I miss Ann Richards.
Photo of Ann Richards with her motorcycle, from the Texas State Library & Archives Commission, Prints and Photographs Collection
Here’s an excerpt from Molly Ivins’ column of September 18, 2006, the week after Ann died.
She knew how to deal with teenage egos: Instead of pointing out to a kid who was pouring charcoal lighter on a live fire that he was idiot, Ann said, “Honey, if you keep doing that, the fire is going to climb right back up to that can in your hand and explode and give you horrible injuries, and it will just ruin my entire weekend.”
She knew what it was like to have four young children and to be so tired you cried while folding the laundry. She knew and valued Wise Women like Virginia Whitten and Helen Hadley.
At a long-ago political do at Scholz Garten in Austin, everybody who was anybody was there meetin’ and greetin’ at a furious pace. 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.”
One of the most moving memories I have of Ann is her sitting in a circle with a group of prisoners. Ann and Bullock had started a rehab program in prisons, the single most effective thing that can be done to cut recidivism (George W. Bush later destroyed the program). The governor of Texas looked at the cons and said, “My name is Ann, and I am an alcoholic.”
She devoted untold hours to helping other alcoholics, and anyone who ever heard her speak at an AA convention knows how close laughter and tears can be.
One to make history, one to record it.
I miss Molly Ivins.
If I might share a story of behavior inspired by people such as Ann Richards:
The company for which I work purchased a small outfit located in a remote East Coast town. My boss was required to be present for some work at this location. While on site, he encountered a customer; my boss, attempting to use some good customer service techniques, introduced some small talk about the local area.
‘This is a nice place, wouldn’t want none of them California Jews comin’ in and taking over,’ said the customer.
My boss is actually Jewish, and he simply replied, ‘I am Jewish.’
The customer was a little flustered by this, but for reasons known only to himself continued with the assault on California.
‘Well then, you got all them fags in San Francisco, that just ain’t right.’
To which my (straight) boss replied, ‘I am gay.’
Though normally I respect the integrity of an honest response … for this one lie I say, hooray!