AUSTIN, Texas – Willie Nelson’s lifelong advocacy for rural America has found its home through a new endowment at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. The endowment will fund research and student fellowships focused on sustainable agriculture, eliminating hunger, resilient energy, sustainable water, and natural disaster recovery to benefit rural and farm communities.
The endowment is made possible through the LBJ Foundation, which will present its most prestigious honor, the LBJ Liberty & Justice for All Award, to Nelson on Friday, May 12, during a gala dinner at the LBJ Presidential Library. Created in 2010, the LBJ Liberty & Justice for All Award recognizes and honors those who carry on President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s legacy and commitment to providing opportunity for all. Former recipients of the award include President George H.W. Bush, President Jimmy Carter, Rep. James Clyburn, Sen. John McCain and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, among others.
“Faculty, students and alumni from the LBJ School make significant contributions to uplifting rural America, from supporting farmers’ sustainable food production to preparing communities for natural disasters to ensuring rural communities have the water and energy they need,” said JR DeShazo, dean of the LBJ School. “We’re honored to continue this work following Willie Nelson’s legacy and grateful for the LBJ Foundation’s continued support of our mission.”
A lifelong advocate for farmers, alleviating food insecurity, and support of rural communities, Nelson embodies President Johnson’s commitment to public service, particularly in the areas of farming and food security.
The tribute celebrates the contributions Nelson has made during his lifetime, including his longtime support of our nation’s farmers through Farm Aid, established in 1985, which has raised over $70 million for those who own and operate family farms throughout the United States. He has also helped raise millions around disaster relief, for families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, and for veterans, as well as working toward environmental and animal advocacy, and voting rights. The tribute’s proceeds benefit the endowment.
“Willie Nelson is a national treasure who gained fame through his sheer musical talent and won hearts as someone who truly cares about the lives of his fellow Americans,” said Larry Temple, chairman of the LBJ Foundation board of trustees. “A product of rural Texas, Willie has never forgotten where he comes from. His longtime efforts to raise money and awareness for family farmers through Farm Aid and numerous other endeavors to help those in need throughout his career make him a true inspiration.”
President Johnson and Nelson share similar backgrounds as rural Texans, aware of the struggles of those who work in the agricultural industry. As Johnson said in a 1965 Special Message to Congress on Agriculture: “The bounty of the earth is the foundation of our economy. Programs in every aspect of our nation’s life depend on the abundant harvests of our farms.”
Nelson is a legend in the music world. A prolific songwriter, he has spent much of his life “on the road again” with his family and guitar, Trigger, performing for the passionate across the world. He has won multiple Grammys, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993, received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1998, and was awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2015.