Former Gov. Ann Richards, a beloved figure to the state’s LGBT people, succumbs to esophogeal cancer
LGBT leaders across the state lamented the death of former Gov. Ann Richards Wednesday night as news spread of her death from esophogeal cancer.
Louise Young, a former president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, described Richards as a woman of great character.
“She was a great friend to our community,” Young said. “Her stature and influence with the Democratic Party provided us an avenue that was crucial to our success.
“I will miss her as a friend, and our community has lost a great spokesperson and incomparable ally.”
Richards spoke at two of the Dallas-Fort Worth Black Tie Dinners in 1995 and in 2003.
Mary Mallory, co-chair of the event in 1995, said Richards was one of the best speakers to ever go before the dinner’s audiences.
“She was so empowering to the audience,” Mallory said. “There was a lot of high energy in the room.”
Mallory said she found Richards behind the scenes to be “warm, welcoming and giving of herself.”
“She was not demanding or pushy,” Mallory said. “I think we have lost a Texas legend.”
Tom Phipps, co-chair of the 2006 Black Tie Dinner, said Richards will always be remembered for her compassion and dedication to equality.
“Her dignity and integrity and her unwavering support of GLBT issues will leave her with a legacy of being a true humanitarian and a hero for all of our guests,” Phipps said.
Robert Moore, publisher of Dallas Voice, said he was a friend and a fan of Richards’ speeches. She was state treasurer when he first her speak.
“She said, “‘I’m often asked how many gays and lesbians I have on my staff. I don’t know the answer to that. I never ask. When someone comes up and asks me for a job, I ask them are you going to show up for work on time? Are you gonna put in a full day’s work? Is the taxpayer going to get his money’s worth out of you? That’s what I want to know about people who work for me.'”
Moore said she was one of the first mainstream politicians in Texas to speak in such practical terms about gay men and lesbians.
Vivian Armstrong, a Dallas resident and the partner of Young, said she remembers Richards similarly. “She embodied real Texas spirit where you look at people and you judge them based on their character,” Armstrong said.
Michael Moon, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said he remembers watching Richards’ inaugural parade in Austin while he was student at the University of Texas in Austin.
“It was the perfect sunny clear day,” Moon said. “It was the day that Texas government was returned to the people. The atmosphere was one of change and excitement. It is a day that I will always remember.”
Moon said he is looking forward to hearing stories about Richards in the days to come. “As long as these stories are told, she is never really gone,” Moon said.
Richards, who was 73, died at home, surrounded by her children. She was the first governor in Texas to take pro-equality stands for LGBT Texans, and she was the first to appoint openly gay people to offices in her campaign and in her administration, including former State Rep. Glen Maxey.
Maxey, who was a close friend of Richards, could not be reached for comment.
Richards will be remembered at a noon service on Monday at the University of Texas Frank Erwin Special Events Center in Austin. She will lie in state in the Texas Capital Rotunda from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Both the services and Capitol events are open to the public. Her burial at the Texas State Cemetery will be private.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, September 15, 2006.