Few people in Texas history have had the political power of Lyndon B. Johnson, and few people in history had the access to Johnson that Mildred Stegall — Baylor class of 1929 — enjoyed.
Stegall, who turned 103 last month, had a front-row seat for much of LBJ’s career as a chief aide during his time both in the U.S. Senate and in the White House. She first entered Johnson’s world when her husband, Glynn, became a legislative aide for LBJ in 1942. A decade or so later, Mildred joined her spouse on staff. The pair followed Johnson to Washington, D.C., when LBJ was elected vice president in 1960, but Glynn passed away shortly before Johnson became president.
When Johnson took over in the Oval Office following John F. Kennedy’s assassination, he made Stegall “assistant to the president” and gave her a large office down the hall from the Oval Office. Her role for the next five years included serving as White House liaison to the FBI and custodian to Johnson’s secret telephone recordings of meetings in the White House and at Johnson’s Texas ranch (tapes that later proved a treasure trove of history related to the Vietnam War and other issues of the time). Even after LBJ’s term was up, Stegall continued to work for the former President and later his wife, Lady Bird Johnson.
Fifteen years ago, Stegall wrote down her memories of those days to preserve the history for her family. This spring, her family publicly released the hand-written 31-page document to preserve their matriarch’s place in history (click here to read it as a PDF). The stories reveal an intimate look at a Texas legend.
Interestingly, when Stegall graduated from Baylor in 1929, she was neither the first nor the last in her immediate family to become a Baylor Bear. Her father, Robert Forbes, attended the university before her, and her two sisters, Frances and Roberta, each earned degrees from Baylor. After leaving Washington in 1969, Stegall lived in Austin until about two years ago, when she moved to a nursing home in Fort Worth to be nearer her family.
Sic ’em, Mildred!