Lady Bird Johnson
Lady Bird Johnson, former first lady of the United States and highway beautification advocate, was inducted into the Texas Transportation Hall of Honor at a reception and ceremony in Austin, Texas, Oct. 17. The event was co-sponsored by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI).
“Lady Bird Johnson’s commitment to roadside beautification affects the lives of our citizens every day,” said Dennis Christiansen, TTI agency director. “Her enormous contributions have made Texas roadsides the envy of the nation.”
Johnson made improving the aesthetic appeal of U.S. highways her major initiative by promoting the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, nicknamed “Lady Bird’s Bill,” which introduced landscaping roadsides, limiting billboards and cleaning up junk yards near highways.
For 20 years, Johnson gave monetary awards to Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) districts that used native Texas plants to the fullest measure possible. She hosted the annual Texas Highways Beautification Awards ceremonies, presenting personal checks to award winners and treating them to a barbeque lunch. Five of the former award winners, all still TxDOT maintenance division employees today, were able to participate in the Oct. 17 ceremony.
Johnson’s focus on the advantages and beauty of native plants led her to create the National Wildflower Research Center in 1982, renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in honor of her 85th birthday in 1997. She would have turned 100 years old this year.
“You look at the kids who stop to have their picture made in the wildflowers on the highways every spring, and they think the Indian paintbrushes and bluebonnets have always been there — that is how Texas has always looked to them,” said Phil Wilson, TxDOT executive director. “This is a legacy event and a great honor to recognize the teamwork and effort that Mrs. Johnson has put into place.”
Benjamin Casey Allin III
Benjamin Casey Allin III, the first general manager of the Port of Houston Authority, was inducted into the Texas Transportation Hall of Honor Sept. 12. All six of his grandchildren were present to accept the honor on his behalf at a luncheon in Houston co-sponsored by TTI and the Houston East End Chamber of Commerce.
During his 12 years as general manager (1919–1931), Houston’s Port Authority was transformed into the most efficient port in the country. Exports grew by 1,000 percent, and the port itself grew to become the sixth largest in the nation.
Former port Executive Director Tom Kornegay noted that Allin was an engineer who set out to design a port that could rapidly and efficiently load and reload ships, as well as provide vital access to an efficient rail system for moving goods inland. “This is a man who achieved more in just 12 years than most of us achieve in a lifetime,” said Kornegay.