Former press secretary for Lady Bird Johnson dies

DALLAS, TX On Nov. 22, 1963, Carpenter scribbled the 58 words that Lyndon Johnson delivered to the nation when he returned to Washington, D.C., from Dallas following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy:

"This is a sad time for all people. We have suffered a loss that cannot be weighed. For me, it is a deep personal tragedy. I know that the world shares the sorrow that Mrs. Kennedy and her family bear. I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help and God's."

Later, Carpenter wrote that she couldn't take all the credit for Johnson's speech: "God was my ghostwriter."

Carpenter was first lady Lady Bird Johnson's press secretary from 1963 to 1969. She served as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education under President Jimmy Carter, on the International Women's Year Commission under President Gerald Ford and on the White House Conference on Aging under President Bill Clinton.

She was a co-founder of the National Women's Political Caucus and co-chaired ERAmerica, which fought for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

"I personally am going to go to that Great Precinct Meeting in the Sky kicking and screaming if I'm not in the Constitution of the country that I worked for, paid taxes to, tried to be a total thinking citizen in," she wrote.

One of Carpenter's favorite expressions was that "we stand taller because we stand on the shoulders of others," said her daughter, Christy Carpenter.

"Women in political office, in boardrooms and homes across America stand taller because they stood on her broad shoulders," she said.

Carpenter got to know the Johnsons while working as a reporter for a Washington news service with her husband, Leslie Carpenter.

"One of my news sources, Rep. Lyndon Johnson, went on to be vice president, scooping me up along the way because I didn't always tell him what he liked to hear," she told a congressional panel that reviewed her nomination for the education department post.

She worked as Johnson's executive assistant before joining his wife's staff.

In 1977, after 34 years in Washington, Carpenter said she had seen both sides of public life and returned to Austin.

"As a reporter, the spectator sport of the rise and fall of officialdom never dulls. Later, as a participant, one is swept up in the disappointments and achievements, stings, barbs or applause of those you follow and your own role in it," she wrote.

Known for her humor, Carpenter once joked about hawking one of her books, "Ruffles and Flourishes," which chronicled life among political and international leaders.

"My daughter says that the rarest book in America today is a copy of 'Ruffles and Flourishes' that hasn't been personally autographed by the author," she said.

Lady Bird Johnson described Carpenter as a constant source of ideas and entertainment.

"I want to tell you how we see Liz," the first lady said at a 1967 ceremony. "Creativity, laughter, speed, kind and thoughtful deeds."

The Johnsons' daughter, Luci Baines Johnson, said Saturday in a statement that Carpenter was her parents "dawn to midnight 'can do' supporter."

"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," Luci Baines Johnson said.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, said Carpenter will be missed.

"She embodied the legendary qualities of Texas women and showed America that gender is irrelevant when it comes to getting the job done," he said.

Carpenter was inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame in 1985.

Along with her daughter in New York City, she is survived by a son, Scott Carpenter of Vashon, Wash., and two grandchildren.

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