Ann Richards’ road to governorship
Family history and early life
Ann Richards was born to a somewhat humble family in 1933. Her father, Robert Cecil Willis worked for a pharmaceutical firm and married Mildred Iona Warren (Reid, 2013). Together they had one child and lived in a one-bedroom house. At birth, Richards was given the name Dorothy Ann Willis (Texas State Historical Association, n.d.).
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The family residence was located at the current Lacy Lakeview in Texas. Lakeview is only eight miles from Waco. During World War II Robert Cecil Willis was among the draftees. He was relocated to San Diego and his family moved with him. However, the family went back to Waco with the culmination of World War II (Reid, 2013).
Ann Richards started her schooling in Waco and attended Waco High School. During her high school years, school debates were highly emphasized. It is worth noting that Ann Richards was a vocal debater and represented her school well in interschool debates. Her debating proficiency led to her being chosen for the Girls’ State and Girls’ National debates. In 1950, she graduated from high school and was admitted to Baylor University. Notably, she was awarded a university scholarship due to her debating skills (Reid, 2013).
Marriage and job history
Ann married David Richards and they resided at Austin where her husband was to enrol for a degree in law. She enrolled for a certificate in education in the University of Texas. The couple together had four children, three boys, and a girl. Ann Richards got her first teaching job at Fulmore Junior High School (1955-1956) (Reid, 2013).
Richards was actively participating in Texas politics, especially on Democratic Party. She was a president of North Dallas Democratic Women and assisted a number of Democratic candidates in their campaigns. For instance, she was part of Sarah Weddington’s successful campaign and she would later work as Sarah’s administrative assistant (Reid, 2013).
The successful running for Travis County commissioner’s post in 1975 was Richards’ breakthrough and beginning of full political participation in state and federal governance. She served on many committees while working as a commissioner, including the President Advisory Committee on Women.
Later, she worked as the Texas Treasurer where she gained fame and her reputation was highly regarded due to her good job. For instance, her determinations to help people of Texas were recognized in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1985, an honor that was given to powerful women of Texas such as Barbara Jordan (Rogers, 2000).
It is worth noting that Ann and her husband separated and later divorced.
Richards’ gubernatorial campaigns and performance
Campaign journey (promises and platforms)
Richards declared her interests in the Texas gubernatorial seat and she got the Democratic Party ticket for the 1990 elections. In her campaigns, Richards made promises of dealing with corruption, and making reforms in government. Additionally, Richards made a promise to increase minority groups and women involvement in running government affairs (Reid, 2013).
Significant events and milestones during Richards’ terms in office and her legacy/role as a politician
Richards secured a somewhat narrow victory defeating, among others, Clayton Williams who was running on a Republican ticket.
In her term in office, Richards made somewhat radicle decisions, which brought about changes in Texas governance and running of public offices. For instance, immediately after her election into office, she demanded resignations of state agencies’ officials whom she considered inept in running government offices (Reid, 2013). She also made unannounced inspections of nursing facilities. As a result, there were radicle improvements in state agencies management.
In addition, Richards kept her campaign promise of involving minority groups in state management. For instance, she added more minorities in state appointments and ordered more recruitments of African Americans and women to the Texas Rangers (Reid, 2013).
Further, Richards was involved in activities aimed at improving the welfare of the Texas Community. She formed a Texas lottery and made reforms in correctional facilities and improvements in the Texas prison system.
In the federal political arena, Governor Richards became the chairperson of the Democratic National Convention in 1992. The convention had the mandate to select the Democratic Party presidential candidate and it selected Bill Clinton.
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In the 1994 gubernatorial elections, Richards declared her interest to run for the Texas position again. Her main opponent was George W. Bush, a son president Bush Senior who Richards had earlier insulted in a public address (Reid, 2013). In her own words, Richards did not consider Bush a serious threat and, therefore, she underestimated his capability. She lost Texas governorship to Bush in 1994.
Her living of office, in 1995, did not stop her political involvement. Richards gave her assistance in a number of liberal endeavors and many Democratic political candidates, giving consultancy services and advice. She helped in the creation of the Ann Richards School to help young women in leadership (Reid, 2013).
Few interesting facts and a score card for Ann Richards
It is generally agreed that Richards had a somewhat challenging role as the Texas governor. Her constitutional powers were limited. The Texas constitution gives minimal powers to the governors as their main role is limited to making state appointments (McCall, 2009). The lieutenant governor’s position is virtually more powerful than that of the governor. However, Richards accomplished a lot as a Texas governor (Reid, 2013).
Some of the things that she did exceptionally well include diversity inclusion in running Texas affairs, reforming prison systems, enhancing efficiency among public office holders, firearm control, and championing for environmental protection. Additionally, Richards was known for her honest concern for Texas people. She worried about the sick, the old and the most vulnerable. She visited many nursing homes and schools to ensure that Texas community received the best services (Reid, 2013).
Her objection to the teaching of English in Texas is considered retrogressive. However, she responded in her usual wit by saying, “If the Kings English is good for Jesus Christ, it is good enough for schoolchildren of Texas” (Olsson, 2006). Additionally, she would have had a better relationship with her lieutenant for the sake of the people of Texas. As such, she would have helped in solving problems like structuring public-school finance. In personal life, she struggled with alcoholism and a shaky marriage that resulted in separation and divorce (Richards, 2013).
Richards can be remembered as a well-travelled mentor who was inspiring. It is worth noting that her influence is seen in most Democratic Party politicians. For instance, Hillary Clinton gets inspirations from Richards among other Democratic Party legends (Reid, 2013).
Richards feel ill and was diagnosed with osteoporosis but this did not deter her from inspiring the minority, especially women. Working with Richard Levine, they wrote a book on osteoporosis encouraging women who were victims of osteoporosis (Richards & Levine, 2004). She, however, succumbed to her illness and died at the age of 73 (Reid, 2013).
McCall, B. (2009). The Power of the Texas Governor: Connally to Bush. Austin: University of Texas Press. Web.
Olsson, K. (2006). Was the Texas Governor More than Just Her Acid Wit?
Reid, J. (2013). Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Richards, A. (2013). Straight from the Heart. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Richards, A., & Levine, R. M. (2004). I’m Not Slowing Down. New York: Plume.
Rogers, M. B. (2000). Barbara Jordan: American Hero. New York: Bantam.
Texas State Historical Association. (n.d.). Richards Dorothy Ann Willis (Ann). Web.