Ann Richards

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Ann Willis Richards (born September 1, 1933), née Dorothy Ann Willis, is an American politician from Texas. She rose to nationwide fame as the keynote speaker at the 1988 Democratic National Convention leading up to the 1988 presidential election. She served as Governor of Texas from 1991 to 1995, when she was defeated by George W. Bush, current President of the United States.


Early life

Richards was born Dorothy Ann Willis in Lakeview, Texas. She grew up in Waco, Texas, and graduated from Waco High School in 1950, participating in Girls State. She received a bachelor's degree from Baylor University while on a debate scholarship. She married her high school sweetheart, David Richards, and moved to Austin, Texas, where she earned a teaching certificate from the University of Texas at Austin.

After graduation, she taught social studies and history at Fulmore Junior High School in Austin, Texas from 1955 to 1956. During this time, she had two daughters and two sons, and she campaigned for Texas liberals and progressives such as Henry B. Gonzalez, Ralph Yarborough, and Sarah Weddington. She demonstrated interest in social causes such as equality, gay rights and womens' rights.

Political career

In 1976, Richards ran against and defeated a three-term incumbent on the Travis County, Texas Commissioner Court, holding the position for six years. The conditions of politics put a strain on her marriage and she and her husband were divorced; she began to drink heavily and spent several years rehabilitating. She then was elected State Treasurer in 1982, becoming the first woman elected to statewide office in more than fifty years. In 1986, she was re-elected without opposition.

Missing image
The official portrait of Gov. Richards, hanging in the Texas State Capitol

Richards delivered the keynote address to the 1988 Democratic National Convention, a move which put her in the national spotlight with the line "Poor George [H.W. Bush], he can't help it...He was born with a silver foot in his mouth." The speech set the tone for her political future; she described herself as a real Texan (in supposed contrast to George H.W. Bush), established herself as a feminist, and reached out to African-Americans and Hispanics.

Texas's Republican governor, Bill Clements, decided not to run for re-election in 1990. Richards painted herself as a progressive feminist, and won the Democratic nomination for governor against former governor Mark White. The Republican nomination for governor passed to multi-millionaire rancher Clayton Williams. After a brutal election Richards won the election on November 6, 1990, and was inaugurated governor the following January.

The Texas economy had been in a slump since the mid-1980s, compounded by a downturn in the U.S. economy. Richards responded with a program of economic revitalization, yielding growth in 1991 of 2% when the U.S. economy as a whole shrank. Richards also attempted to streamline Texas's government and regulatory institutions for business and the public; her efforts in the former helped to revitalize Texas's corporate infrastructure for its explosive economic growth later in the decade, and her audits on the state bureaucracy saved $6 billion.

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Ann Richards as an orator

As governor, Richards reformed the Texas prison system during her tenure as governor, establishing a substance abuse program for inmates, reduced the number of violent offenders released, and increased prison space to deal with a growing prison population (from less than 60,000 in 1992 to more than 80,000 in 1994). She backed proposals to reduce the sale of assault weapons in the state and "cop-killer" bullets.

The Texas Lottery was also instituted during her governorship - advocated as a means of supplementing school finances; Ann Richards purchased the first lotto ticket on May 29, 1992. However, most of the income from the lottery goes into the state's general fund rather than specifically to education. School finance remained one of the key issues of her governorship and of those succeeding hers; the famous Robin Hood plan was launched in the 1992-1993 biennium which attempted to make school funding more equitable across school districts. Richards also sought to decentralize control over education policy to districts and individual campuses; she instituted "site-based management" to this end.

She was unexpectedly defeated in 1994 by George W. Bush, winning 46% of the vote to Bush's 53%, even after outspending the Bush campaign by $2.6 million. [1] ( Many believed it was political "payback" for Richards' impolite recommendation to former President George H.W. Bush: "don't let the door hit your ass on the way out" in 1992. The Richards' campaign had hoped for a misstep from the relatively inexperienced Republican candidate, but none appeared, and Richards created one of her own in calling Bush "some jerk," recalling missteps that cost Clayton Williams the election in 1990. Richards would later commend Bush's oratory and attributed her loss in 1994 to Bush's ability to "stay on message."[2] ( The key campaign issues in the Texas gubernatorial election were crime and gun control, and Richards' stances on both issues were sometimes viewed as unyielding and strong. The 1994 elections were also a part of the "Gingrich revolution", a Republican sweep of state and federal offices.

Post governorship

Since 2001, Richards has been a senior adviser with Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand, a Washington, D.C.-based international law firm. Richards sits on the boards of the Aspen Institute, J.C. Penney, and T.I.G. Holdings.

She was diagnosed with osteoporosis in 1996, having lost 3/4 inch in height and broken her hand and ankle. She changed her diet and lifestyle, which has stabilized her bone density. She talks frequently about this experience, advocating a healthier lifestyle for women at risk of the disease.

In the 2004 presidential election, Richards endorsed Governor Howard Dean for the Democratic nomination, and campaigned on Dean's behalf. Richards later stumped for Democratic nominee John Kerry, highlighting the issues of health care and womens' rights. She was also considered by some political pundits as a potential running mate to Kerry, before his selection of North Carolina Senator John Edwards.

External links


Preceded by:
Bill Clements
Governor of Texas
Succeeded by:
George W. Bush

Template:End boxeo:Ann W. Richards

Ann Richards
Missing image
Ann Richards

Order: 45th Governor
Term of Office: January 15, 1991January 17, 1995
Predecessor: Bill Clements
Successor: George W. Bush
Date of Birth: September 1, 1933
Place of Birth: Lakeview, Texas
Profession: Teacher
Political Party: Democrat
Lieutenant Governor: Bob Bullock

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