Entry for September 14, 2006

The photo  of Ann Richards, ousted in 1994 as Texas Governor by Shrub, is by the AP’s Jack Plunkett.

The sassy 45th Governor of Texas won the 1990 race against another Republican cowboy oilman Clayton Williams, who had  once compared bad weather to rape, saying there is nothing to be done about it so “relax and enjoy it.” He also refused to shake Richards’ hand after she had criticized some of his business practices.

She rose to national prominence in 1988,  when Democratic National Chairman Paul Kirk asked her to be the keynote speaker at the party’s national convention that summer. Her two most famous quips:

Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.

Poor George, he can’t help it — he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.

Richards started her life in politics in 1972 when she agreed to help run a legislative campaign for Sarah Weddington, who had won the Roe v. Wade case in the Supreme Court legalizing abortion. Weddington wanted to push in the Texas House for laws giving women equal rights, such as getting credit in her own name and not her husband’s.  After winning, Weddington, in her second ter,  Richards as her legislative director.   She had married her high school sweetheart, David Richards, while still at Baylor.  She ran for county commissioner in 1975, after a group of Austin activists approached her husband, who declined to run. She and David split in December 1980 and ultimately divorced in 1984.

Diagnosed in March with esophageal cancer, died last night.  Her  office announced today that her body will lie in state in the rotunda of the state Capitol Saturday and Sunday.  Her funeral will take place next Monday at the Frank Erwin Center at the University of Texas.

 Her obituary today  in the Houston Chronicle, “Groundbreaking politician, quintessential Texas woman: The feisty homemaker who rose to governor dies after 6-month fight with cancer,”  by  R.G. Ratcliffe and Anne Marie Kilday gives more details about her career.

Late in her term as governor, the Houston Chronicle asked Richards how she viewed her gubernatorial legacy.

How about, “She changed the economic future of Texas,” And that really beats what I feared my tombstone was going to say, and that was: “She kept a really clean house.”

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