Thursday, September 14, 2006

Goodnight, Miss Ann!

I have many memories of the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who died last night (Sept. 13) after a short battle with cancer, from how she produced a standing-room only audience at a Texas Press Association summer convention speech to the long line of people following her from station to station during the 1990 Democratic convcention in Fort Worth as if she were the Pied Piper of Lacy Lakeview.
HOWEVER, the special memory came in 1994. "Miss Ann" came to Lancaster, Texas (where I was working for the local paper) two days after the April tornadoes that devastated the community. She held a press conference among the literal ruins of the Historic Town Square, flanked by dozens of politicos, to announce that any help on a state, local, county and federal level would be offered to help rebuild infrastructure and people's lives.
She then did two things: she actually walked into some of the neighborhoods and spoke to the people among the ruins. One family in particular, the Gross family, she met with. Their son was a young boy - Phillip Gross - who was blind and he told Miss Ann about losing the most valuable thing he owned - a voice recognition computer to help him with his studies. She was so moved that she promised to return and bring Phillip a replacement.
And a few months later, Ann Richards made good on her promise. In person.
She then decided to have lunch at the reopened Amaya's restaurant,where most of the TV crews had rummaged through that tornado Tuesday night. She hnd her three aides sat in the front, by the window looking out onto the crumbled town square, and enjoy a Mexican platter.
People didn't bother them for autographs or pictures. She was allowed to be one of the normal customers and just ... have lunch.
Afterwards, I asked the owner, Pablo Esparza, if the governor was a good tipper.
"Good enough!" he said.
For years, the menu included the Governor's Special - the platter was renamed for that afternoon.
Compared to what is parading around in Texas politics, she was the genuine article - the real deal. And her kind won't appear any time soon.
God rest her soul.

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