Ann Willis Richards, the 45th Governor of Texas, is considered one of the most scintillating politicians of her time in American history.
Born in 1933 in the midst of the Depression in the tiny town of Lacy Lakeview, north of Waco, Richards graduated from Waco High and attended Baylor University on a debate scholarship. After graduating in 1954, she earned her teaching certificate from the University of Texas.
She began her professional life as a public school teacher of social studies at Fulmore (now Lively) Middle School in Austin.
Mother of four, Richards was the first woman elected Travis County Commissioner and in 1982, the first woman elected Texas State Treasurer. She burst onto the national scene in 1988 when she delivered an unforgettable keynote address to the 1988 Democratic National Convention.
“Ann’s wit, wisdom, blunt honesty, and dynamic personality drew people to her. She was a mentor to a generation of young women and men who were inspired to do their best to make politics and public life open and inclusive to all,” said Mary Beth Rogers, Richards' campaign manager, public television CEO, and noted political historian.
After being elected the first woman governor from the Lone Star State in her own right, Richards appointed an unprecedented number of women, people of color, Texans with disabilities, and LGBTQ community members to Texas boards and agencies. She attracted numerous new businesses to Texas, is credited with resolving crises in Texas public schools, was a champion of the arts, and appointed former US Congresswoman Barbara Jordan as her ethics advisor. Moreover, she led a reform of the state prison system, including establishing a substance-abuse program, was a champion of Texas film, and even hosted Queen Elizabeth II of England and the Duke of Edinburgh.
Richards believed education was the ticket to opportunity and equality and dedicated her professional life to breaking down the barriers for the disenfranchised. The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders is Governor Richards' primary living legacy, with the goal to advance education, empower young women, and create opportunities for girls who may otherwise be held back from achieving their full potential.
After her career in public office, Richards served as senior advisor at Public Strategies, a public affairs consulting firm. She maintained a demanding national and international speaking schedule and served the nation as a member of the Council on Foreign Affairs.
She co-authored two books: a memoir titled Straight from the Heart: My Life in Politics and Other Places and I’m Not Slowing Down: Winning My Battle with Osteoporosis, the story of her efforts to combat osteoporosis and educate women on how to overcome the disease.