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45 Years Ago: JSC Formal Dedication

On August 27, 1973, on what would have been President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 65th birthday, NASA held formal dedication ceremonies at the Center newly renamed after the late President.  The previous February, President Richard M. Nixon signed a Senate resolution designating the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) as the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC), in honor of the former president who had died the month before.  In a statement accompanying the signing, Nixon said, “Few men in our time have better understood the value of space exploration than Lyndon Johnson.”  Center Director Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., said of the decision, “We are pleased and proud to have our Center bear this great American’s name.”

Lady Bird Johnson, the late President’s widow, and several family members attended the ceremony held in the visitor’s center auditorium, now the Teague Auditorium.  Dignitaries in attendance included national and Texas political figures, current and former NASA administrators, center directors and astronauts. President Nixon sent a telegram of congratulations for the dedication ceremonies.  In his opening remarks at the ceremony, Kraft said that “the new name seems so appropriate…that is seems now that we’ve always been known as the Johnson Space Center.”  Tributes and accolades recalled Johnson’s contributions to the nation’s space program.  The Skylab 3 crew, completing their first month aboard the Skylab space station, contributed their own statement for the celebration, stating that the work they were accomplishing in space “would not have been possible except for [President Johnson’s] strong support and leadership in the Senate and in the presidency. …We are proud to be representing NASA and the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center as we circle the Earth.”

NASA history
Lady Bird Johnson speaking during the dedication ceremony of the Johnson Space Center (left). Mrs. Johnson and family members pose with former NASA Administrator James Webb (fourth from right) during the ceremony (right).
Credits: NASA

As a United States Senator from Texas and Senate Majority Leader, Johnson drafted, introduced and helped enact the National Aeronautics and Space Act that created NASA in 1958.  As Vice President, he chaired the National Aeronautics and Space Council during NASA’s critical early years and, working with Texas and Houston politicians and businessmen, played a key role in establishing the MSC in Texas.  As President, Johnson continued to support President John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth before the end of the decade.  As part of his long-term commitment, Johnson visited the Center on several occasions, first as Vice President in 1962 and then as President in 1965 and 1968.

NASA history
JSC Center Director Christopher Kraft presenting a plaque to Lady Bird Johnson (left). Mrs. Johnson addressing a crowd of well-wishers outside the JSC visitors building (right).
Credits: NASA

During the ceremony, Mrs. Johnson unveiled a bust of the late President by noted Virginia sculptress Jimilu Mason.  In her remarks, the former First Lady said, “So many emotions crowd my mind on this occasion, pride, excitement, nostalgia, and with all of them so many memories….  Giving his name to this great center…is a birthday gift I know he would deeply appreciate.”  Following the ceremony, JSC opened the “Lyndon B. Johnson Room,” adjacent to the auditorium.  The room displayed memorabilia from his presidency, such as a desk he used for signing bills, a chair from the Cabinet Room, photographs, and an original U.S. copy of the United Nations Outer Space Treaty signed in 1967.

The JSC Roundup devoted its August 17, 1973, issue to the dedication.