Lynda Bird Johnson
The eight White House wedding of a presidents' child.
Lynda Bird Johnson and Patrick Church Robb
December 9, 1967
The decade of the 1960’s was a tumultuous time in American history. The Vietnam War was provoking protests across the country. At times, the White House was virtually under siege. One of the most powerful presidents in American history would announce that he was not seeking re-election. Robert Kennedy and then Martin Luther King would be assassinated. Riots would erupt across the country, and tanks would be needed to restore order in the nation’s capital. But in the middle of the decade there would be a break in the clouds, as the nation took in the first wedding of a presidential daughter in more than fifty-four years. Luci Baines Johnson would marry Patrick Nugent at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on August 6, 1966 and a year and a half later, Lynda Bird Johnson would marry a University of Wisconsin graduate, a Marine and military aide named Charles Robb in the East Room. Lynda’s ceremony would mark the eighth White House wedding for a presidential son or daughter.
The White House had not been without weddings in the intervening years. Since the earliest times, close presidential staffers, as well as friends and relatives of the first family, had tied the knot in ceremonies within its hallowed walls. During World War Two, Harry Hopkins, FDR’s right hand man, had been married there. But it had been a long time since the nation had experienced a truly national wedding event.
Luci Johnson, the president’s younger daughter, had been a recent convert to the Catholic faith and at her request became the first person to be married at the Shrine but, for all practical purposes, it too was a White House wedding. Gifts were shown in the basement of the executive mansion, and the Lincoln Room served as an improvised dressmaker’s shop and dressing room for the bride and her maids. There was a display of previous White House weddings, with an invitation to Jessie Wilson’s event signed by her father and other such exhibits. The East Room was used for official photos. There were receptions and teas and many overnight guests.
The presidency had grown with time and with it the responsibilities of the first family. The president’s daughters now had their own correspondence secretaries. The wedding of a president’s daughter involved thousands of people. There were lists of guests for various functions, rated by a complex code, qualifying some for some events and not others. Some arrived in limousines, some escorted, some had to find their own way, and some would even be staying overnight in the White House. Relatives, friends and gifts arrived long before the actual ceremony date. There were committees that thrashed out these details, including the extensive choreography for the hundreds of participants, detailing who should be where and at what time. All was compiled in a book called “the Bible,” and the president’s staff took it literally.
Lynda, the president’s firstborn, was much in the gossip columns during this time, jet setting around the country with actor George Hamilton, the man with the perpetual tan. After a party for Luci’s bridesmaids they had all trooped down to the theatre in the East Wing of the White House where the First Lady insisted that they see an old George Hamilton movie, Home From the Hill. Lady Bird’s younger daughter would be leaving the nest the next morning, and she had a sudden urge to take another look at the man so often linked by gossip columnists to her older daughter.
Luci’s wedding day, August 6, 1966, was a sweltering day in Washington, D.C. Bridesmaid Lynda Bird almost fainted in the middle of the ceremony. Eventually, a chair was rushed over for her and she was forced to sit through the last few minutes. But the bride was stunning and sailed through the event without incident. The design and delivery of her wedding dress had been a “carefully managed state secret,” even protected from the eyes of maids and butlers. By all accounts the grand, public, summer wedding of Luci Baines Johnson and Patrick Nugent was a success, socially and politically. When Luci tossed her bouquet from the Truman balcony, she placed it at the perfect spot below, delivering it up to her sister, Lynda, who needed only a few steps to take it in.
The following summer Lynda Bird Johnson was indeed in love, with plans to get married, but the groom would not be actor, George Hamilton. Lynda had met Charles S. Robb, a college graduate and handsome White House military aide, who was first in his Marine Corps Officer’s Basic School at Quantico. The date was carefully negotiated. Robb would be leaving for the war in Vietnam, and there needed to be time for the couple to have at least a few weeks together. The date of December 9, 1967 was chosen.
Read the rest of the story in All the Presidents Children