This is an update to my Jan. 17 “Wearing Thin” column, the one headlined “The Day LBJ Asked My Great Granddad for a College Loan.”
If you didn’t read that column, its centerpiece is a letter that my great grandfather Don H. Biggers received from future U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson while LBJ was attending a teachers college south of Austin, Texas, in 1927. Young Johnson was hitting up Biggers, an old family friend, for a cash loan to cover the rest of that year at college.
My great grandfather at the time was a regionally renowned journalist, historian, author and former politician, and he and his wife Nettie at one time had lived near the Johnson family’s home along the Pedernales River in Johnson City, Texas. Biggers would have been 58 at the time he received the loan request from Johnson.
Anyway, the column left open the question of whether my great grandfather agreed to loan money to LBJ. Years later in 1961, when asked about the 1927 loan request, according to letters in my possession, LBJ professed to not remember whether or not Biggers loaned him any money, and suggested that maybe he had received the money from another source.
So that was that. A whimsical, open-ended story that I had a grand time telling.
Except that’s not the whole tale.
On Monday, my second cousin Dale Biggers, having seen my column, emailed me and other family members to tell “the rest of the story,” a la Paul Harvey.
Dale is the grandson of Don H. Biggers, and his late father, Clyde, was one of my own grandfather’s brothers. A merchant marine captain, Clyde was the one who brought the loan-request letter and two other pertinent family letters from that period to LBJ’s attention in 1961.
This is what Dale wrote:
“My dad would visit his brother, Clele, in a rest home in Taft, Texas (across the Bay from Corpus Christi) every year. After dad died, Virgene and I took over – seeing Uncle Clele each year from 1977 until his death in 1987. On one visit, Clele (hitting on all eight cylinders until the very end) told us a story: ‘My dad was walking around the back yard cursing up a storm. ‘What’s wrong, dad?’ Don H. replied, ‘I lent that damn Lyndon Johnson $100 and he never paid me back!”
LBJ could not be reached for comment.