Days Gone By - stories from the past

Former First Lady lived in Autauga County, Alabama when she was a young

A former First Lady’s who passed away on July 11th had ancestors who came from Alabama. She even lived here when she was young and attended the University of Alabama.

Billingsley is in Autauga County, Alabama about 25 miles northwest of Montgomery, and in the northern part of the county near the Chilton County line. It was incorporated by the legislature, March 5, 1901.

Billingsley was named after Clement Billingsley, (b. 1753 Stafford, Virginia -d. Oct 1841 Autauga Co., AL),  a Revolutionary War Soldier who settled in Autauga County, Alabama. He married Cynthia Rebecca Turner in January 1781 in Stafford County, Virginia. He was 84 years old in 1840 according to the census of pensioners.  During the 1880s, the town of Billingsley had a pony express station.

President Johnson’s wife had relatives in Billingsley

Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady, had relatives in Billingsley and Autauga County. Her great-grandparents lived in Milton, a small community near the Dallas County line, and her grandparents lived in the Billingsley area.

Lady Bird JohnsonLady Bird Johnson, wife of President Johnson

Parents were born in Autauga County, Alabama

Lady Bird was born Claudia Alta Taylor, and her mother before marriage was Minnie Lee Patillo of Alabama. Her father, Thomas Jefferson Taylor II, was a merchant, philanthropist. He was born August 29, 1874, in Autauga County, Alabama, the son of Thomas Jefferson and Emma Louisa (Bates) Taylor. He moved to Texas in the mid-1890s and opened a store in Karnack, Harrison County, Texas.

Minnie Lee’s maternal father (Lady Bird’s grandfather) was Luther Patillo. Her mother (Lady Bird’s grandmother) was Sara Jane (Myrick) Patillo. Both are buried in the Patillo Cemetery in Autauga County, Alabama.

Lived in Oxford, Alabama

“The Patillo family lived in Oxford, Alabama shortly before the turn of the century. They resided in a beautiful colonial home at 112 Gray Street, apparently for the sole purpose of allowing the children to attend old Oxford College. Luke Patillo, head of the clan, continued to live on the Autauga County plantation while his family resided in Oxford. Two of the Patillo children, Effie and Harry, were students at old Oxford College. The older children, Claude and Minnie lived in the Patillo home at Oxford after they completed college. Minnie Patillo married Thomas Taylor, II. Their wedding was held at the Patillo plantation in Autauga County. The family attended the First Baptist Church of Oxford while they lived there.”1

In 1900 Thomas Taylor, II married Minnie Lee Patillo of Autauga, Alabama and they had two sons and a daughter, Claudia Alta (Lady Bird) Johnson.

Patillo LadyPatillo-Lindblom House in Oxford, Calhoun County, Alabama ca. 2010

Mother fell down the stairwell

Lady Bird’s mother, Minnie Lee, died from a miscarriage following a fall down a stairwell when Lady Bird was only four years old. After her mother’s death, Lady Bird, “her father felt he was ill-prepared to raise a young daughter, so she moved to Billingsley when she was 6.2 She lived in Autauga County until she was 13, then moved back to Texas, but “she continued to spend her summers in Autauga County until she was in college.3

Lady Bird continued to visit her Pattillo relatives in Autauga County, Alabama, every summer until she was a young woman. As she explained, “Until I was about 20, summertime always meant Alabama to me. With Aunt Effie we would board the train in Marshall and ride to the part of the world that meant watermelon cuttings, picnics at the creek, and a lot of company every Sunday.” According to Lady Bird, her aunt Effie “opened my spirit to beauty, but she neglected to give me any insight into the practical matters a girl should know about, such as how to dress or choose one’s friends or learning to dance” [1]

Entered University of Alabama

After graduating from high school in May 1928, Lady Bird entered the University of Alabama for the summer session, where she took her first journalism course, but being homesick for Texas, she did not return for the fall term at Alabama.[2]

After graduating from St. Mary’s College in May 1930, Lady Bird toyed with the idea of going back to Alabama, but another friend from Marshall, Texas, was going to the University of Texas, so she chartered a plane to Austin, Texas. As the plane landed, she was awed by the sight of a field covered with bluebonnets and instantly fell in love with the city.

