Congress Avenue Bridge Named for Ann Richards

Earlier this week, an item on the forthcoming City Council agenda raised some eyebrows. Item 40 was a vaguely worded ordinance naming the Congress Avenue Bridge – yet for who or what, it didn't say. Well, the cat's out of the bag. At their Thursday meeting, City Council will move to christen the famous structure the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge.

At approximately 11am Thursday, following adoption of the consent agenda (normally a rote matter), Council will take top the "Mayor's Balcony" outside for a press conference, with members of the Richards family in attendance.

In a press release Mayor Will Wynn, Item 40's sponsor, had this to say: “Ann Richards was my friend, an adviser, and an inspiration ... Ann always worked to bridge the divides that separated people and I think it is very fitting that we honor her memory by naming the bridge where she began her inaugural parade in 1991, particularly knowing that we frequently refer to Congress Avenue as the ‘Main Street’ of Texas.”

The rest of the release, including reaction from all council members, continues below the fold.

For Immediate Release
November 15, 2006


Council to Name Congress Ave Bridge in Honor of Gov. Richards


The Austin City Council will name the Congress Avenue Bridge the “Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge” at its Thursday Council meeting.

“Ann Richards was my friend, an adviser, and an inspiration,” said Mayor Will Wynn. “Ann always worked to bridge the divides that separated people and I think it is very fitting that we honor her memory by naming the bridge where she began her inaugural parade in 1991, particularly knowing that we frequently refer to Congress Avenue as the ‘Main Street’ of Texas.”

Gov. Richards was a role model for countless men and women, not just in Austin and Texas, but all over the country, inspiring women and historically marginalized people to become actively involved in their communities. “Inclusion of all races in all aspects of government, economic and social life is critical to a successful legacy,” said Council Member Sheryl Cole.

“I once heard Ann Richards described as ‘fluid as water but hard as diamonds,’ and it’s true. She moved from state house to board room with ease and grace, and as she continued to shatter glass ceilings, she never lost sight of her social responsibility,” said Council Member Mike Martinez. “Ann Richards’ life was the stuff of legend and icon, our small gesture today is the least we can do to remember her legacy.”

“I was 24 when Ann Richards was elected, and she was a hugely influential figure in my life,” said Council Member Brewster McCracken. “Ann Richards proved that you can be optimistic, funny, and principled and still get things done.”

"I am honored to be part of this Council initiative to name the Congress Avenue Bridge for Ann Richards," Council Member Lee Leffingwell said. "One can stand on the bridge and take in so many things that make Austin special: the State Capitol, Town Lake Trail and the bat flights in the summer. It will be a wonderful place for Austinites and visitors to reflect on the full life of Governor Richards."

Council Member Jennifer Kim remembers the lessons of the late governor, “Governor Richards taught me a valuable lesson in politics and life: stand up, be noticed, give others an opportunity to participate, never give up, and make life count by making a difference. I thank our late governor for the “big wisdom” she shared with me. I’m doing my best to live up to her words.”

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Richards, who served as only the 2nd female Governor of Texas, was first elected to office as a Travis County Commissioner in 1976. In 1982 she became the first woman in more than 50 years to be elected statewide when she became Texas Treasurer.

Richards died on September 13 this year of esophageal cancer at the age of 73.

There will be an opportunity for the media to speak with the Mayor and Council Members on the Mayor’s Balcony immediately following the vote to name the bridge (approximately 11:00 am). Members of the Richards family are scheduled to be in attendance.

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