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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Flying with Ann Richardson

I have been in awe of Ann Richardson. And here is why, she was not the first woman elected governor of Texas. In the 1920s, Miriam "Ma" Ferguson was twice elected to the statehouse as a surrogate for her husband, Jim "Pa" Ferguson who resigned in 1917 to avoid being impeached and was barred from running for office again.

Ann, was, however, the first woman elected in her own right. Can you imagine what that must have felt like? The adrelin rush? The feel of power? Her victory marked the zenith of Democratic Party power and influence in the Lone Star State. Four years later, Texas politics reverted to form, and she lost to the son of the man she had mocked in 1988. No Democrats have held statewide office since the late 1990s.After a year in Washington, where Dave Richards worked for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, the couple moved to Dallas. Ms. Richards became a homemaker, although she stayed politically involved by volunteering on the gubernatorial campaigns of Henry B. Gonzalez and Ralph Yarborough, as well as Yarborough's senatorial campaigns.

The Richards family, by now with four children, moved to Austin in 1969, where Ms. Richards continued to work for candidates, including the Texas House campaign of Sarah Weddington, a 25-year-old lawyer who had successfully argued the Roe v. Wade abortion rights case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Ms. Richards described Weddington as the first "out-and-out feminist activist" she had ever met, and in 1974 she became Weddington's administrative assistant in the House.

Ann, 73, a feminist Democrat whose Texas twang, halo of white hair and quick-on-the-draw quips, helped make her an instantly recognizable national figure, despite serving only one term as Texas governor, died Sept. 13, 2006 at her home in Austin. She had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer in March.

Another toast to a woman who flew to great heights before us. Will one of us take the torch?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.