Mary Margaret Farabee: In Memoriam

Remembering the Texas Book Festival co-founder and Austin Arts Hall of Famer

Mary Margaret Farabee
Mary Margaret Farabee (Photo by Jana Birchum)

One of the city's most engaged philanthropists and energetic supporters of the arts has passed away. Mary Margaret Farabee, the original spark for the Texas Book Festival, as well as an advocate for a host of other cultural and social causes, died Sunday, March 3, after a bout with cancer. She was 73.

A Dallas native, Farabee came to Austin in the late Fifties to attend the University of Texas, and after her graduation with honors, she made the city her home. Over the next three decades, her commitment to social causes and the arts developed steadily, but after Mary Margaret's marriage to former Texas state Sen. Ray Farabee, she made volunteer work her full-time job and subsequently made her greatest impact on Austin. She hatched the idea for a festival on the Capitol grounds to celebrate Texans' literary achievements and chaired the Texas Book Festival board for eight years. She played a significant role in the restoration of the Paramount Theatre, the installation of the Philosophers' Rock statue at Barton Springs Pool, the conversion of Charles Moore's home into a nonprofit center for architects, and the establishment of the MOLLY National Journalism Prize, honoring journalism in the spirit of Molly Ivins. In addition to that work, Mary Margaret supported dozens of causes, among them the Heritage Society of Austin, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, UT's Ransom Center, KUT, KLRU, People's Community Clinic, Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, and UT Press. Her generosity and spirit were honored with the Most Worthy Citizen award from the Austin Board of Realtors and induction into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame by the Austin Critics Table.

A memorial service will be held Monday, March 18, 10:30am, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. For an expanded version of this story, see www.austinchronicle.com/blogs/arts.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Mary Margaret Farabee
Austin's Paramount Theatre Turns 100
Austin's Paramount Theatre Turns 100
A century on, this grande dame of live performance isn't getting older – she's getting better

Robert Faires, Oct. 9, 2015

Authors Who Need Authors
Authors Who Need Authors
... Are the luckiest authors: Harmony and tumult at the 2002 Texas Book Festival

Shawn Badgley, Nov. 22, 2002

More Austin arts
Wayne Alan Brenner's Top 10 Arts-Related Program Activities of 2016
Wayne Alan Brenner's Top 10 Arts-Related Program Activities of 2016
Uncommon combinations – dance with horses, music with robots, drama with a Tesla coil – made the year unforgettable

Wayne Alan Brenner, Dec. 30, 2016

Road to Freedom
Road to Freedom
The Cost of Art III: How the Fusebox Festival liberated itself from charging admission

Katherine Catmull, July 25, 2014

More by Robert Faires
Batman’s Iconic Emblem Lights up Lady Bird Lake for Caped Crusader’s 80th Anniversary
Batman’s Iconic Emblem Lights up Lady Bird Lake for Caped Crusader’s 80th Anniversary
Congress Ave. Bridge and its resident bats proved the perfect backdrop

March 18, 2019

DC Swoops Into SXSW to Kick Off Batman's 80th Anniversary
DC Swoops Into SXSW to Kick Off Batman's 80th Anniversary
To the Bat-Bridge, Robin!

March 15, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin arts, Mary Margaret Farabee, Ray Farabee, Texas Book Festival, Philosophers' Rock, Charles W. Moore Foundation, MOLLY National Journalism Prize, Molly Ivins, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Ransom Center, Ann Richards School, UT Press, Austin Arts Hall of Fame, Austin Critics Table, Texas Book Festival 2013

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle