The biennial, privately funded $10,000 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, first awarded to James Merrill in 1990 for The Inner Room, is awarded biennially to an American poet for the most distinguished book of poetry published during the preceding two years, or for lifetime achievement in poetry. The prize is donated by the family of the late Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt of Austin, Tex., in her memory, and established at the Library of Congress.
Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt was one of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s three sisters. In the early 1930s—years before her brother’s election to the U.S. House of Representatives, and decades before his presidency—Rebekah was a graduate student in Washington, D.C., where she also worked in the cataloging department at the Library of Congress. It was here at the Library where she met and fell in love with her co-worker and fellow Texan, Oscar Price Bobbitt; the two were married in 1941.
After Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt died in 1978, her husband and son, Philip Bobbitt, endowed a memorial to the Library of Congress in her honor; the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry was established 10 years later in 1988.