I was also priviledged to meet Ann Richards & attend one of her speechs
while she was in Indianapolis.She was a remarkable lady & will be greatly
missed. Rest in peace dear lady.

In Memoriam: My Day With Ann Richards

by wmtriallawyer
Thu Sep 14, 2006 at 07:30:29 AM PDT
Almost exactly 10 years ago this month, I had the rare opportunity to meet one of those wonderful politicians that you will always remember fondly.

Sadly, she passed away today.

I'm always going to remember Ann Richards just like this: hand on her chin, that inquistive "don't give me no bullshit" look in her eye. She was an American original, and a great Texan.

Ann was probably toughened up a bit by the Texas sun, and a bout with alcoholism. But she was also a wonderful, sweet person -- the perfect example of what I would call a gentlelady . She could melt your heart when you talked to her one-on-one, but was still a tough Texan who could go quail hunting -- and show up George W. Bush in the process:

In 1994, when he was running for governor against then-incumbent Ann Richards, Mr. Bush went dove hunting for the cameras in Hockley, northwest of Houston, and shot what he thought was a dove. The one bird he did hit turned out to be the protected killdeer. He reported the incident to the local game warden and paid a $130 fine.

Idiot. But I digress. And this is Ann's day, after all. Not Dubya's.

I got to meet her 10 years ago, as I said. She came to Indianapolis to campaign for Julia Carson, and I was working on Carson's campaign. It was pretty funny -- I was only a couple months removed from Austin, so I was pretty jazzed that I got to meet her. Not only that, the campaign thought it might be a good idea for me to be Ann's body man for the day...drive her around, take from event to event, to and from the airport, that sort of thing.

I enjoyed it immensely. You know, it's kind of weird working a campaign. You get to meet all these famous people, most of whom are politicians, and a lot of times, the public image of the person is VERY different from the private, behind-closed-doors image. I've met a lot of people I respected publically who privately...well, let's just say they were a mess. And I LOST respect for them.

Ann Richards was one of those rare people who was as wonderful in private as the public persona she was. When things weren't going smoothly from event to event, and I had campaign people yelling at me, Ann Richards smoothed it out. Ann Richards talked to me about where to get the best salsa in Austin, the nutritional merits of corn tortillas vs. flour ("Steve, stay away from the flour tortillas...they've got too much lard in 'em."), and how the 'Horns were going to do that football season (back then, we agreed, pretty lousy).

At our event, she was great. She had that gift of wit Texans like Jim Hightower, Molly Ivins, Liz Carpenter, and even LBJ himself were blessed with. That wit wasn't lost on the normally stoic Hooiser crowd. At first, it seemed like they couldn't believe what Ann was saying, the way she yukked it up. But after about five minutes, everyone was rolling.

Ann had a light about her that was as bright as her white hair. And she was pistol whip smart. I saw her speaking to a group of young women activists on TV once, and she related a story.

Once, a young woman came up to her as said, "Gov. Richards, I want to help further the cause of Democratic issues and values. Where should I start?"

Gov. Richards looked the young woman in the eye and said:

"Go to school, pick a profession you like, and make money."

Ann's point was that in this country, the cold hard fact is that money equals power. And until grassroots Democrats understood that money wasn't inherently bad, that we could make money work for us , we wouldn't get the job done.

I'm sure Ann realized -- or if she hadn't before her death, she would have eventually realized -- that the netroots were taking her advice to heart, by realizing that money can be powerful in politics, especially if harnessed the way it is here.

I'm still bitter than Ann lost to the current occupant of 1600 Penn Ave. She got swept out in a low turnout year, and was targeted by nasty whisper campaigns by Karl Rove. She was still immensely popular at the time of her loss. I would have voted for her for President.

I loved Ann Richards. I miss her terribly today, and I'm saddened. I lived in Austin when we lost Barbara Jordan...now we've lost another giant.

Rest in peace, Ann.

I'll always remember that cool fall day in Indianapolis 10 years ago when you shared your grace and charm with a wet behind the ears 25 year old.