Ann Richards

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Austin History Center
Written By Austin History Center

The Austin History Center's mission is to procure, preserve, present and provide the historical records that make up Austin's unique story.

Ann Richards was never interested in towing the line. She moved swiftly from running women's campaigns in Texas politics to the Commissioner's Court to State Treasurer, and from there she ran for governor of Texas in 1990. 

Her Republican opponent, Clayton Williams, was a millionaire of the Williams ranching family, who made a rape joke during his campaign. His supporters sent death threats to Richards' campaign headquarters. 

But Richards won the race, despite Williams' outspending her almost two to one. 

As governor of Texas from 1990-1994, Richards took a lagging economy and used every method to make it better. Auditing and introducing the Texas lottery were some of her more groundbreaking methods. She saved Texas an estimated $600 million. 

But she was best known for her wry humor, quick wit, and loud mouth. 

Asked to speak at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, Richards did not hold her tongue: 

"I'm delighted to be here with you this evening, because after listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to know what a real Texas accent sounds like.” -- Ann Richards, 1988 Democratic National Convention
"When we pay billions for planes that won't fly, billions for tanks that won't fire, and billions for systems that won't work, that old dog won't hunt. And you don't have to be from Waco to know that when the Pentagon makes crooks rich and doesn't make America strong, that it's a bum deal.” -- Ann Richards, 1988 Democratic National Convention.

Ann had a lot to say about policy and even more to say about women:

"…two women [in the governor's seat] in 160 years is about par for the course. But if you give us a chance, we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels." -- Ann Richards, 1988 Democratic National Convention

Once out of office, Ann decided to put her money where her mouth was and set to work on a school to inspire women toward achievement and public service instead of housework and home finance.

The Ann Richards School for Young Women accepts intellectually gifted young ladies in grades six through twelve and has been named the 19th toughest high school in the country. 

Sadly, Ann Richards passed away before she could see it. Sandra Bullock helped principal Jeanne Goka open the school in 2007. 

You can take the girl out of Texas, but Texas refused to forget Ann Richards. She has been memorialized in the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin as well as in her School for Young Women.

Cover photo credit cybasistagirl via Instagram. 

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