Happy Birthday, Ann Richards. Richards was the second woman governor of Texas. She served from 1991 to 1995, to be defeated by George W. Bush– a defeat that would change the course of history not only for Texas, but for the United States.
For those of us who were or are history teachers, it should come as no surprise that Richards started her career as a social studies/history teacher. Nor should it come as a surprise that she was a vocal proponent of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA); even as I write this, I’m painfully aware that there is an entire generation that probably has never heard of the ERA, which sadly failed. Richards was was at the National Women’s Conference along with Bella Abzug, Betty Ford, Lady Bird Johnson, and Rosalynn Carter.
One of my favorite quotes from Richards referencing George H.W. Bush:
Poor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth…two women in 160 years is about par for the course. But if you give us a chance, we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels… When we pay billions for planes that won’t fly, billions for tanks that won’t fire, and billions for systems that won’t work, that old dog won’t hunt. And you don’t have to be from Waco to know that when the Pentagon makes crooks rich and doesn’t make America strong, that it’s a bum deal.
If this quote does not make you love her, I don’t know what will. One of my absolutely favorite anecdotes about Richards is her time at Scholz Garten in Austin. Richards puts a racist Texas judge in check. I am lifting the quote straight from one of my favorite journalists, the late Molly Ivins:
A group of us got the tired feet and went to lean our butts 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, 20 years in Texas politics, knew every sorry, no good sumbitch 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, blonde, blue-eyed Ann Richards. “And who is this lovely lady?
Ann beamed and replied, “I am Mrs. Miles.”
How proud she must be that her daughter Cecile shares her dedication to social justice and civil rights. Ann Richards you are missed but not forgotten.