Texas says goodbye to one of its greatest citizens

Yesterday witnessed the passing of one legendary Texas woman, Ann Richards.

Despite the current political atmosphere here in Texas, it would probably surprise most to know that Texas has a history of active progressivism. And like many other states, Texas can boast of some incredibly remarkable women. Ann Richards will be remembered among the best of them. She was our governor from 1991 to 1995, and while I disagree with a few of the things she accomplished, she made some very important decisions that reflect her belief in equality. She appointed the first black to the University of Texas Board of Regents, and she saw the first blacks and females accepted into the Texas Rangers.

Ann is pure embodiment of a Texas woman. Texas women aren't afraid to put on boots and go outside to work with their husbands. Nor are they afraid to go hunting with you. Most of them have a streak of feminism in them, and Ann was certainly no exception. Something I just read about her is that her first campaign was for Sarah Weddington, another remarkable Texas woman who successfully argued Roe v. Wade (Sarah is something of a local heroine on the UT campus, where she happens to teach). Texas women like to have a beer with you, and Ann had many in her day. Her alcoholism broke up her marriage, and she pushed herself into rehab. Richards later admitted, "I smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish."

I could list more of her accomplishments, like getting a motorcycle license at the age of 60, but I think her quotes are also very insightful as to the person she was.

"Let me tell you that I am the only child of a very rough-talking father. So don't be embarrassed about your language. I've either heard it or I can top it."

(On ineffective government programs) "You can put lipstick and earrings on a hog and call it Monique, but it's still a pig.''

"I thought I knew Texas pretty well, but I had no notion of its size until I campaigned it."

"Power is what calls the shots, and power is a white male game."

"I have a real soft spot in my heart for librarians and people who care about books."

"I did not want my tombstone to read, 'She kept a really clean house.' I think I'd like them to remember me by saying, 'She opened government to everyone.'"

I had the great pleasure of meeting Ann a few times at a tailor shop I used to work at. I thought it was pretty neat that she ran her own errands, and that she was always very friendly. I did not know that she had cancer, and reading the news of her death today left a lot of sadness in my heart. She shined brighter than most, and I am grieved to know that she is no longer among us. She was one spunky lady.

Quotes courtesy of NYT and About.com


From the BOR:

Ann Richards, the former Democratic governor who died Wednesday, will be remembered at a noon service Monday at the University of Texas' Erwin Center in Austin.

She will lie in state in the Texas Capitol Rotunda from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Both the services and Capitol events are open to the public.

Her burial at the Texas State Cemetery will be a private ceremony, the family said today through spokeswoman Cathy Bonner.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial gifts be made to the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, to open in August in the Austin school district, through the Austin Community Foundation, P.O. Box 5159, Austin, TX 78763, (512) 472-4483, or online at www.austincommunityfoundation.org.

When I was composing this post, I ran through my head the women in Texas that I look up to, and who set stunning examples for other women. The first woman I stumbled upon was Molly Ivins, a revered Texas columnist and author, who has been critical of GW since his days of campaigning against Ann in the gubernatorial race. I found a tribute column written by Molly to her friend, and it is well worth the read. It can be read here.

I regret not mentioning the leadership school she created for young girls - thanks Tuna.


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