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    Arts & Humanities

    Biography Captures Ann Richards’ Spirit

    Published: Nov. 26, 2012

    When Ann Richards delivered the keynote address of the 1988 Democratic National Convention she instantly became a media celebrity and triggered a rivalry that would alter the course of American history.

    In “Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards,” author Jan Reid, a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly magazine, draws on his long friendship with Richards, interviews with her family and many of her closest associates, her unpublished correspondence with longtime companion Bud Shrake and extensive research to tell a personal story of Richards’ remarkable rise to power as a liberal in a conservative state.

    In 1990, Richards won the governorship of Texas, upsetting the GOP’s colorful rancher and oilman Clayton Williams. The first ardent feminist elected to high office in America, she opened public service to women, blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans, gays and people with disabilities. Her progressive achievements and the force of her personality created a lasting legacy that far transcends her rise and fall as governor of Texas.

    Reid, M.A. ’72, traces the whole arc of Richards’ life, beginning with her youth in Waco, her marriage to attorney David Richards, her frustration and boredom with being a young housewife and mother in Dallas, and her shocking encounters with Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter. He follows Richards to Austin and the wild 1970s scene and describes her painful but successful struggle against alcoholism. He tells the full, inside story of Richards’ rise from county office and the state treasurer’s office to the governorship, where she championed gun control, prison reform, environmental protection and school finance reform, and he explains why she lost her reelection bid in 1994 to George W. Bush, launching him toward the presidency.

    Reid’s nuanced portrait, published by The University of Texas Press, reveals a complex woman who battled her frailties and a good-old-boy establishment to claim a place on the national political stage and prove “what can happen in government if we simply open the doors and let the people in.”

    All images in the slideshow are courtesy of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.


    Read reviews of “Let the People In” in The Washington Post and The Dallas Morning News.

     

    • Quote 2
      Jean Blaylock said on Dec. 15, 2012 at 5:07 p.m.
      She was marvelous. As a woman brought up to run a home and do a lot of entertaining but not much else, I have a lot of stripes from suddenly having two children and a husband who decided on another life. I wish I had been younger than Ann because her battles for women in the Texas workforce would surely have helped. I can't wait to read Jan's book. I love his articles in Texas Monthly.
    • Quote 2
      Judy Rose Ulberg said on Dec. 13, 2012 at 10:07 a.m.
      I look forward to reading the book. The first time I met Ann was on the capital grounds when she was our treasurer and I was a purple kangaroo. Living in Austin during her time as governor afforded me several opportunities to meet Ann and know folks who worked for her. Ann was bigger than life...She brought the house down when she spoke at the National Nurses Association Convention in San Antonio. The schedule changed that day and Hilary Clinton also spoke on the same day. Ann's charm brought the house down and nurses from other states asked to contribute to her campaign. I look forward to reading what Mr Reid's thoughts are on the reason she was not re-elected. My belief is that the reason she lost the re-election was she tried to mess with Texans' guns and she did not give teachers a raise while in office.
    • Quote 2
      Beth Carls said on Dec. 13, 2012 at 8:32 a.m.
      Ann Richards said what many women were thinking - and she did so with such wit. The slideshow was awesome and brought back a lot of memories - one of my fondest not recorded was when my business partner met Ann Richards at Texas Monthly's Anniversary Party at the Four Seasons in Austin some years ago. She was so blown away from Ann's presence that when Ann reached out her hand and said, "Hi, I'm Ann Richards." My partner said "Hi, I'm nobody." That was probably one of the few times Ann was speechless.
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