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Ann Richards and the JFK Assassination

John Simkin

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Anne Richards was one of the few politicians in Texas who appeared to be honest. Did she ever have anything to say about the JFK assassination? She died recently. Here is her Guardian obituary:


As a feminist and a liberal, winning the governorship of Texas in 1990 was an astonishing achievement for Ann Richards, who has died aged 73, Some claimed she was also the only liberal ever to govern the macho Lone Star state.

Richards was a feminist who, rather than scaring men, stung them with her wit, a technique she famously applied to President George Bush senior in what became a legendary quip in American politics. Speaking at the Democratic party's convention in 1988 she simultaneously referred to Bush's stumbling articulation and patrician upbringing by saying: "Poor George. He can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth." The Bush family did not forgive this slight, and it was recalled in 1994 when George W Bush restricted her to one term in the governor's mansion in Austin, before being re-elected himself four years later and then going on to the US presidency.

Her governorship was still remembered a decade later for her appointments of women and racial minorities - more than the previous two governors put together - and for wide-ranging reforms. She had also run a canny campaign in which she toted a rifle and went hunting, but also demonstrated a tenderness towards disadvantaged children.

Richards's feminism was tempered by Texas. While her theoretical sisters in New York were squabbling over ideology, she explained, in Austin they were plotting to get into the state house. "We infiltrate rather than confront." Her famous oratorical style combined forceful rhetoric with folksy wit, and she continued as a popular public speaker long after leaving public office.

One typical wisecrack to a women's conference was: "Let me tell you sisters, seeing dried egg on a plate in the morning is a lot dirtier than anything I've had to deal with in politics." The remark had extra impact for those who knew that, as a former alcoholic, she had seen some ugly mornings.

She was born the only child of hard-working, blue-collar parents, Ona and Cecil Willis, in the small town of Lakeview in east central Texas, and attended high school in Waco. Her speaking ability revealed itself early on and she entered Baylor University on a debating scholarship. At 19, she married her school sweetheart, David Richards.

After graduation she spent a year at the University of Texas, Austin, to acquire a teaching certificate and taught history and social studies for one year in state schools. But the customs of the times took over and she stayed at home in Dallas and Austin to rear four children - yet also volunteered for political work in the civil rights campaign.

With her children almost grown up, in 1975 she stood in a local campaign and was elected as a county councillor, serving until 1982. It was during this period she began to lose control of her drinking. She divorced, gave up smoking, and started treatment with Alcoholics Anonymous.

In 1982 she sought the post of state treasurer and, despite her opponent's use of her alcoholism against her, became the first woman in Texas in 50 years to be elected to statewide office. During her tenure she reformed the antiquated revenue system, earning Texas an extra $2bn in non-tax income. Her performance was so admired she won a second term unopposed.

In her campaign for the governorship, she easily outwitted her male opponent, a traditional Texan Republican with cowboy accoutrements. On one occasion he refused to shake her hand, and on another lost his temper and swore to "rope her" - the choice of verb was not lost on female voters - "like a heifer". The only previous female governor had been 50 years earlier and she had upheld the southern feminine tradition of following her husband into the job. By this time Richards did not even have a husband.

During her tenure she brought potable water to the poor Mexican "colonias" along the border, regulated the insurance industry, enforced lobbying ethics, increased executive power for individual schools, put through prison reforms, improved the environment, and presided over boom times in the economy while creating new jobs.

After losing out to Bush junior, she worked at various law firms in Washington and Austin as an adviser, before taking a job as a lobbyist in New York shortly after the September 11 terrorist attack. In 1990 she published her autobiography, Straight From the Heart. She also launched a campaign to battle osteoporosis, a disease that had crippled her mother and was responsible for 300,000 hip operations annually among American women.

The Bush enmity towards Richards surfaced again during the Enron scandal in 2002 when George W blamed her for his "inherited" political association with the disgraced energy firm boss, Kenneth Lay. But published figures showed Richards received only $12,500 in campaign funds from Enron, while Bush got $146,500.

Richards is survived by her two sons and two daughters and eight grandchildren.

· Dorothy Ann Willis Richards, feminist and politician, born September 1 1933; died September 13 2006

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