Naked City

Democratic Matriarch Dies

Houstonian Billie Carr, 74, a longtime Democratic Party activist and dedicated organizer for the liberal wing of the party, died Monday of complications from a stroke. Called "the Boss" by state party faithful long before Bruce Springsteen picked up the nickname, Carr fought for civil rights, unionism, peace, environmentalism, and other progressive causes for more than 40 years, and was a fixture at state Democratic events -- cheerfully using a wheelchair during recent ones.

Carr had a quick wit and a sharp tongue and was unafraid to use either. She was central to the organization of a real democratic opposition within what had been a Texas Dixiecrat party, and with her friend Frankie Randolph was instrumental in founding the progressive journal The Texas Observer in 1954. She never ran for office herself because, she said, she was "not tactful enough to be a candidate [and told] people what they need[ed] to hear, not necessarily what they want[ed] to hear." Two pointed examples recalled in the Houston Chronicle: After the late Bob Bullock endorsed George W. Bush for president, Carr told him "he should start drinking again, because he had more sense when he did." And to her friend Bill Clinton (who had learned organizing from Carr in Texas during the 1972 George McGovern presidential campaign) after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, she said, "Hillary ought to hit him in the head with a two-by-four." Billie will be greatly missed.

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