Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ann Richards, RIP

Ann Richard, the former governor of Texas, died yesterday:

Former Gov. Ann Richards, the witty and flamboyant Democrat who went from homemaker to national political celebrity, died Wednesday night after a battle with cancer, a family spokeswoman said. She was 73.

She died at home surrounded by her family, the spokeswoman said. Richards was found to have esophageal cancer in March and underwent chemotherapy treatments.

The silver-haired, silver-tongued Richards said she entered politics to help others -- especially women and minorities who were often ignored by Texas' male-dominated establishment.

"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,' " Richards said shortly before leaving office in January 1995.


She appointed the first black University of Texas regent; the first crime victim to join the state Criminal Justice Board; the first disabled person to serve on the human services board; and the first teacher to lead the State Board of Education. Under Richards, the fabled Texas Rangers pinned stars on their first black and female officers.

I was shocked to read how recent these "firsts" were in Texas.

Richards was the Texas governor who lost to George Bush in 1994:

Throughout her years in office, her personal popularity remained high. One poll put it at more than 60 percent the year she lost to Bush.

"I may have lost the race," Richards said after the defeat. "But I don't think I lost the good feelings that people have about me in this state. That's tremendously reassuring to me."

She lost to fundamentalist Christian conservatism...

Ann Richards was famous for marvelously funny quips. The one about Bush having been born with a silver foot in his mouth is probably the best known, but I always liked these, too:

They blame the low income women for ruining the country because they are staying home with their children and not going out to work. They blame the middle income women for ruining the country because they go out to work and do not stay home to take care of their children.

I am delighted to be here with you this evening because after listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to know what a real Texas accent sounds like. [1988 keynote address, Democratic National Convention]

The here and now is all we have, and if we play it right it's all we'll need.