Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ex-Texas Gov. Ann Richards dies

Ex-Texas Gov. Ann Richards dies

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Former Texas Governor Ann Richards, who sparred with former President George H.W. Bush and later lost the state's top job to his son, President George W. Bush, died on Wednesday. She was 73.

The tough-talking Democratic politician, born Dorothy Ann Willis, had been suffering from esophageal cancer, a person close to the family said, although the cause of death could not immediately be confirmed.

Richards served as Texas governor from 1991 to 1995, when she lost the job to George W. Bush.

Richards jumped to national prominence at the 1988 Democratic National Conventional for her jibe about then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.

"Poor George, he can't help it ... He was born with a silver foot in his mouth," she said.

Born in Lakeview, Texas, Richards worked as a teacher before turning to politics and winning her first public office in 1976.

Richards was a staunch supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and helped get the measure to expand legal protections for women passed in Texas, although the amendment failed to garner enough national support to be added to the U.S. Constitution.

Two years after undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse, Richards was elected Texas state treasurer, and served two terms in that office.

She won the governorship after a bruising battle in 1990, but was defeated in 1994 by George W. Bush, then a political novice who parlayed his success in his home state into a successful bid for the presidency in 2000.

She followed her 1989 autobiography, "Straight from the Heart," with another memoir in 2004, "I'm Not Slowing Down," which chronicled her struggle with osteoporosis.

(Additional reporting by Bruce Nichols)