Milton, Autauga county, Alabama

Inherited property in Alabama

After her father’s death, Lady Bird inherited property in Alabama and once President Johnson left the White House, she made trips back to Autauga County every few years.  She last visited Autauga County around 1997 when a historic marker was dedicated in Milton. As of 2007, her family stilled owned acreage in Autauga county. Technically the property was owned by a company that belonged to her two daughters and their families and managed forestry products.

Some of her relatives in Alabama included: a cousin, Mrs. O. L. Allen of Selma: a half-cousin, Mrs. Elaine Fischesser of Montgomery; a cousin Mrs. A. B. Moore of Tuscaloosa; Mrs. Neil Robinson of Lowndes County; and a cousin Mrs. William Cousins of Wetumpka.



1The Anniston Star, December 1, 1963

2Some sources say her Aunt Effie went to Texas to raise Lady Bird after Minnie’s death while other sources say that Lady Bird lived in Autauga County with her Aunt Effie until she was 13 and attended the local school from the years 1918-1923, then they both moved to Texas.

3Times Daily, March 28, 1965, Florence, Alabama


  1. Find A Grave Memorial# 51934496 # 51934566
  2. Times Daily, July 13, 2007, Florence, Alabama
  3. Times Daily, March 28, 1965, Florence, Alabama
  4. The Tuscaloosa News Nov. 23, 1963, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  5. Gadsden Times July 13, 2007, Gadsden, Alabama
  6. The Anniston Star, December 1, 1963
  7. Alabama Official and Statistical Register, 1915

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  1. My mother was distantly kin to Ladybird and played with her as a child, in Autauga.

  2. My grandmother was a cousin as well.

  3. My wife is from autauga County and she always share the stories about Ladybird living in Autauga County. Awesome !!!!! A Southern Belle !!!!!!!!!!

  4. Just south of Tuscaloosa is a small community called Taylorville, which I’m fairly sure was named for the same family.

  5. The house where Ladybird lived in Billingsley was originally the home of William Crawford and Julia Mallory (Faulkner) Dickinson (my g-great aunt) My great grandmother played there as a child in the late 1800’s. I have a picture I took when I visited a few years ago, but couldn’t share it in this comment section.

    1. Hi Deena, Email the picture to [email protected] in .jpg format and I’ll add it to the story.

  6. I am from Oxford and had never heard of this part of its history.

  7. Denise Crosby Kelly, Tene waited on Ladybird in the bank.

    1. That would have been something just to have her walk in the bank like anyone else and Tene wait on her.

    2. she didn’t just walk in. The bank had just closed when two men knocked on the door. There was a little lady with them. The manager went to the door and indicated they were closed. Then the men showed badges. The manager let them in, led them to Tene, and asked her to cash a check for Mrs Johnson.

  8. Kevin Bavar is this the house in front of you?

    1. The one in this story? Not picture.

  9. I knew when I read the headline it was Lady Bird Johnson—a marvellous First Lady.

  10. Lady Bird. Spent her summers here. Was cousin of Ms. Nettie Woodyard. Ms. Nettie would go out and visit her after his presidency. Lady Bird has relatives in the Billingsley cemetary. She came to see some repairs they did on the graves with secret service escorting her. Cliff’s family lived in the house up there then. They said it was a sight to see…lol

    1. There is a butterfly garden planted in her honor, isn’t there?

    2. I don’t know about that. There may be. I grew up there but moved from there a couple of decades ago.

  11. Met her when she was on the whistle stop tours campaigning in the 60s

  12. Whoever wrote the article needs to take grammar and spelling 101.

  13. I believe she also spent some time in Burnsville.

    1. I wonder who she visited there, I grew up and was married in Burnsville.

    2. You are my friend, David’s sister!

    3. It was the big house between the church Lott’s store, on same side of road. Faye Wilson lived there for a while.

  14. Lady Bird
    Read a story at maybe 14 ish she stole her Father’s car and drove to Alabama to see her Mothers family here.

