Thousands said their goodbyes to former governor Ann Richards at a memorials service in Austin, remembering a strong, vibrant woman who changed the face of politics in Texas, and had fun doing it. Here’s more from Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams.
In Houston, bells tolled at churches across the city as family and friends of the iconic figure celebrated her life in Austin, just down the street from where Richards left her mark on politics as one of the state’s most memorable governors. Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk served at Texas Secretary of State under Richards in 1994.
“She understood that for girls and for boys who were of color and for poor people and those who had overcome addictions, it wasn’t just enough to be at the table, that we had to show Texas that we could govern. And we were led by a woman with the fiercest blue eyes, the most infectious smile, the most unfailing wit and the deepest love of this state of any woman I have ever known.”
Her longtime friend, syndicated columnist Liz Smith recounted times in recent years after Richards moved from Texas to New York City and the attention she’d get there.
“I voted for you governor, someone from New Jersey would say. She’d say, I never ran for office in New Jersey. I said, yes, but Ann, they feel like you should have. If Ann could have just shaken hands with every legitimate voter in America, I think she could have been elected president or anything else she wanted to be.”
A video tribute to Richards showed her with some of the nation’s most powerful leaders, but also showed her in quieter moments with her family. Former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros says Richards was a difference maker.
“A grandmother, a teacher, a friend, a sister to many, a leader and our governor, she made a big difference with her life.”
Former First Lady and New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton thanked Richards for opening doors for women and minorities in politics.
“We’ll miss her, but she’s not ever going to be forgotten. The best way that we can honor her memory is by taking up her challenge, open up every door that is blocked. Love and laugh so that when your time on this earth is done, whenever that might be, people will say that was a life well lived.”
Richards died last week of cancer and was buried at the State Cemetary in Austin. She was 73 years old.