Former Texas Governor Ann Richards Dies

Former Texas Governor Ann Richards Dies
Ann Richards
Jack Plunkett/AP

09/14/2006 AT 08:40 AM EDT

Outspoken former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who bucked her state's male-dominated establishment and rose to national prominence in the political arena, died Wednesday night after a battle with esophageal cancer that was first diagnosed in March, a family spokesperson tells the Associated Press. She was 73.

Richards died at her Austin home surrounded by her family, including her four adult children, who had spent the day with her, said Cathy Bonner, who described the family as "a strong group of people, but they're broken-hearted, of course."

The silver-haired Richards served as Democratic governor for one term, losing her re-election bid to Republican George W. Bush.

Shortly before leaving office in January 1995, Richards said, "I did not want my tombstone to read, 'She kept a really clean house.' I think I'd like them to remember me by saying, 'She opened government to everyone.' "

She also famously quipped of George H. W. Bush: "Poor George, he can't help it – he was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

While in office, Richards appointed more Hispanics, blacks and women to state boards and commissions than any previous governor in Texas history, the Houston Chronicle reports. She fought for increased spending on public education and, as a recovering alcoholic, pushed for more government funding for drug and alcohol treatment programs.

In her later years, Richards remained visible, giving speeches, working as a CNN commentator and serving as a senior adviser in the New York City office of Public Strategies, Inc., an Austin-based consulting firm.

She also spent her last decade working for many social causes and developing the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, scheduled to open in Austin in 2007.

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