You’ve probably driven by this memorial dozens of times and not noticed it. Between Memorial Bridge and National Airport (on your right heading south of the GW Parkway) is the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove. Dedicated in 1977, three years after the 36th president’s death, the centerpiece of the site is a tall, roughhewn piece of Texas granite that in many ways gently resembles LBJ’s craggy face. Most interesting about this memorial is its location. It is not in Washington, DC.
LBJ is admired for calmly taking on the presidency in the midst of tragedy, his unrivaled legislative prowess that passed civil rights legislation, and his recognition of the worth of every person as shown in the anti-poverty programs he founded. But his legacy is tarnished by the unmitigated disaster that was the war in Vietnam.
Not honored on the Mall like Washington, Lincoln, and FDR but not ignored like Pierce, Fillmore, and Buchanan, LBJ finds himself relegated to the edge of town. A location representing our still ambivalent feelings about this president.
So, if you have time before your next pick up of a friend or relative at National, pull over and visit LBJ’s memorial. Despite being close to a highway, it’s rather peaceful. And contemplate the complicated legacy of this president.