( - promoted by Karl-Thomas Musselman)
I first met Ann Richards when she was a County Commissioner in Travis County. She had succeeded Commissioner Johnny Voudouris.
After being elected as a Precinct Chair in Dallas County in 1978, I was called on by Democrats in my neighborhood to start a Democratic club - the Park Cities Democrats. It was 1979, and Republican Bill Clements had defeated the
Democratic nominee for Governor, John Hill. We wanted to show that not everyone in the neighborhood supported Clements and his young junk mail manager Karl Rove. Some of the club members told me about a woman who had been active in the PTA at the University Park Elementary School, who moved to Austin and was elected to the Travis County Commissioners Court. So I made an effort to meet Commissioner Richards at her office. I won't forget that meeting. She told me
that in addition to serving as a Commissioner that Lt. Governor Bill Hobby had recently appointed her to a state board. With all she said I had some important news to report back to my neighbors.
My friend Harry Weisbrod told me about Ann Richards participation in the party in the 1960's, when TV news cameras came to the Democratic precinct conventions to cover all the controversies. He offered a recollection of her appearance at a rally during the LBJ campaign in 1964, shortly before the birth of one one of
her children. According to Harry she got a lot of attention carrying a sign that said "All The Way with L B J"
At a later State Convention I was waiting for an elevator at the headquarters hotel, when suddenly someone came up from behind and gave me a big hug. I looked around - - and it was Ann Richards. I was delighted to see her again. I
was equally delighted to see her run for, and win, the office of State Treasurer, and was impressed with the way she involved young people from her old neighborhood in the campaign. One of them was Jim Smith.
There were other times when she delivered keynote speeches for the Young Democrats at our State Conventions, and at a Jackson Day Dinner at the Great Hall of the Dallas Apparel Mart.
The Young Democrats served as an important part of her campaigns for Governor. During the first campaign, Martin Hoffman, now a Democratic nominee for Judge of a Civil District Court in Dallas County, conducted a meeting in Waco, to help plan our participation. Her mother, Ona Willis, sat next to me at the meeting. Her father, Cecil Willis, walked in with a large stack of boxes of hot pizzas, which the Young Democrats quickly converted into history.
I last spoke with Ann Richards at the service for Senator Mike McKool. It was a cold winter day in Dallas, but this did not stop a large crowd from filing in to the chapel of the Hillcrest Funeral Home on Northwest Highway. It was the one time that I heard her shed a few tears, in the course of sharing her memories of Senator McKool. The Senator was a remarkable man who returned in later years to serve as the Dallas County Chairman. We won't forget Mike McKool, who did so many positive things for our state.
I am proud that during the Richards administration, she signed some of my words
into Law, closing a special interest loophole in the "Lemon Law" that had existed for too long. This has remained on the books and has withstood the test of time.
We will soon find the final resting place of Governor Ann Richards at the State Cemetery. She will take her place along with Stephen F. Austin, Barbara Jordan, Oscar Mauzy, John C. White, Ralph Yarborough, and some relatives of mine who
participated at a convention at Washington on the Brazos. It seems there is a whole convention of Democrats at the State Cemetery now - - where each marker offers a lesson in History that our future activists should come to understand.
I won't ever forget Ann Richards or Mike McKool. Texans live with their contributions daily. I am directly reminded of them when I pass by Richards' former residence at Lovers Lane and Athens, and the McKool residence on Hillcrest.
Tom Blackwell, Dallas