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Former U.S. first lady Bird Johnson dies
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10:31, July 12, 2007

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Lady Bird Johnson, the former U.S. first lady described as "the brains and money of this family" by her husband President Lyndon B. Johnson, died on Wednesday at the age of 94, a family spokeswoman said.

She died at her Austin home of natural causes with friends and family around her, said spokeswoman Elizabeth Christian.

Johnson suffered a stroke in 2002 that affected her ability to speak. After the stroke, she still managed to make occasional public appearances, but was unable to speak more than a few short phrases.

President George W. Bush said Americans "will always remember her with affection" and paid tribute to her strength in the days after President John Kennedy's assassination, which led to her becoming first lady.

"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," said former first lady Nancy Reagan.

As first lady, she was perhaps best known as the determined environmentalist who wanted roadside billboards and junkyards replaced with trees and wildflowers. She raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to beautify Washington.

She also campaigned for her husband's civil rights and war-on-poverty policies.

Lady Bird was at Johnson's side as he came under fire for escalating the Vietnam War and fully supported his surprising decision not to seek re-election as president in 1968.

Lyndon Johnson died in 1973, four years after the Johnsons left the White House.

She had a cool head for business, turning a modest sum of money into a multimillion-dollar radio corporation in Austin. With a 17,500 U.S. dollar inheritance from her mother, she purchased a small, faltering radio station in 1942 in Austin. The family business later expanded into television and banking.

The former first lady on Friday will "lie in repose" at the LBJ Library and Museum in Austin, Texas, her family said. A private funeral on Saturday in Austin will be followed on Sunday by private burial at the Johnson family cemetery in Stonewall, Texas.

Source: Xinhua/agencies

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