March 20th, 2010
02:24 PM ET
13 years ago

LBJ aide Liz Carpenter dies at 89

(CNN) - Liz Carpenter, a Texas journalist who became a presidential press aide in the Lyndon Johnson White House, died Saturday at the age of 89, according to the Johnson family.

Carpenter served as an aide and press spokesman to Johnson when he was vice president, but she was named press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson when she became the first lady.

"Liz was Mother and Daddy's dawn to midnight 'can do' supporter," Luci Johnson, the president's daughter, said in a written statement. "She had boundless imagination, a rare gift for words, limitless curiosity, a rich sense of humor, a fear of flying and practically no fear of anything else."

Carpenter died at an Austin, Texas hospital of natural causes Saturday, according to Tom Johnson, the former CNN chairman who served with Carpenter in the LBJ administration.

"Liz was a passionate pioneer in the battle for women's rights," Tom Johnson said. "She used every weapon at her disposal in that fight - her splendid writing, her positions of power as a reporter and a press secretary, and her terrific public speaking skills."

A sixth-generation Texan, Carpenter was "filled with laughter, adventure, politics, and story-telling," he said.

"She told me she wanted to live until Hillary Clinton was elected President," he said. "She did her best to live that long. 'We came damn close,' she told me. 'And LBJ will be happy with Obama anyway,' she said."

She has been credited with making humor an integral part of White House politics. The LBJ Library's Web site said President Johnson ordered his speechwriters to consult with her.

"Tell Liz to add some jokes," the president said.

Carpenter was a pioneer as a female journalist. She began covering President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration and Congress for the Austin American Statesman newspaper in 1942, the LBJ Library's biography said.

She joined Johnson's vice-presidential staff in 1961, traveling with him on foreign trips to serve as his press aide.

Carpenter was with the Johnsons on the fateful Texas trip on November 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. She wrote the 58 words that Lyndon Johnson spoke to the nation when he landed in Washington after the assassination, the library said.

After Johnson's administration ended in 1969, Carpenter used her skills as a vice president for the public relations firm Hill and Knowlton.

She later moved back to Austin, Texas and remained close to the Johnson family.

"I have had an infinitely more exciting and worthy life because Liz was my mentor and my friend," Luci Johnson said.

Carpenter helped found the National Women's Political Caucus, served on the International Women's Year Commission, White House Conference on Aging, was assistant secretary of Education for Public Affairs, and a member of the Texas Women's Hall of Fame, according to the library.

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