  15. Did you know that an actual First Lady also lived in Alabama? Yes, Priscilla Cooper Tyler, served as First Lady for Pres, John Tyler whose wife Letitia was ill and then deceased (1842-1844) When Priscilla’s husband Robert was appointed Confederate Register of the Treasury, the couple moved to Montgomery where they both lived out there lives.

  16. Lady Bird! She is related to me. Her grandmother and my dad’s grandfather were brother and sister.

  17. Lady Bird. Lived in my home town as a child. I drew and painted the historical house her grandmother lived in for present owner

  18. As a Texan for 11.5 years I very much appreciated her wild flower program. If you should drive through Texas in the spring and admire the roadside flowers, thank Lady Bird. I never knew of her Alabama roots.

  19. Yes, she was married to a dangerous president that destroyed the black family nucleus by introducing the entitlement programs after President Kennedy was murdered in 1962. Take an overall view of black families who no longer have a real father in their life. Look at the attitude changes in many black communities today. The democrats under President Johnson’s administration turned many families into government slaves waiting, expecting, and demanding more governmental handouts. Their self-worth and reliance was severely damaged over the course of the next 6 decades. Truly saddening…

    1. Nonsense,that happened when slaves came to America.They were not families to begin with.

    2. Actually, Kennedy was killed in November of 1963. When you are incorrect on basic facts you lose all credibility.

    3. Thank you for the correction, Mark. As for my opinion, you can agree or disagree.
      Nancy, I believe you are totally wrong in your statement. I base my judgement on witnessing real life growing up in Alabama.

    4. I don’t want to get into an argument with you. I just want you to check your facts! Do you know that there are actually more single white women with children than black women! And stop watching Fox News and open your eyes to more than what the white man puts out about the black family! Black families are just as strong and happy church going people as your white families. And I guess you would still like my friends to work 12 hour days for 100 a month! No wonder our Country is run by an idiot now. I’m sure that is who you voted for! Sad for you!

    5. LeAnne, considering black women make up a much smaller portion of the American population, you may possibly be right. But you’re missing the point, as expected from someone with your foolish hatred of Fox news and our President. For some snowflake that doesn’t want to get into an argument, you sure throw a lot of insults. Sad for you. Come back when you grow up and want to talk about reality.

    6. Wow..the democrats and their communist minions just cannot take responsibility for their failures as a party..i think they are the worst threat to the republic ever..i pity the poor,stubid people in a way..

    7. Yes it start with Johnson

    8. Jack Jackson Me to Jack I lived in Alabama …..saw it close up.

  20. I was thinking she died years ago…I had to Google it to confirm lol

  21. Lady Bird Taylor Johnson

  22. Interesting comments……..

  23. Ashley McCullough Brock

  24. Yes, she is a distant family member through my Dallas county forefathers. I think she and my grandmother were cousins.

  25. her husband upped the Vietnam war that President Kennedy did not want to be a part ….the blood of these soldiers that died is on the hands of President Johnson…..and President Johnson did destroy the black families by not allowing the father to live in the home and being married to the women on public welfare. I saw on woman have 4 children by 4 different fathers just for the check….any many more followed her example……

  26. In Alabama before civil rights black men and women owned businesses had homes went to church drove nice cars were families…..after the yanks came down to spit and scream the business disappeared and many families left the south because of this to better places to live and raise their families…Condie Rice can testify to this she was born in Alabama and her father moved his family to Colorado . I past her birth place every time I enter Birmingham Al…..

  27. Thank you…did not know this AL connection

  28. Lady Bird Johnson……without reading this!

  29. Yes, I have read alot about Lady Bird Johnson..

  30. She was commencement speaker in 1976 at University of Alabama.

  31. I knew that accent sounded more Alabama than Texas. I didn’t know she lived her though

  32. The house in Billingsley is in bad disrepair but still standing I’m told

  33. The land we live on was part of her families land.

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