A remembrance of columnist Molly Ivins
Austin, Texas — (AP) - Witty best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, a Texas liberal who died after a long battle with breast cancer, left legions of admirers, even among the politicians she regularly skewered.
President Bush, referred to as "Shrub" in Ivins' writings, said in a statement issued after her death Wednesday evening that Ivins was a Texas original who was loved by her readers and many friends.
"I respected her convictions, her passionate belief in the power of words, and her ability to turn a phrase. She fought her illness with that same passion. Her quick wit and commitment to her beliefs will be missed," Bush said.
Ivins died in her home in hospice care. She was 62. Ivins revealed in early 2006 that she was being treated for breast cancer for the third time.
Her livelihood was poking fun at Texas politicians, whether they were in the White House or her home base of Austin.
"Molly Ivins' clever and colorful perspectives on people and politics gained her national acclaim and admiration that crossed party lines," said Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who Ivins playfully dubbed "Governor Goodhair."
Colleagues at the liberal Austin-based biweekly The Texas Observer remembered her as a mentor and hero, a patriot and a friend.
"With Molly's death we have lost someone we hold dear. What she has left behind we will hold dearer still," the Observer said in a statement.
The Observer's Web site Wednesday night featured photos and tributes to Ivins, once a co-editor of the publication.
Readers from around the world e-mailed remembrances of Ivins, telling how she had touched their lives. Some fans dropped off flowers at the Observer's office in downtown Austin.
More than 400 newspapers subscribed to her nationally syndicated column. Ivins' illness did not seem to hinder her populist-toned humor or her ability to deliver biting one-liners.
"I'm sorry to say (cancer) can kill you, but it doesn't make you a better person," she said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News in September 2006, the same month cancer claimed her friend, former Texas Gov. Ann Richards.
In a Jan. 11 column, Ivins urged readers to stand up against Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq.
"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war," Ivins wrote. "We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!'"
Ivins' best-selling books included those she co-authored with Lou Dubose about Bush. One was titled "Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush" and another was "BUSHWHACKED: Life in George W. Bush's America."
Dubose, who had been working on a third book with Ivins, said even last week in the hospital, Ivins wanted to talk about the book.
"She was married to her profession, she lived for the story," he said.
Ivins was an equal-opportunity critic, taking jabs at and making fun of politicians of both major parties.
"Molly Ivins' work made us all laugh - liberal, conservative and in-between," said Democratic state Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston. "She had an incredible gift to cut to the chase and make us not take ourselves too seriously. She was one of a kind."
In an Austin speech last year, former President Bill Clinton described Ivins as someone who was "good when she praised me and who was painfully good when she criticized me."
Ivins loved to write about politics and called the Texas Legislature, which she referred to as "The Lege," the best free entertainment in Austin.
"Naturally, when it comes to voting, we in Texas are accustomed to discerning that fine hair's-breadth worth of difference that makes one hopeless dipstick slightly less awful than the other. But it does raise the question: Why bother?" she wrote in a 2002 column about a California political race.
Born Mary Tyler Ivins in California, she grew up in Houston. She graduated from Smith College in 1966 and attended Columbia University's School of Journalism. She also studied for a year at the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris.
Her first newspaper job was in the complaint department of the Houston Chronicle. She worked her way up at the Chronicle, then went on to the Minneapolis Tribune, becoming the city's first woman police reporter.
Ivins later became co-editor of The Texas Observer. She was the featured attraction in October at a huge Texas Observer fundraising "barbecue," at which politicians, journalists and entertainers honored her.
She joined The New York Times in 1976, where she worked first as a political reporter in New York and later as the Rocky Mountain bureau chief, covering nine mountain states.
But Ivins' use of salty language and her habit of going barefoot in the office were too much for the Times, said longtime friend Ben Sargent, editorial cartoonist with the Austin American-Statesman.
Ivins returned to Texas as a columnist for the Dallas Times-Herald in 1982, and after it closed she spent nine years with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2001, she went independent and wrote her column for Creators Syndicate.
Ivins received several awards for her writing, including the Pringle Prize for Washington Journalism from Columbia University in 2003 and the Eugene V. Debs Award in the field of journalism.
She was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, and she had a recurrence in 2003. Her latest diagnosis came around Thanksgiving 2005. After her most recent recurrence, Ivins said she wasn't giving in to the illness.
"Maybe this is false bravado," she told the Austin American-Statesman in early 2006. "In some ways for me, this is like having a manageable disease. It's like diabetes. It doesn't mean it's not going to come get me in the end."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)