Ann Richards: Oh, What A Ride
On Monday morning in a light rain, Ann Richards was buried at the Texas State Cemetery in a small ceremony that included only her family and 500 of her closest friends. My sister and I didn't make the cut, but our friend Bettie Naylor did.
At 11 that morning, the giant Frank Erwin Center in Austin filled to near capacity for a public memorial for the Governor.
Invited guests included a couple of U.S. senators, five U.S. representatives, former Texas governors Mark White and Dolph Briscoe, National Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, Lance Armstrong, Sandra Bullock, singers Jerry Jeff Walker and Ray Benson; and Tom DeLay Prosecutor Ronnie Earle, D.A. of Austin.
Who did the Bush Administration send to represent his administration at the memorial for the Governor he succeeded in Texas?
Don Evans. As in, who the hell is Don Evans?
Fuck you, Bush.
Anyway, my sister and I caged some good seats, right behind past and present members of The University of Texas Lady Longhorns, the basketball team of which Ann Richards was a rabid fan.
On the stage was a lectern, speakers' seats and about 50 seats behind them for the amazing Wesley United Methodist Church choir. If you have to die, I say it's best to have a huge, African American Gospel choir send you off in style.
A small orchestra was in the pit beside the stage.
On each side of the stage were giant screens, one showing a photo of Ann making a speech, the other of Ann in profile with her firstborn toddler granddaughter, Lily (now 19).
Hundreds of white tulips were centered in front of the lectern and two other gigantic, white floral tributes flanked the stage.
Former Dallas Mayor and Ann's Secretary of State Ron Kirk was the Master of Ceremonies.
He spoke fond memories of Ann, then he introduced the choir, who sang a moving gospel hymn.
New York Post Columnist Liz Smith, a great friend of Ann's, was introduced next.
Her best story was about a lunch she'd had not long ago in New York with Ann and actor George Clooney.
Ann brought Clooney a piñata shaped like that bastard Tom DeLay.
After Smith finished, opera legend Jessye Norman got up and sang, "Ave Maria."
If you have to die, I'd say Jessye Norman would be the right pick to sing "Ave Maria" for you.
Former Mayor of San Antonio and Clinton Commerce Sec. Henry Cisneros followed. His speech was the usual, "what a great Texan she was..." thing. Ho hum.
Then the Kleenex came out in droves...
The video tribute began to the sound of Willie Nelson singing, "Don't Fence Me In."
Between the photos and brief video clips, my big sister and I were sobbing so hard we had to gasp between wails. My glasses were specked with flying tears. My abs got sore from crying.
After the video tribute, Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke in sort of a quasi Texas accent, dropping all the "g's:" from "ing" words. I wish she wouldn't have done that. You either have a real Texas drawl, a mild Texas drawl, or you don't.
Clinton gave a nice, standing ovation speech, but she's no Ann Richards and never will be.
Nice of her to drop in, though.
After Hillary came another flawless gospel song from the choir, with a fabulous woman soloist that made more tears come to our eyes.
Then Ann's firstborn granddaughter, Lily Adams, 19, got up and talked about the woman she and her cousins called "Mammy."
We remembered her when she used to run all over the room during legislative sessions when she was about 3. Ann used to let that kid get away with ANYTHING.
After Lily finished, Jessye Norman sang another song, then Ron Kirk closed the ceremony.
As we left the building, the rain had cleared and we faced a beautifully sunny day with a cool breeze blowing. We think Ann sent us the needed rain, then the beautiful day that followed.
Ann's final resting place is on Republic Hill, where 12 other Texas governors including John Connally and Jim and Miriam "Ma" Ferguson are buried.
She picked out the spot several years ago, officials said, near plots that have been reserved by former Governors George W. Bush, Mark White and soon-to-be former Governor Rick Perry.
Let's hope she can teach some of them a thing or two in the afterlife.
We love you.