Prints and Photographs Collection
Ann Richards brought a vitality and outrageousness to the governorship that had not been seen in decades. Born Dorothy Ann Willis, she grew up in Waco, where she made her mark early on as an outstanding student who excelled at debate and participated in Girls State. She married her high school sweetheart, David Richards, and the young couple moved to Austin, where Richards became a teacher. The couple had two daughters and two sons.
Richards spent her free time volunteering on political campaigns for candidates such as Henry B. Gonzalez, Ralph Yarborough, and Sarah Weddington. Encouraged by her husband, she eventually entered politics herself, winning election in 1977 as the first female commissioner of Travis County. Unfortunately, Richards' triumph ushered in one of the most painful periods of her life. Her marriage to David broke up, and she was also forced to confront her heavy drinking. Richards later admitted, "I smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish." She entered rehab and emerged sober.
She was elected state treasurer in 1982, the first woman to hold statewide office in years. Her devastating wit and folksy speaking style made her a national figure when she gave the keynote address at the 1988 Democratic Convention. Two years later, she was elected governor of Texas.