Ann Richards, Texas Monthly

A free library service distributed upon request to Texans of all ages with disabilities who are registered to receive Talking Books, Spotlight on Texas is a biannual audio publication announcing the latest audio books produced by the Texas Talking Book Program at the Volunteer Recording Studio in Austin and the Recording Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Midland, Texas.

First, we are Texans; second, we are women; we were both involved in Texas politics at one time; and fourth, books by or about us have been declared classics by the Texas Talking Book series of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and included in the latest edition of Spotlight on exas. 

 The audio version of Thorny Rose of Texas: an Intimate Portrait of Governor Ann Richards (Carol Publishing Corporation) by Mike Shropshire and Frank Schaeffer is a biography of the sharp-tongued woman who stepped onto the national stage at the 1988 Democratic National Convention as keynote speaker and said of then Candidate George Herbert Walker Bush, “Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

I knew from the beginning that I liked Ann, not because of what she said about Mr. Bush because I liked him, too. I liked her because she said what we were thinking and thought ourselves too polite to say aloud. What she did in the end to lose the governor’s race to George W. Bush was to treat his candidacy against her without fear. She let some people around her convince her that she was so popular in Texas that she would crush him. But what she didn’t realize about him that the world has since learned is that he didn’t let people get away with insulting his father.

Born in poverty during the Great Depression, Richards attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where she became a star debater. Thorny Rose of Texas: an Intimate Portrait of Governor Ann Richards covers the personal, professional and political life of the legend who is Ann Richards, elected Governor of Texas in 1990 and defeated in 1994 by George W. Bush, son of the subject of her 1988 keynote speech. Ann Richards was the second female governor of Texas. The first was Miriam Ferguson, elected in 1924. Dorothy Ann Willis Richards, born in 1933, died in 2006.

Since 1978, Talking Book volunteers such as Linda Fox, who narrated Thorny Rose of Texas: an Intimate Portrait of Governor Ann Richards as well as Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s by Sunny Nash, have recorded thousands of books, both fiction and nonfiction by Texas authors or about Texas history, culture and people. The program also loans users of the services playback equipment needed to listen to recorded books and magazines.

My grandmother, Bigmama, didn’t shop at Woolworth’s because black shoppers and other shoppers of color were not welcome in many stores on the Main Streets of towns like Bryan, Texas in the 1950s and 1960s. “I know this to be true because I was there during the pre-civil rights era. I write about that time in my book, Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s (Texas A&M University Press). Bigmama and my family taught me to rise above it and do the best I could at whatever it was I was trying to do.

Nash’s memoir of growing up in the 1950s in the Jim Crow South goes beyond descriptions of segregation and hardships, but illustrates the love and warmth of her family and community and the faith they had in her to later attend Texas A&M University and attain professional heights none before her had achieved.

Working with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Washington, DC, a program administered by the Library of Congress, the Talking Book Program provides free library services and audio books like Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s to more than 20,000 Texans per year who are unable to read printed books. Through individual services or institutions such as schools, nursing homes or hospitals, the Talking Book Program serves those with permanent or temporary visual, physical and learning impairments or disabilities that prevent them from reading standard printed books and magazines.

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