Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ann Richards

Ann Richards was the second woman to be governor of Texas, the first in her own right.
Governor does not even begin to describe this motorcycle-driving grandma.

She was a quick-witted warm-hearted Texan who symbolized the best of the Lone Star state.

She married her high school sweetheart and had four children. She taught school early in her career and was active in local politics, education being one of her main causes. At the urging of her husband she ran for higher office and won the election as the first female commissioner of Travis County.  The win was a bitter one, as it led to the breakup of her marriage and forced her to confront her alcoholism.  She entered rehab and came out sober.  Then continued to be an advocate for addiction and recovery. To quote Molly Ivins, “To see the governor of Texas sitting in a circle of convicted criminals saying, ‘My name is Ann and I’m an alcoholic’ is to learn a great deal about recovery.”

She then ran for and was elected state treasurer in 1982, and became a national figure when she gave the keynote address at the democratic Convention in 1988. Ann famously said about George H. W. Bush, “Poor George, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” And she is credited with saying that “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did.  She just did it backwards and in high heels.”

She was elected Governor of Texas in 1990, and set a liberal agenda, hiring the first women and minorities across state offices, including the Texas Rangers. Molly Ivins described her thusly, “She was a great politician who was remarkably good at governing.”  She was a hard working governor who was gracious, charming and generous.  She opened the governor’s office to groups of all ages and stripes.  Education and school finance were her key issues.   When the gun proponents said that women might feel safer if they could carry guns in their purses, her reply was, “Well, I’m not sexist, but there is not a woman in this state who could find a gun in her handbag, much less a lipstick.”

After she lost to George W Bush she worked as an advisor and campaigner for many Democratic candidates.  Richards also served as a trustee at Brandeis University.

In her 2006, the Austin Independent School District announced the opening of the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, a college prep school for girls in grades 6-12.

Her many awards include, the Texas NAACP Presidential Award for Outstanding Contributions to Civil rights, The National Wildlife Federation Conservation Achievement Award, and the Texas Women’s hall of Fame honoree for Public Service.
After being diagnosed with Osteoporosis, she changed her lifestyle and diet, and wrote a book about it. In 2006 she  announced that she had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and died in September of that year.