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A chance to say goodbye to Lady Bird Johnson

  • Story Highlights
  • Former first lady's death "most peaceful one could ever hope for," friend says
  • Body to lie in repose Friday at wildflower center named for her
  • Burial to follow procession Sunday from Texas Capitol to LBJ Ranch
  • Condolences, tributes from dignitaries pour in
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(CNN) -- Family, friends and admirers will all have a chance to say goodbye this weekend to Lady Bird Johnson, the widow of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who died Wednesday of natural causes at her home in Austin, Texas, a family spokesman said.

The former first lady, who was 94, spent her final days surrounded by friends and family members, who engaged in Bible reading and singing of hymns, said Neal Spelce, a longtime family friend and spokesman.

"It was the most peaceful death one could ever hope for," Spelce said. He noted that although Johnson could not speak since suffering a stroke in 2002, she managed to communicate well.

Johnson died as a Roman Catholic priest was administering last rites, Spelce said. Johnson was Episcopalian; the priest, the Rev. Bob Scott, had been summoned by Johnson's daughter Luci, who is Catholic, Spelce said. Video Watch the former first lady's life in retrospect »

Johnson was released from Seton Medical Center last month after being treated for a mild fever. Her death was unexpected, Spelce said.

Spelce said the former first lady will be buried Sunday at the Johnson family cemetery on the LBJ ranch in Stonewall, which now belongs to the National Park Service. She will lie in repose at the LBJ Library from 1:15 p.m. Friday to 11 a.m. Saturday. Private funeral services will be held Saturday, along with a private graveside service Sunday.

Condolence books will be available for the public to sign at several locations throughout the Austin area, spokeswoman Elizabeth Christian said. Photo See photos from Lady Bird Johnson's life and career »

The family has received condolences from evangelist Billy Graham, former first lady Rosalynn Carter and many other dignitaries, Spelce said.

"Laura and I mourn the passing of our good friend, and a warm and gracious woman, Lady Bird Johnson," President Bush, a fellow Texan, said. "Those who were blessed to know her remember Mrs. Johnson's lively and charming personality, and our nation will always remember her with affection. Mrs. Johnson became first lady on a fateful day in November 1963 -- and was a steady, gentle presence for a mourning nation in the days that followed.

"President Johnson once called her a woman of 'ideals, principles, intelligence and refinement.' She remained so throughout their life together, and in the many years given to her afterward. She was much-loved in our home state of Texas, and the Bush family is fortunate to have known her."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said: "Lady Bird Johnson embodied all that is beautiful and good about the great state of Texas. She inspired generations of Americans with her graceful strength, unwavering commitment to family and keen sense of social justice. Her unflagging efforts to beautify our highways and byways are a lasting legacy, through which our state will forever bear the unmistakable signature of a genuine Texan. We are proud to have known her and, like all Texans, are the better for it."

Another former first lady, Betty Ford, honored Johnson's commitment to the planet.

"Her beautification programs benefited the entire nation. She translated her love for the land and the environment into a lifetime of achievement," Ford said, according to the Associated Press.

Nancy Reagan called Johnson a courageous woman who served the nation and her family honorably, AP reported.

"I believe above all else that Lady Bird will always be remembered as a loyal and devoted wife, a loving and caring mother and a proud and nurturing grandmother," Reagan said, according to AP.

Former President Jimmy Carter honored her public service.

"Many people's lives are better today because she championed with enthusiasm civil rights and programs for children and the poor," Carter said. "During her husband's campaign for the presidency in 1964, she visited cities in the South considered too racially volatile for his presence. She was President Johnson's full partner in the War on Poverty, including convincing him to implement the Head Start program and serving as its honorary chair."

Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia served with Lyndon Johnson in the Senate in the 1950s.


"My heart is heavy with the news of Lady Bird's passing," Byrd said. "She was a woman of courtesy and courage alike. While her husband, Lyndon, could be brash, she was benevolent. While he could be tough and hard-charging, she epitomized style and grace. Together, they were a formidable pair.

"Erma and I were fortunate to share many memorable evenings with the Johnsons, first while they were part of the Senate family and later at the White House. It never mattered where the Johnsons lived, Lady Bird was always a Texas rose." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Lady Bird Johnson

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