A Eulogy for Ann

ann-richards.jpgTexas has lost one of its great political icons, as Ann Richards succumbed to esophageal cancer last night. Her passing will be mourned far and wide, but especially so here in Austin. Governor Ann was not a passive retiree, remaining an active presence in the town that embraced her personally and politically.

It’s hard to believe that Ann Richards only served one term as the Governor of Texas, her short tenure belying the impact she had on this state and beyond. And yet her legacy is not etched in the lawbooks — the Texas Lottery hasn’t exactly revolutionized education or saved school finance — and many of her prominent appointments were quickly counteracted through the Shrub and Goodhair years. Perhaps if her career had not coincided with the painful implosion of Democratic politics in Texas we would have more tangible reminders, but as it stands her Governorship will largely be remembered for its contentiousness in victory, administration, and subsequent defeat.

Then again, legislation is hardly the hallmark of the Governor’s Office in our state, of which Molly Ivins commented has “mostly been occupied by crooks, dorks, and the comatose.” Ann Richards mattered because she brought a dose of reality to the Capitol, and Texas politics. A relative latecomer to politics with a divorce and alcohol rehab to her credit, she was neither shy nor apologetic about her past. She could talk the Good Ol’ Boy talk, and even convince a few old-time oilmen and bubbas that progressive ideas were just plain common sense.

I never knew Ann Richards much beyond her public persona, but I love Ann Richards. She made me proud to live in Texas and, for a brief time, let me believe that the governor’s mansion wasn’t bought and paid for. She made me especially proud to live in Austin because of the mutual adoration between the Last Liberal Governor and her adopted home. And regardless of any statues or memorials that get erected, I’ll always think of her when I stroll along Town Lake, where so often I’d see her walking along, offering up a smile as big as Texas.

2 Comments so far

  1. Rantor (unregistered) on September 14th, 2006 @ 8:53 am

    Her most important work was probably right here in Travis County. That picture of Moya and Richards published today in the Statesman really brings back the memories. Austin was smaller then and the public figures seemed larger.

  2. ttrentham (unregistered) on September 14th, 2006 @ 9:26 am

    I didn’t hear the news until this morning. The Wife came out as The Boy and I were leaving and opened the morning paper to show me the headline. We’d last seen the former Gov. downtown during the Texas Book Festival last year, I think. It’s hard to tell because, as Andy mentioned, she seemed like she was always around with a smile and a hello.

    I voted for her in that 1990 election. It was my first chance to vote in a somewhat major contest after turning 18 the year before. She did more good than bad and I suppose that’s all we can ask these days.

    Remember the Doritos commercial she did with Mario Cuomo in the mid-90’s? YouTube and Google Video failed me. The commercial was funny at the time. In light of what’s happened in the last 10 years since, it’s not so funny anymore.

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