Sad news today. Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas and all around amazing gal has passed away. She died of esophageal cancer last night at her family home. She was 73.
Ann was one hell of an feisty woman. For one thing, she was an outspoken politician in a state that doesn't exactly have a history of equal rights. When I think of Texas the first thing that comes to mind is the phrase "good ole' boys club." Ann Richards blew the doors off that club when she won the gubernatorial election against Clayton "Claytie" Williams in 1990. Mr. Williams, by the way, was once quoted comparing rape to the weather saying, "As long as it's inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it." Nice, huh?
While in office Ann Richards appointed more women, black and Hispanic representatives to state government than any other governor before her. According to KWTX-TV 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." A teacher on the State Board of Education? A crime victim on the Criminal Justice Board? Imagine! Kind of scary when you get somebody in office who uses plain old common sense for a change.
Richards often used humor to get her political ideas across to a possibly hostile audience. Here's a few of my favorite quotes:
"Poor George. He can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in
his mouth" - referring to George H.W. Bush during the key note address at the
1988 Democratic National Convention.
"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.' "
Encouraging other women to get into politics - "Let me tell you,
sisters, seeing dried egg on a plate in the morning is a lot dirtier than
anything I've had to deal with in politics." Yeah...I usually just throw that
"Ginger Rodgers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did
it backwards and in heels." Yeah, she's the one who said that!
She really did so much. There is just too much to list without missing something else phenomenal that this lady did. She lobbied corporations like Apple and Southwestern Bell to move to Texas. She fought with the state financial board to get rich school districts to play nice and share some cash with poorer ones (the poor kids want books!?) and tried to get the "abstinence only" policy changed for the sex education programs in public schools. She was a busy lady and an inspiration.
Her most lasting legacy may turn out to be the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, which is planning on opening it's doors to 6th and 7th graders in 2007. The school will be a college preparatory school for grades 6 through 12. The first graduating class will be in 2013.
Ann Richards was one of a kind. Hopefully she will also be the inspiration for another generation of outspoken leaders.