Ann Richards. I’d moved away before she was elected Governor. I’m sure this is the millionth blog to mention that she died this week. The Texas state archives has a nice online biography and a few good pictures, including this one, the original of which is here including the comment:
Ann Richards brought a vitality and outrageousness to the governorship that had not been seen in decades.
Thank you, Governor Richards. For everything.
EDITED later to add: I’ve just found Molly Ivins’ lovely and fond tribute to the Gov, online here. I don’t know how long the link will be live so I’m quoting most of it:
‘And who is this lovely lady?’
AUSTIN – She was so generous with her responses to other people. If you told Ann Richards something really funny, she wouldn’t just smile or laugh — she would stop and break up completely. . . .
At a long-ago political do at Scholz Garten in Austin, everybody who was anybody was there, meet-in’ and greetin’ at a furious pace. A group of us got the tired feet and went to lean our rears against a table at the back wall of the bar. Perched like birds in a row were Bob Bullock, then state comptroller; moi; Charles Miles, the head of Bullock’s personnel department; and Ms. Ann Richards.
Bullock, with 20 years in Texas politics, knew every sorry, no-good sonofagun in the entire state. Some old racist judge from East Texas came up to him: “Bob, my boy, how are you?”
Bullock said: “Judge, I’d like you to meet my friends. This is Molly Ivins with the Texas Observer.”
The judge peered up at me and said, “How yew, little lady?”
Bullock: “And this is Charles Miles, the head of my personnel department.”
Miles, who is black, stuck out his hand, and the judge got an expression on his face as though he had just stepped into a fresh cowpie. He reached out and touched Charlie’s palm with one finger while turning eagerly to the pretty, blond, blue-eyed Ann. “And who is this lovely lady?”
Ann beamed and replied, “I am Mrs. Miles.”
One of the most moving memories I have of Ann is her sitting in a circle with a group of prisoners. Ann and Bullock had started a rehab program in prisons, the single most effective thing that can be done to cut recidivism. (George W. Bush later destroyed the program.) The governor of Texas looked at the cons and said, “My name is Ann, and I am an alcoholic.”
She devoted untold hours to helping other alcoholics, and anyone who ever heard her speak at an AA convention knows how close laughter and tears can be.
I have known two politicians who completely reformed the bureaucracies they were elected to head. Bob Bullock did it by kicking butt at the comptroller’s until hell wouldn’t have it. Fear was his MO. Ann Richards did it by working hard to gain the trust of the employees and then listening to what they told her. No one knows what’s wrong with a bureaucracy better than the bureaucrats who work in it.
The 1990 race for governor was one of the craziest I ever saw, with Ann representing “New Texas.” Republican nominee Claytie Williams was a perfect foil, down to his boots, making comments that could be construed as racist and sexist. Ann was the candidate of everybody else, especially women. She represented all of us who have lived with and learned to handle good ol’ boys, and she did it with laughter. . . .
Ann got handed a stinking mess: Nearly every state function was under court order. The prisons were so crowded that dangerous convicts were being let loose. She had a long, grinding four years and wound up fixing all of it.
She always said you could get a lot done in politics if you didn’t need to take credit.
But she disappointed many of her fans because she was so busy fixing what was broken that she never got to change much. The ’94 election was a God-gays-and-guns deal.
Annie had told the Legislature that if it passed a right-to-carry law, she would veto it. It did, and she did.
At the last minute, the National Rifle Association launched a big campaign to convince the governor that we Texas women would feel ever so much safer if we could just carry guns in our purses.
Said Annie, “Well, you know that I am not a sexist, but there is not a woman in this state who could find a gun in her handbag.”