Rita Crocker Clements, a Two-time First Lady But Far More Than a Governor’s Wife

Many Texans will remember Rita Crocker Clements as first lady during her husband's two terms as governor, which falls far short of capturing her influence and impact. In another time and place, she might have been the one running a state.Rita Clements, who died Saturday at age 86, was a driving force in Texas Republican politics long before her marriage to Bill Clements. It's not a stretch to say he would not have won his two terms without her major role in his campaigns.Long before they married in 1975, Rita had established her own political bona fides. From Dallas precinct chairwoman in the late 1950s, she would become a delegate to every Texas Republican State Convention into the mid-1970s. In 1963, she was named chairwoman of campaign activities for the National Federation of Republican Women and co-chaired the Texas Goldwater for President Committee in 1964. She was a three-time delegate or alternate to the National Republican Convention.Born Oct. 30, 1931, Rita grew up a rancher's daughter in Kansas. When Mason and Florabel Crocker bought a new spread near Brady, Texas, they decided to board their ninth-grader at Dallas' Hockaday School. That started a lifelong love affair with the prominent girls' school that eventually led to Rita being named a life trustee.One of Rita's twin daughters, Barbara, is the wife of Dallas Morning News publisher and CEO Jim Moroney. Rita also had two sons from her first marriage.When Bill Clements was approached to run for governor in 1978, Rita was the one with the political experience. Determined to visit each of Texas' 254 counties, they split up the state and hit the road. Friends today still remember how "the Hockaday girl" won over crusty West Texas ranchers. After all, she had grown up among them.Education and volunteerism filled her days as first lady and the many happy years she shared with Bill thereafter. As first lady, she spearheaded the restoration of two of the state's most important structures: the Governor's Mansion and Texas Capitol.Among her many contributions was serving on the University of Texas System Board of Regents from 1996 to 2007. The Junior League, Crystal Charity Ball and Salvation Army were just a few of the organizations that benefited from Rita's drive.Yet no mere listing of accomplishments does justice to the style and spirit of Rita Crocker Clements.  Continue reading...

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