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Inside LBJ’s White House

Delores Jansa worked at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Created date

October 23rd, 2012

Delores Jansa s life story has the makings of a Hollywood movie. In November 1963, Delores, then Delores Stacks, worked as a staff assistant for Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. She accompanied Johnson to Dallas and was in the motorcade when President Kennedy was assassinated. You never think anything like that will happen during your lifetime, much less that you ll witness it, says Delores.

At the White House

The assassination took place on a Friday. Delores remained in Dallas through Sunday evening while authorities took her statement. For the record, Delores supports the Warren Commission s findings that Oswald acted alone. There were a lot of people on the grassy knoll, but I didn t see another shooter, she says. When Delores returned to Washington, she moved into her new office at the White House. It was very tense at the White House after the assassination, she says. The Kennedy staffers had a hard time accepting Johnson as president. Johnson allowed them to stay as long as they wanted, but eventually most of them moved on. Delores took to her role, arranging meetings, responding to tour requests, and getting autographed pictures of the president. It wasn t a typical 8 to 5 job, she says. Sometimes, I d get a call at 2 in the morning: The president can t find such-and-such, and they d send a White House car to pick me up. Delores says that while the new president could be demanding, he took care of those working for him. One time, I was going home for a couple of weeks, so I took a stack of pictures in his office with little yellow notes of what I wanted him to write on each one, says Delores. He looked through them and said, Are you giving pictures to everyone who asks? I m not running for sheriff.

Political beginnings

Home for Delores was Houston, where she got her start in political life. After graduating from Rice University, Delores worked as a poll tax deputy for United Steelworkers. She campaigned for Jim Wright in 1961, during Wright s bid for the Senate seat vacated by Johnson. Then she was the Harris County district campaign manager for John Connally s gubernatorial bid in 1962. After Connally won in Texas, Johnson asked if I would come up to Washington to work for him, says Delores. I told him I would stay for one year. I ended up staying for six. Following the assassination, Johnson continued the work that Kennedy had begun. Johnson didn t necessarily support all of Kennedy s initiatives, but he made sure that Kennedy s bills got passed, she says. Some people accused Johnson of blurring party lines, but he made no excuses for putting country before party. Delores maintains that the key to getting along in Washington is to work well with politicians from both sides of the aisle, a philosophy she still espouses.

Marriage on the horizon

In 1967, Delores went on a blind date with Arthur Jansa, an orthopedic surgeon in Houston. Whenever Johnson would go to his ranch near Austin, I would catch a ride on Air Force One and come back home to Houston, says Delores. On one of those visits, a friend set me up on a blind date with Art. When Delores returned to Washington, Art called her every evening. The couple started dating around the time that Johnson announced he would not seek a second term. I told Johnson, I can t believe you re not going to run again, says Delores. He told me, Honey, I m not going to live four more years. I want you to think about getting married. Delores took the president s advice and married Art in 1968. LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson hosted a reception for the newlyweds in the White House. Delores resumed her duties in Washington after her marriage. At the end of Johnson s presidency in January 1969, Delores returned to Texas aboard Air Force One. I was tickled to death to come home, she says.

New chapter

Since then, Delores has dedicated herself to raising the couple s three children. She still keeps in touch with associates from Washington, including a friend whose husband was an FBI agent covering the White House. We ve gone on a couple of cruises together over the years, says Delores. When they decided to move to Greenspring, an Erickson Living community in Northern Virginia, we went to visit. That s when we heard that Erickson was building a new community in Houston. Art and Delores moved to their apartment home atEagle s Tracethree years ago. Delores decorated her new home with photos of the White House aglow at Christmastime, signed cards from LBJ and Lady Bird, and other photos from presidents and prominent politicians. I ve been very fortunate, she says of her career and life at Eagle s Trace.