Remembering Texas First Lady Rita Clements
This past weekend Texas lost one of our state’s most treasured individuals: former Texas First Lady Rita Clements. Rita’s passion for Texas was evident by the numerous efforts she undertook in an effort to make our state a better place, including promoting volunteerism and civic involvement, boosting public education, and overseeing a restoration of the historic Texas Governor’s Mansion.
In the Capitol Rotunda, next to the portrait of her husband, Texas Governor William P. Clements, Jr., is Rita’s portrait on an easel, so that Texans visiting the Capitol can pay tribute to her. If you are in Austin over the next few days, I encourage you to pay a visit.
The below excerpts, taken from the obituary that appeared in the Dallas Morning News on January 6, 2018, are a beautiful representation of the life and legacy of Rita, so I wanted to share them with you:
Rita Clements, civic leader, political trailblazer and Texas' former first lady, dies at 86
January 6, 2018
“Mom led by example in her own competent but quiet way,” said her daughter Barbara Moroney of Dallas. “She always did her homework, then pursued things with a dogged determination.
“She believed in herself,” said Moroney, wife of Dallas Morning News publisher and CEO Jim Moroney. “She believed that what she wanted to accomplish was important, and there was just really nothing that stopped her.”
Clements was capable and determined to reach her goals, said Peter O’Donnell of Dallas, a friend of more than 60 years.
“I always regarded her as one of my best friends, and I think many people did,” O’Donnell said. “She was an outstanding person.”
Clements had a breadth of information at her disposal, and she used it, O’Donnell said.
In 2009, O’Donnell introduced Clements and her husband when they both received the Santa Rita Award for their contributions to the University of Texas System, where she had served on the Board of Regents from 1996 to 2007.
While reviewing her background, O’Donnell said, he was overwhelmed by all Clements had done. She had many leadership roles with “things that would help people, things that would help causes she was interested in,” he said. “She was someone that could be depended on.”
She was a leader blessed with an abundance of unique talents, said Harry M. Whittington of Austin, a longtime Texas political figure and friend of nearly 70 years.
Her “tireless energy and special insight into governmental responsibilities led to lasting benefits to Texans,” Whittington said. The fruits of her efforts include the beautification of Texas highways and increased volunteerism.
“One of her greatest accomplishments was the restoration of the Governor’s Mansion in Austin,” Whittington said.
The deteriorating 19th-century Greek Revival-style home was restored to its former glory under Clements’ leadership, winning her the Ruth B. Lester Award from the Texas Historical Commission.
Rita Clements was an active business and civic leader and served on the boards of directors of companies and organizations including La Quinta Motor Inns; Team Bank; Bank One, Texas; Dr Pepper Co.; and the Dallas Historical Society.
She also chaired the advisory board of the Salvation Army in Dallas and the Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series at Southern Methodist University.
She was a member of the Republican National Finance Committee from 1971 to 1972 and of the National Advisory Council for Economic Opportunity from 1972 to 1975.
“Our mom worked her entire life, and it was all volunteer work,” Smith said. “It was for politics, it was for the community, it was for schools, it was for the University of Texas.
“If you look at her involvement with organizations, she always rose to the top.”
Clements was also dedicated to philanthropy and to advocacy for women.
She was recognized for her work as campaign activities chair for the National Federation of Republican Women and as a member of the National Women’s Coalition when she was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame at Texas Woman’s University in 1996.