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Lady Bird Johnson Receives First Arboretum Gold Medal Award

By Alfredo Flores
October 3, 2002

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3--Former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson and her Committee for a More Beautiful Capital have been selected as the first recipients of the U.S. National Arboretum's Gold Medal Award. Mrs. Johnson and the committee are being recognized today for their sustained contributions in beautifying Washington, DC, and other areas of the country with trees, flowers and other ornamental plantings.

Today's recognition is part of a series of ongoing events this year to celebrate the 75thanniversary of the arboretum, in Washington, DC. The arboretum is operated by the Agricultural Research Service, the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Lady Bird Johnson has dedicated so much time and energy throughout her life to beautifying America," Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said. "To her credit, she has sustained this effort and built upon it, providing inspiration and encouraging community involvement throughout the country."

The Gold Medal Award is given annually to recognize the person or group that best epitomizes the mission of the arboretum: to conduct research, provide education, and conserve and display plants to enhance the environment. The award includes a certificate of appreciation and an original medal designed by Cissel Gott Collins of the Washington-based Gott Group, and provided by the Friends of the National Arboretum.

Established in 1965, the Committee for a More Beautiful Capital was a 30-member group of friends and politicians serving the Lyndon Baines Johnson administration. Their efforts in planting flowers, shrubs and trees around the capital city started a nationwide beautification movement, with many states also setting up similar programs.

Mrs. Johnson also has focused her energies on beautifying her native Texas, working with the Texas Highway Department to preserve the natural beauty of wildflowers along interstates and freeways. In 1982, she founded the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to continue the mission of changing public attitudes toward native plants.

Veneman helped kick off the arboretum's 75th anniversary year in March, during the planting of a Sun Valley red maple on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. Other activities this year at the arboretum included an international bonsai symposium in May, and an exhibition of rare Victoria water lilies. The 446-acre arboretum in northeast Washington was established by an act of Congress in 1927 to conduct research, provide education and conserve and display trees, shrubs, flowers and other plants to enhance the environment.

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