Texas lost a bit of its heart and soul Wednesday night with the passing of Ann Richards.
Intelligent, insightful and wielding a tongue as razor sharp as her wit, Gov. Richards always cut to the heart of the matter, be it politics, social issues or economic concerns. A woman of grace and wit, she was the quintessential Texan.
She owns a special place in the hearts of those of us old enough to remember just how hard it once was for women to aspire to, much less attain and succeed in, leadership positions. What we women now take for granted is due in large part to the efforts of Gov. Richards, a lifelong supporter of progressive candidates and causes.
She became the first woman to win a Texas statewide office in 50 years when she was elected state treasurer in 1982. In 1991, she moved her office to the State Capitol. And though she served just one term as Texas governor, it was a notable one.
As the state's highest elected official, Gov. Richards' tenure was marked by many long-overdue firsts. She appointed the first black University of Texas regent, the first crime victim to 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. And it's no coincidence that while she was in office, the Texas Rangers finally added the first African-American and female officers to its law-enforcement ranks.
Much will be written about Gov. Richards in the next few weeks. I suspect almost every column, commentary and appreciation will share many of the same stories and observations of her distinctive life and style. One such article is this one is by Wayne Slater, senior political writer for the Dallas Morning News, who notes her commitment to tomorrow's leaders.
In order to continue Gov. Richards' vision, her family requests that memorial gifts be made to the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders through the Austin Community Foundation, P.O. Box 5159, Austin, Texas 78763. More information on the program is available at 512-472-4483 or through ACF's Web site.
Thank you, Ann, for all you did, for Texas and the whole United States. You will be dearly missed.