In celebration of Women’s History Month, ABC Audio has launched a new podcast In Plain Sight: Lady Bird Johnson about the former First Lady. Hosted and executive produced by Julia Sweig, this exploration of Lady’s history is more than a simple retrospective, it’s told in her own words, with her voice.
In November 1963, just days after John F. Kennedy’s asassination and the Johnsons’ unexpected transition to President and First Lady, Lady Bird started recording an audio diary. In these unique entries, she shares facts and observations of those intense moments in Dallas, her terse relationship with Jacqueline Kennedy, challenges of being First Lady, and what it was like to work with Lyndon.
Her journal entries paint a picture of a strong and elegant woman who understood the paramount task of leading the country and accepted it with grace. Her voice communicates that she’s incredibly smart, articulate, and wise. She’s also immediately relatable and down to earth expressing the frustrations and worries that come with the job. She shares stories of her tireless campaigning, support for her husband, and love for her family.
In addition to Kennedy’s death, the first two episodes of the podcast cover Lady Bird’s time on the campaign trail as well as her solo tour of Southern states to promote the Civil Rights Act and the disapproval from statesmen and leaders in both the Republican and Deomcratic parties. Future stories will touch on Selma and the death of Martin Luther King Jr., her upbringing and early relationship with Lyndon, and more.
Listeners familiar with the podcast format will no doubt recognize the typical beats of audio storytelling, the perfectly timed musical cues, the abrupt return to narration, the emphatic pauses, and even the unfortunate ad break. But it's all par for the course. In Plain Sight is part radio drama, news magazine, historical documentary and is even reminiscent of Serial at certain moments with Sweig’s cadence matching Sarah Koenig’s, but ultimately it remains an original masterpiece.
Sweig does most of the heavy lifting, guiding the audience through her extensive research to hit on key moments in the Johnsons story. She and her production team accent the storytelling with smart music choices that help to build tension and momentum for their captive audience. I was impressed with the style and delivery and was eager for each additional bit of information. This is history. It’s already happened, and we know the end result, but that doesn’t take away from the excitement and intensity of the story.
With over 123 hours of Lady’s own account of her time at the White House, Sweig relies on these diary entries to compliment the narrative. Not only does this offer a unique perspective, but it adds an incredible layer of authenticity to this deep dive into the First Lady’s personal and political life.
I had no idea what to expect with In Plain Sight and part of me was bracing for a lackluster history lesson. This is anything but. I’m deeply invested and can’t wait for the third episode.
The podcast is hosted and executive produced by Julia Sweig and is based on the research she conducted while writing her book, Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight. The book will debut on March 16th but in the meantime audiences can get a taste of the project with this podcast. The first two episodes were released on March 1st and subsequent episodes will premiere every Monday.
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