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Published:April 29th, 2014 14:17 EST

Ann Richards` Unimaginable Career Highlighted in HBO Documentary 'All About Ann!'

By John G. Kays


All About Ann (Keith Patterson and Phillip Schopper are the filmmakers) premiered on HBO last night; I recorded it and watched it several times this morning, feeling and remembering a great deal about the era. Some of the information was positive, but some of it brought back hurtful memories, long ago buried. One thing is for certain, Ann was a political genius; her likes have never been replicated since then! 


I walked away from the documentary with somewhat of a depressing thought: having a liberal woman as our governor in ultra-conservative Texas, is a once in a lifetime phenomenon. It will probably never occur again, although I wish it would (I`m a strong supporter of Wendy Davis). When grasping for straws (or reaching for grapes), I realized education is still the key for myself and for all us Texans, if the stubborn notion of History repeating itself must linger on.


By education I mean, you should repeat viewings of this new documentary All About Ann; I would take some notes and read various, select reviews on the internet; the Austin Chronicle has a good one, as does Pop Matters, although a few criticisms are leveled that make you question whether Patterson and Schooper left out quite a few details, regarding Ann Richards` political career and personal life, that were too important to overlook (this will require further scrutiny). I will say, however, given the length of an hour and a half allocated here, much of her biography required abbreviation.


This is the reason why I recommend you pick up Let the People In - The Life and Times of Ann Richards, by Jan Reid (with lots of great photographs too); give it a proper reading, if you`re really interested in Ann Richards. This way you can fill in some of the missing gaps as you watch the HBO film; the book and the film can work hand in hand to educate you (this is a very important history lesson!).


I recently saw copies of this hardback biography, in near mint condition, for around $10. I should talk, for now I`m borrowing my sister`s copy, and I must confess, I`ve only skimmed it lightly, but will make a vow here to buy it very soon and read every word of it, if you won`t require me to take a polygraph police test on that point!


The closing credits have a brief political resume of Ann Richards (1933-2006), so I thought I`d repeat it for you here: Governor of Texas (1991-1995), Texas State Treasurer (1983-1991), and Travis Co. Commissioner (1977-1983). That`s 18 years of her life when she gave herself entirely to Texas by way of public service. 


This video placard (I photographed it) provides a good outline guide to study her career by. Ann was very efficient and thereby successful as State Treasurer, implementing a computerized check processing system. As governor, she did what no other governor had ever done before; she broke up the traditional good old boy corrupt system, which has been in existence since Texas joined the Union (December 29, 1845)!


To summarize, a few of Ann`s main accomplishments as governor were: putting the drug and alcohol treatment programs into the prison system, getting the ethics bill passed (to some extent, this broke up the powerful good old boy interest groups), and shaking up or restructuring the Board of Insurance (such as forcing James Saxton to resign). 


 The big insurance companies were gouging The People, while one of our big state agencies was protecting them, (therefore, not helping ordinary Texans). Richards`Creed was to protect the public interests of Texans; imagine that, yet this still sounds radical, and especially today, when Rick Perry lingers on in the Governor`s Mansion!


Why did Texas revert to it`s former conservative, out-of-date ways in 1994, when George W. Bush beats the incumbent Governor Richards? I`ve been averting my eyes and waterboarding my memory on this sensitive issue for 20 years straight. 


With Bush in retirement now, painting away his carefree days, and posing no real threat anymore to the small minority of liberal Native Texans, who are still alive and still actively voting in the Lone Star State, I feel as if I can finally address this important question of history. 


Did Bush really put up such an effective campaign in 1994? I didn`t notice any conspicuous sign of it (in All About Ann); with the 2014 elections approaching, we Democrats have a lot of cramming for the final, we need to squeeze in. 


Primarily, we`ll need to concentrate our studies on the miracles (of biographical history) once experienced (light years ago), through the gifted Ann Richards (canonizing her as a Saint won`t be a requirement). There are a good many lessons we can learn, if we`ll just look hard enough.


http://www.popmatters.com/review/181244-tribeca-film-festival-2014-all-about-ann-art-and-cra/