows that Nixon and Johnson each gave short speeches on the tarmac. Here’s what they said.
PRESIDENT RICHARD M. NIXON
We are here, as I know all of you know, for a very special occasion. We are going into the redwoods to dedicate a park.
And I think it most significant that in the whole history of this country there has been no First Lady who, in the field of beautification and in the field of dedication to the conservation of the natural beauty of our country, has done more than Lady Bird Johnson – Mrs. Johnson.
We are here to dedicate these magnificent redwoods to Mrs. Johnson under the name of Lady Bird Johnson Grove.
But also we are here, it happens by coincidence, on another day. It happens that President Johnson and I have several things in common. We both were born in small towns. We both served in the the House. We both served in the Senate of the United States. We both served as Vice President, and we have both served as President of the United States. And we both are very fortunate in the fact, we think, that we married above ourselves to Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Nixon.
But also today, I know you want to join us in wishing President Johnson a happy birthday. This is is 61st birthday. How about that!
[At this point, “Happy Birthday was sung to former President Johnson.]
This is President Johnson’s first visit to this part of California; I know that you would all like to hear from him.
PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON
Mr. President and Mrs. Nixon, Governor Reagan, Congressman Clausen, Senator Murphy:
I want to express the appreciation of the Johnson family to the President ant the First Lady for their generosity and their thoughtfulness today.
Since the President has let out how old I am, I just want to say that I don’t know of any one of the 61 birthdays that I have had where I have been happier or where people have done more to try to make me happy. When you come to a good congressional district, a beautiful place in a beautiful State and a beautiful land, you are naturally appreciative.
When the President and the First Lady of the United States recognize and honor the work of what I believe to be a great woman, that is the best birthday present I could have.
Once the speechifying at the airport was finished and many hands had been shook, the dignitaries were piled into a helicopter and flown north for the the official dedication ceremony at the grove. Many more fine things were said. A plaque was left.
Below: Archival footage of the visit preserved on archive.org: