She was born in Karnack, Texas to Minnie Patillo-Taylor and T.J. Taylor. She graduated from Marshall Senior High School in Marshall, Texas and studied journalism and art at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas. She married Lyndon Baines Johnson, a future President, on November 17, 1934. They had two daughters, Lynda Bird Johnson, wife of Charles S. Robb, and Luci Baines Johnson, who married Pat Nugent and Ian Turpin.
She is known for her support of the environment, which she developed as a child growing up near Caddo Lake in East Texas. She helped convince Texas to plant wildflowers on state highways. As First Lady of the United States she started a capital beautification project (Society for a More Beautiful National Capital) to improve physical conditions in Washington, DC, both for residents and tourists. Her efforts inspired similar programs throughout the country. She was also instrumental in promoting the Highway Beautification Act, which sought to beautify the nation's highway system by limitting billboards, and by planting roadside areas.
She is an advocate of the Headstart Program.
In the 1970s after the White House years she focused her attention on Austin, Texas' riverfront area through her involvement in the Town Lake Beautification Project. She founded the National Wildflower Research Center, a national nonprofit organization devoted to preserving and reintroducing native plants in planned landscapes. The center is now known as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
At the age of 91 she is the oldest surviving First Lady of the United States, having even outlived one of her successors, Pat Nixon.