Zephyr Wright, born in Texas in 1915, was the personal chef to President Lyndon B. Johnson. She made specialties like fried chicken, hash, peach cobbler, and popovers, and helped them quickly make The White House a coveted invite in Washington, D.C.’s dinner party scene.
Wright was in charge of the home cooking for the Johnsons in the White House kitchen. She even made many meals, including VIP ones, in between the tenures of two White House Executive Chefs. Wright’s influence extended beyond the White House kitchen. When LBJ was in Congress, the Johnsons would make the commute from Washington, D.C. to central Texas during legislative recesses. Wright was subject many indignities on those trips due to segregation customs and laws. She said she was not allowed to use the bathroom in areas she was driving through and couldn’t stop off and eat at restaurants. She eventually made the decision to stay in D.C. year-round.
Wright is thought to have heavily influenced Johnson’s support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She reportedly spoke up to the President during his time in Congress about the injustices she faced road tripping between Texas and D.C. during congressional recesses. LBJ used Wright’s Jim Crow experiences to shame reluctant legislators into supporting the new act. After signing the landmark legislation, LBJ gave Wright one of the signing pens. “You deserve this more than anyone else,” he said.