LBJ Museum in San Marcos
The Museum of San Marcos honors LBJ’s formative years as a college student and school teacher in the major Great Society legislation he passed as the 36th President of the United States between November 1963 and January 1969. President Johnson attended Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Texas State University) at San Marcos from 1927 to 1930. Here, he refined his political talents and established a strong devotion to civil rights, education, and poverty eradication. He never forgot his Hill Country roots, either. President Johnson announced the founding of the Job Corps program on campus in November 1964, and returned the following year to open the Gary Job Corps Center, the first of its type. In November 1965, he went to campus to sign the Higher Education Act.
The LBJ Museum in San Marcos is committed to increasing appreciation for the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson, with a primary focus on his years as a student at Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Texas State University) and his teaching experiences in South Texas.
The LBJ Museum immerses visitors in an investigation of President Johnson’s landmark Great Society legislation, as well as how his student and early teaching experiences impacted his commitments and the effects of his presidency on our lives today.
The Museum’s Beginnings
The Lyndon Baines Johnson Museum in San Marcos is the sole Johnson museum in Texas dedicated to his university years, including his stint teaching in Cotulla, Texas.
Efforts to establish the LBJ Museum of San Marcos developed out of conversations among community members who served on the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Tourism Development from 1996 to 1997. The committee recommended in its final report that the museum be established to preserve LBJ’s legacy by focusing on his years as a student at Southwest Texas State Teachers College, his teaching experiences in South Texas, and the impact of these experiences on his role in the development of landmark legislation in the areas of education and civil rights. The LBJ Museum acquired its corporate charter from the State of Texas in July 1997.
On February 22, 1998, Hays County Commissioners unanimously approved an arrangement in which the museum board leased an abandoned county-owned movie theater on the courthouse square at 131 N. Guadalupe Street for 30 years for a modest cost. The lease was extended for another 50 years in 2004.
The board agreed to seek funds to refurbish the building, which was in a state of extreme neglect and deterioration but had enormous promise as a museum location. Local architect Ngoc Nguyen volunteered to draw early sketches for the museum’s renovation of the ancient theater and was later engaged by the board to create a master plan for the renovation.
The first project was divided into four sections. The initial phase involved asbestos removal and interior destruction. This destruction was carried out by workers from the Gary Job Corps Center, the nation’s first such training facility established by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The old building facade was repaired in the second phase. The building’s structural repair was the focus of the third phase, which cost $225,000. The interior construction and finish work for the first floor was completed in phase four.
Open to the public in 2006
On December 6, 2006, the LBJ Museum opened its doors after more than nine years of preparation. The keynote speakers were Luci Baines Johnson, LBJ’s daughter, and Candace Call, a North Carolina educator who attributes her success to her participation in Head Start.
Community Wide Support
The Hobby Foundation, the Texas Pioneer Foundation, the HEB Foundation, Tanger Outlets founder Stanley Tanger, CenturyTel, and numerous San Marcos citizens and businesses, including founding board members John and Marsha Cooper, William and Eleanor Crook, and Dr. Gwen Smith, have all generously contributed to the museum.
The museum also has significant backing from the City of San Marcos, the San Marcos Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Hays County Commissioners Court, as well as the Greater San Marcos Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Association, and the Main Street Program. Texas State University has embraced the idea of a community museum devoted to President Johnson because it is the only Texas university with a U.S. President as an alumnus.
In 2009-2010, Hays County refurbished the second floor, including the installation of an elevator, allowing the museum to open the second story of its historic building to the public in early summer 2010. The second floor houses a conference room, auditorium, special displays, and an archive room. The museum obtained a $85,000 grant from the City of San Marcos to construct an archive room and a room to curate exhibits in the staff area of the museum on the first floor, which was also finished in 2010.
Next Point of Interest: The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment