DALLAS — A new podcast about former first lady Lady Bird Johnson is in the works, and it will be produced at her alma mater in her home state.
Katey Outka, senior producer at The Drag, the University of Texas' audio production house, and Robert Quigley, journalism professor and founder of The Drag, are embarking on a yearslong journey to unpack the life of Johnson — with the help of UT students.
"I really just became sort of obsessed with Lady Bird in a way that I was not expecting," Outka says.
Quigley, a former professor of Outka's, brought the podcast idea to her last winter, while also mentioning a job opening at The Drag. The two have maintained a friendship and mentor-mentee relationship since her graduation in 2013. Outka began her role as the senior producer at The Drag in January.
"I always saw her as a protege," Quigley says of Outka.
For the creation of the podcast, they have the support of the LBJ Presidential Library and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, in addition to Catherine Robb, Lady Bird's granddaughter, who will serve as an adviser on the project.
Initially, they hoped to find a student who also grew up in a small town in Texas, as Lady Bird did, and could relate to her to take on the role as host of the podcast. However, it soon became apparent that Outka fit the role perfectly.
Outka grew up outside of Smithville in an unincorporated community called Upton. Lady Bird was born in Karnack in East Texas in 1912. In the 1920s, the population there was estimated to be around 400. Outka says she was raised primarily by her dad, and Lady Bird, too, was raised by her father, as her mother died when she was just 5 years old. Outka and Lady Bird majored in journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.
With these parallels in their lives, Outka brings a personal touch and lens through which to tell the story of the former first lady. Growing up, she was surrounded by her legacy, and Lyndon B. Johnson's too.
"Growing up in Central Texas, and going to UT and then living in Austin after graduating from UT ... everything is named after one or both of them," she says. "There's Lady Bird Lake; there's the wildflower center. Johnson City is right outside of Austin, and I drive through it all the time."
Quigley and Outka plan to release the podcast in 2024. They are currently in the early stages of researching and reporting. Outka's reporting will include visiting several Texas sites that are significant to the Johnsons, including Karnack, Johnson City and San Marcos.