WASHINGTON — Liz Carpenter, a colorful and outspoken Texan and a Washington, D.C.-based journalist whose career included press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson and D.C. reporter for Variety, died Saturday in Austin, Texas. She was 89.
A native of the Austin area, she moved to Washington, D.C., in 1942 as a young journalism grad and married her U. of Texas sweetheart, Leslie Carpenter. They both worked as reporters before launching the Carpenter News Bureau in 1952.
The bureau provided Washington coverage for a stable of newspaper clients that ultimately included Variety and Daily Variety. The big stories of the era included the TV quiz show scandals and Federal Communications Commission regulations along with numerous pre-Broadway tryouts at the National Theater.
Her Texas connections, and her Texas-size personality, endeared her to Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. She was aboard Air Force One the day it carried the body of President Kennedy home from Dallas. Relying on her news instincts, she wrote a statement for Johnson to read to the press upon landing. She later joined the White House as the first lady’s press secretary, leaving the bureau’s operation to her husband.
Carpenter helped establish the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971, and two years later authored the first of several books, “Ruffles and Flourishes.” Leslie Carpenter died of a heart attack in 1974, prompting Liz Carpenter to return to Texas.
Survivors include a son and a daughter.