Project SummaryThis is a series of interviews with friends, family, and colleagues of Elizabeth Hughes "Bess" Clements Abell (1933-2020). Abell volunteered on the 1960 Kennedy-Johnson presidential campaign and became personal secretary to Lady Bird Johnson. She served as the White House social secretary under the Lyndon B. Johnson presidential administration until 1969. She reportedly “planned, organized and staged the entertaining and feeding of nearly 80,000 presidential guests” in her first three years on the job. She also organized the 1966 wedding reception for the Johnson's younger daughter, Luci, and the 1967 wedding for their eldest daughter, Lynda, and future Virginia governor Charles S. Robb. Abell later served as executive assistant to Joan Mondale, wife of Vice President Walter Mondale, during the Carter Administration, and established Bess Abell Enterprises, a Washington public relations firm.
Bess Abell was the daughter of former Kentucky Governor and United States Senator Earle C. Clements and Sara Blue Clements. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Kentucky in 1954, and in 1955, she married attorney Tyler Abell who worked on the Kennedy-Johnson campaign, becoming Chief of Protocol in 1968. They have two sons; Dan and Lyndon. The Abell's came to be a Washington power couple. Among their many accomplishments together was the development of Merry-Go-Round Farm in Potomac, Md.