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George Christian, 75; Presidential Press Secretary

November 28, 2002|From Associated Press

George Christian, a former press secretary to President Lyndon B. Johnson and an aide to two Texas governors, died Wednesday night at an Austin hospital. He was 75.

The cause of death was not announced, but Christian was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 2001.

Johnson hired Christian to work in his administration in 1966 and made Christian his press secretary when Bill Moyers left later that year.

It was a time when much of Johnson's domestic legislation had been passed and the Vietnam War was raging.

Johnson enjoyed dealing with the press, even when he was angry at the news coverage of his administration, Christian once recalled.

"He was an exacting boss: amusing, scary, ferocious, kind, mercurial, generous, hateful -- all within about five minutes," Christian wrote.

Christian was closely involved with Johnson's decision not to seek another term in 1968. He and Lady Bird Johnson urged Johnson not to run again.

"I told him that I thought he could get the nomination, he could get elected, but it wouldn't be worth it, that the country would be almost impossible to govern," he said.

Christian was known for his calmness during his White House days and was well-liked by politicians of both parties.

"I have done my best to avoid making blood enemies, and I think I can honestly say that I don't hold grudges," Christian once told the Austin American-Statesman. "I do my best not to disparage people, even when we have disagreements."

At a party at the LBJ Library and Museum to celebrate Christian's birthday in January, admirers praised his friendship and loyalty.

"He's one of one," said Larry Temple, a friend and former Johnson aide. He called Christian "a unique guy in the history of this state."

Friends said he displayed a calm demeanor as he faced his fatal illness.

Christian grew up in Austin. His father was a state judge and active in political circles, sometimes taking his son on campaign trips on behalf of friends.

After serving in the Marines in World War II, Christian returned home and attended the University of Texas on the GI Bill. He became sports editor for the Temple Telegram and then a reporter for International News Service in Austin.

Former U.S. Rep. Jake Pickle, an Austin Democrat, helped persuade Christian to leave journalism for politics.

Christian was hired by Pickle in 1956 to work for the gubernatorial campaign of then-U.S. Sen. Price Daniel. In 1962, Christian went to work for Gov. John Connally.

After the White House years, Christian returned to Austin and worked in lobbying and public relations.

He is survived by his wife, Jo Anne; six children, and 11 grandchildren.

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