Ann Richards

The Queen’s Royal Welcome to Texas

By W. F. Strong and Lupita Strong

February 2021 will mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 69th year on the British throne. In all of those years during which she witnessed some of the world’s most pivotal events, one can say — if one is a Texan — that we deserve an honorable mention amongst those events from her majesty’s life.  Specifically, her 1991 two-day visit to the Lone Star state.  She was the first British monarch ever to visit Texas and we gave the Queen a Texas-sized tip of the ole Stetson. She loved it. She asked her U.S. chief of protocol, “Why didn’t I come here sooner?”  During her visit she gave Texans one of the finest compliments we’ve ever had, but I’ll save that until the end.

Texas has long had a special relationship with Great Britain; it was one of the first European nations to recognize the new Republic of Texas.  We actually flirted for a while with the notion of becoming part of the British Empire in the 1840’s, but the U.S. had other plans.

Five years before the Queen came here, her majesty’s son, Charles, the Prince of Wales, came to Texas to help celebrate the Texas Sesquicentennial.  He cut into the 45 ton, world’s largest birthday cake with a three-foot sword. I mean, it was Texas, what else was he supposed to use?

At the capital the Prince was given a giant gavel. He laughed and said that it was the biggest he had ever had and “extremely appropriate coming from Texas.” While touring San Jacinto later that week. It was February but warm. He asked, “If it’s as hot as this in the winter, what is like in the summer? ”

Texas has had fourteen kings, but it was a queen celebrated  by Texas  May of 1991. Queen Elizabeth visited Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston with an itinerary jam-packed with visits to the River Walk, NASA, the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, and the Alamo.  She even took a ride on the San Antonio River on a beautifully decorated barge.

When she arrived at Love Field Airport, she was greeted with strains of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” The words to “God Save the Queen” were recited before the playing of it so that the mostly Texas audience wouldn’t sing My Country Tis of Thee to the familiar tune.

While in Dallas, she knighted Cecil Howard Green, British-born founder of Texas Instruments and co-founder of the U-T campus there.

Accompanying her majesty on the visit was her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Sitting next to him at the Hall of State dinner commemorating the 150th anniversary of Dallas was Louise Caldwell, president of the Dallas Historical Society. Of the experience, she remarked, “It was very hard to find anything that he didn’t know more about than me . . .  including Texas history.”

The Queen delighted the audience there by recounting the well known Texas story by John Gunther in which a man tells his son: “Never ask a man where he’s from.  If he’s from Texas he’ll tell you.  Otherwise no use embarrassing him by asking.”  

At the State Capitol, Gov. Ann Richards hosted the Queen.  Eight-thousand people gathered to catch a glimpse of her majesty.  The queen  declared, “No state commands such fierce pride and loyalty. Lesser mortals are pitied for their misfortune in not being born Texans.” And she, the most travelled monarch in the world, knows what she’s talking about.

In 15 Minutes, Barbara Jordan Built A Legacy

Andy Warhol summed up our modern, technology-driven world: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” But Barbara Jordan turned this idea on its head. In 15 minutes, she delivered a speech that gave her lasting, worldwide fame.

She was only 38 when she, on national television, argued for the indictment of Richard M. Nixon for high crimes and misdemeanors. Surrounded by more senior members of the House Judiciary Committee, mostly men with far more experience in government and law, Jordan gave a speech that was so brilliant, she stunned the committee and mesmerized those watching on television.

Here is how she opened:

“Earlier today, we heard the beginning of the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States: ‘We, the people.’ It’s a very eloquent beginning. But when that document was completed on the seventeenth of September in 1787, I was not included in that ‘We, the people.’ I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation, and court decision, I have finally been included in ‘We, the people.’ Today I am an inquisitor. An hyperbole would not be fictional and would not overstate the solemness that I feel right now. My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution.”

Jordan’s Watergate speech is flawless in its eloquence. Few people ever reach these persuasive heights – you find it in Lincoln, and Kennedy and Martin Luther King. And you find it here in Barbara Jordan, a rare talent for setting logic on fire.

She was persuasive because she was anchored in the Constitution rather than anger or political posturing. Many worried at the time that agreeing to file articles of impeachment was the same as throwing Richard Nixon out of the White House without due process. She opens the constitution and teaches:

“It is wrong, I suggest, it is a misreading of the Constitution for any member here to assert that for a member to vote for an article of impeachment means that that member must be convinced that the President should be removed from office. The Constitution doesn’t say that.”

Jordan had a beautiful blend of legal and common language, a style that the man on the street can follow and be moved by. She tried to allay these fears by explaining, in Constitutional terms, that all the House can do is vote for impeachment, which is an indictment. The Senate must have the trial and decide guilt or innocence – and punishment.

She again follows the technical explanation with a simpler one:

“The framers of this Constitution were very astute. They did not make the accusers and the judgers — and the judges the same person.”

She follows this razor-like rationale, guided only by the Constitution, to this conclusion:

“Has the President committed offenses, and planned, and directed, and acquiesced in a course of conduct which the Constitution will not tolerate? That’s the question. We know that. We know the question. We should now forthwith proceed to answer the question. It is reason, and not passion, which must guide our deliberations, guide our debate, and guide our decision.”

Nixon resigned a few days later. I don’t think he cared to face this inquisitor.

And it wasn’t just Jordan’s infallible logic that supporters admired and opponents feared. It was her divine voice and impeccable diction that animated that logic, seeming to place it beyond rebuttal.

I have a friend, Dr. Juliet Garcia, who served on a bank board with Jordan. She says Jordan “could read the agenda and make it sound profound.”

When Barbara died in 1996, having devoted her life to serving Texas, Ann Richards remembered her this way. “There was simply something about her that made you proud to be a part of the country that produced her. And she forever redefined what it meant to be a Texan in the eyes of this nation.”

Jordan’s life was truly a succession of firsts: first African-American woman to serve in the Texas State Senate, first African-American Texan elected to Congress, first woman to deliver a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, first woman to have a statue erected in her honor at UT Austin, and – this makes me smile – even in death she achieved another first. She was the first African American to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery. I do miss her. We sure could use her voice, and her logic, today.

Texas Standard: April 20, 2016

Just say no, to Muslims? Turned away by staffers, a delegation of Texans calls it portent of a Cruz Presidency. The story today on the Texas Standard. Also an office accused of targeting Republicans for prosecution has another Texas lawmaker in its sites: but this one’s a veteran democrat–accused of using staffers for personal business. We’ll explain. Plus food pantries to feed the poor…coming to a college near you? They might already be there. And the return of Ann Richards…on the stage, at least. Actor Holland Taylor on what she calls the role of a lifetime. Those stories and more on todays Texas Standard: