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Sunglasses with Style: LBJ’s Collection Includes Unusual Shades

One pair of sunglasses in the LBJ President Library’s collection isn’t like ones you’ll see today.

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Put on your shades and pose for a selfie — it’s National Sunglasses Day.

Though your aviators, wayfarers or vintage specs probably help you pull off the perfect look, one famous Texan really knew how to complete his style with a pair of glasses.

President Lyndon B. Johnson often got new glasses, and he had a “penchant for colored frames.” He also held onto his old pairs, even after the prescriptions became outdated, according to 20/20 Magazine.

Judging from a collection of normal and sun glasses at the LBJ Presidential Library, it seems he favored zyl sunglasses with purple lenses. But one pair in the museum’s collection isn’t like the ones you’ll see on Instagram today — these sunglasses have a built-in transistor radio.


These sunglasses, which were given to President Lyndon B. Johnson as a gift, have a built-in transistor radio. Photo by Jay Godwin, LBJ Presidential Library

Benjamin H. Oehlert, whom LBJ appointed as an ambassador to Pakistan in 1967, gave this unique pair to Johnson.

“Several pairs (of glasses) were received as unsolicited gifts,” Joshua Pitt, museum technician at the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum told 20/20 Magazine. “While there is little evidence he wore them, he nonetheless held on to them.”

An article in Popular Mechanics from 1960 describes a similar pair of radio sunglasses as a handy accessory for people who “have a yen for listening to the radio while outdoors or traveling, but balk at carrying a heavy portable or wearing a small one in their pocket with the cord and earphone showing.”


With a radio built inside the frames, the sunglasses given to President Johnson include an on-off switch and an earpiece. Photo by Jay Godwin, LBJ Presidential Library

“The transistor radio sunglasses have the radio parts built into the sidepiece, the left one of which also has a selector knob and a small button earphone,” the article explains. “A piece of wire crossing the hinge gives the only clue they are not ordinary sunglasses.”


According to a 1960 article from Popular Mechanics, a similar pair of sunglasses with a transistor radio cost about $34.50 and could be fitted with prescription lenses. Photo by Jay Godwin, LBJ Presidential Library

According to Popular Mechanics, those sunglasses cost about $34.50 at the time, could be fitted with prescription lenses and came “complete with an aerial which does not always have to be used.”

Located on UT’s campus, the LBJ Presidential Library attracts more than 100,000 visitors from around the world each year. The library, which includes a replica of the Oval Office, is located next to UT’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, the top-ranked public affairs school in Texas. Plan your visit to the LBJ Presidential Library, and come explore the Forty Acres.