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When Queen Elizabeth II came to Texas, she met with 5 influential women in politics — but never LBJ

It took Queen Elizabeth II nearly 40 years of her 70-year reign — the longest in British history — to make her first and only trip to Texas. Despite that, she had a lasting impression on the Lone Star State — one that Texans are reflecting on in light of the 96-year-old’s death.

The year was 1991, and Elizabeth was 65. She met with several important women in Texas politics, including then-Gov. Ann Richards, San Antonio’s first female mayor Lila Cockrell, Houston’s first female mayor Kathy Whitmire, and Dallas’ second female mayor Annette Strauss. Also in Dallas, she met Fort Worth’s first female mayor Kay Granger, who was sworn into office just hours earlier.

The queen also met with Texan and former first lady Lady Bird Johnson at the LBJ Library in Austin. Elizabeth had never formally met the library’s namesake, former President Lyndon B. Johnson, who died in 1973, four years after his presidency ended.

“To the best of our knowledge, President Johnson and Queen Elizabeth did not meet during his time in office; the only president she did not meet during her reign,” officials with the LBJ Library told The Texas Newsroom.

Johnson and the queen never sent invitations to each other, though they did correspond between 1964 and 1967, according to library officials. It is possible the two met in 1957 at a State House dinner, when Johnson was Senate Majority Leader, but it's unclear if he actually attended — let alone if he met the queen.

Starting her three-day trip in Austin — the only Texan city on the queen’s itinerary with a male mayor — Richards accompanied Elizabeth on Capitol grounds where a ceremony was held.

According to the University of Texas at Austin Libraries, the queen told the crowd, “No state commands such fierce pride and loyalty. Lesser mortals are pitied for their misfortune in not being born Texans.”

In San Antonio, she visited the Alamo and rode with Cockrell on the River Walk in a decorated barge.

Around 25,000 people turned out on the River Walk to greet the queen and prince during their visit. Professor Jon Taylor, chair of the University of Texas-San Antonio's Department of Political Science and Geography, explains why so many San Antonians would care.

"We have this weird proclivity in the United States to somehow be enamored with the very monarchy that we fought a revolution to avoid. It's like we're enamored in almost Hollywood-like fashion with the monarchy," he said.

Taylor said as far as historical visits to San Antonio go, the queen's was only second to that of Pope John Paul II in 1987, that attracted 350,000 people.

Brian Kirkpatrick
Texas Public Radio
Lila Cockrell (left) was San Antonio’s first woman mayor. After her death in 2019, a public tribute in Cockrell’s honor included a projected slideshow of photos of her with famous people, including Queen Elizabeth II.

When the queen and her husband Prince Phillip landed at Dallas Love Field, they were met with another ceremony, with music and mariachi performances.

Their trip coincided with Dallas’ 150th anniversary, and a special reception and dinner was held. Protestors — including two city council members — gathered at Fair Park to express concerns over recently approved redistricting plans.

In Houston, she toured the city’s new Veteran Affairs Medical Center and the Johnson Space Center, according to the Houston Chronicle. Richards rejoined the queen that evening for a banquet at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

Queen Elizabeth II departed the Lone Star State at Ellington Air Force Base at the end of her tour.

Ana Campbell with The Texas Newsroom, and Brian Kirkpatrick with Texas Public Radio contributed to this story.

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Bri Kirkham can be reached at bri@tpr.org or on Twitter at @BriKirk