Republican Greg Abbott was sworn in Tuesday as Texas' first new governor in 14 years and promised the state will stay as defiantly conservative as ever -- vowing to battle Washington on spending, regulation and any federal initiative "that uses the guise of fairness to rob us of our freedom."
Fighter jets streaked through sunny skies, ceremonial cannons boomed, the University of Texas marching band blared and the smell of four tons of beef brisket prepared for the inaugural barbeque hung in the air over the steps of the state Capitol, where Abbott and new lieutenant governor Dan Patrick formally took office.
Organizers said they raised more than $4.5 million for the festivities, which also includes a parade, a ball and a concert featuring Lady Antebellum.
Abbott, who was previously state attorney general, sued the Obama administration around 30 times, mostly for what Texas claimed was overreach on federal environmental regulations. He promised more of the same: "I will continue my legacy of pushing back against Washington if they spend too much, regulate too much, or violate our state sovereignty."
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"Any government that uses the guise of fairness to rob us of our freedom will get a uniquely Texan response: `come and take it,"' Abbott said, a reference to a famous battle from the Texas revolution. "We Texans aren't spoiling for a fight, but we won't shrink from one if the cause is right."
The new governor also pledged to ease traffic woes and assuage water-shortage fears in a state with a booming population that often suffers prolonged drought. He said he would bolster teachers and better assist "our veterans who return broken from battle."
The 57-year-old Abbott succeeds Rick Perry, who took office in December 2000 and says he'll announce an expected second presidential run perhaps as early as May or June. Perry, who succeeded George W. Bush when he was elected president, was the longest-serving governor in Texas history.
Abbott called Perry "a man I am humbled to succeed," but his predecessor wasn't around to hear it. Abbott aides said Perry skipped the swearing-in per Texas tradition, pointing to Democrat Ann Richards avoiding Bush's 1995 inauguration.
However, many previous gubernatorial predecessors attended their successor's swearing-in. Asked about Perry's whereabouts Tuesday, spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said only, "he's in Austin."
Unlike Perry and his political cowboy persona, Abbott has a more lawyerly, almost judicial mentality. He nearly choked up Tuesday when thanking his wife and daughter and God.
"We must seek higher ground that will continue to elevate Texas, not just as a leader in this nation, but as a leader in this world," he said.
Patrick, a tea party favorite who will oversee the state Senate, struck a similar theme. After snapping selfies from the podium, he promised to take Texas conservatism "to the next level."
Abbott and Patrick vowed to secure the Texas-Mexico border first and foremost, with the new lieutenant governor saying he'd fund border security at the highest levels in state history. Both also promised to continue the economic growth that has made Texas America's top job-creating state -- even in the face of plummeting oil prices that could hurt areas that rely on oil and natural gas production.
Abbott, who lost the use of his legs in 1984, when a falling tree crushed him while he was jogging in Houston, is the nation's first governor who uses a wheelchair since Alabama's George Wallace left office in 1987.
"Let's face it, for me this moment was highly improbable," Abbott told the crowd. "During this month 30 years ago, I laid in a hospital bed recovering from injuries that broke my back and left me forever unable to walk."
He has made his personal story a centerpiece of his rise to political prominence, often joking that while many politicians boast about having a "spine of steel," he actually has one.
"I am living proof that we live in a state where a young man's life can literally be broken in half," Abbott said, "and yet he can still rise up and be governor of this great state."
Keep up with the latest in Austin with NBC 5's Julie Fine as she tweets live from the inauguration.