In a rare tribute, Lady Bird Johnson is getting her own U.S. postal stamp — only the fifth first lady in history to receive the honor.
Johnson’s official White House portrait (she’s wearing a buttercup yellow gown and diamond earrings) will be used for a “Forever” stamp issued this December to mark the centennial of her birth. In addition, the USPS announced it will re-issue stamps from the 1960s honoring Lady Bird’s wildflower program.
“We’re pleased to join the celebration honoring what would be her 100-year birthday and also to continue to help further her important legacy of creating a more beautiful America,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement Thursday.
Johnson, who died in 2007, is eligible because the postal service changed the longstanding rule prohibiting anyone — except presidents — from appearing on a stamp for 10 years after their death. The rules now allow recently deceased and even living subjects, a postal service spokesman told us. Letters supporting Lady Bird’s selection came from Texas lawmakers and the former living first ladies.
Johnson joins just four other president’s wives portrayed on U.S. stamps. Martha Washington was the first American woman honored with a portrait stamp— first in 1902, then again in 1923 and 1938.
(For you trivia geeks: In 1893, Spain’s Queen Isabella was the first woman ever to appear on a U.S. stamp; it commemorated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of the New World.)
Eleanor Roosevelt also got three stamps: First in 1963, then again in 1984 and 1998. Then the postal service reached back in time: In 1980, Dolley Madison was honored with a stamp, followed by Abigail Adams in 1985. (Adams is featured on a second stamp, but you have to look really closely: One of her love letters to John Adams was chosen as the background for a 2001 “Love” stamp.)
Most stamps take years from approval to release because the postal service commissions original artwork. The use of the existing 1968 portrait by Elizabeth Shoumatoff — and the ability to pull the old flower stamps from the archives — made the speedy turnaround for Johnson’s stamp possible.
Following a $10 million redesign, the Johnson presidential library will have a grand reopening on Lady Bird’s birthday, Dec. 22.
Read also: Lady Bird Johnson Gave America a Big Bouquet, 7/12/07