Back in Miami when President Kennedy was shot in Dallas, I sent condolences and wrote to Bess asking to do an interview with her. I still have her letter on White House stationery:
Left to Right: Bess Abell, Lady Bird Johnson, Tyler Abell, Lyndon Abell, Dan Abell, and President Lyndon B. Johnson sitting in the Yellow Oval Room for the appointment of Tyler Abell becoming Chief of Protocol. September 25, 1968.
The Johnsons were personal friends; they had hosted Bess' wedding reception when she married Tyler Abell, (stepson of syndicated columnist Drew Pearson) for she was a close as their two daughters, Lucy and Lynda Byrd.
She was 14 when her family moved into the Kentucky governor's mansion. After that, Earle C. Clements was elected as Kentucky's Senator to serve in Washington. He was U.S. Senator at the time of Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson's heart attack. Clements then acted as Majority Leader during Johnson's recovery.
Young Bess grew up loving Democratic politics. "My father gave me my first sense of political perspective," she recounted. He had told her to find Kentucky on the huge globe he kept in his office.
Following her marriage to Tyler on Jan. 1, 1955, her husband went into the Army and Bess traveled with him from post to post. "We moved 11 times in 11 months," she recalled.
After the Army, Tyler went to law school and Bess worked for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, of which her father was Chairman. Her husband became LBJ's Associate General Counsel in the Post Office Department.
Their son Dan was 5 and Lyndon, 3 1/2 when she took the White House post. A housekeeper looks after her home affairs. Besides, her mother-in-law, Luvvie Pearson -- and her own mother -- like to share grandmotherly joys.