- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2006

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton escorted a flag-draped casket yesterday carrying the remains of former Gov. Ann Richards into the state Capitol, where she will spend the next two days lying in state before her funeral and burial.

Mr. Clinton delivered poignant and at times funny recollections of the woman he called “spontaneous, unedited, earthy, hilarious.”

He told about 50 of her close friends and family gathered in the Rotunda about a lunch he once shared in New York with Mrs. Richards and a group that included comedians Billy Crystal and Robin Williams.

“I thought to myself, I bet this is the only time in their entire lives that Billy Crystal and Robin Williams are the second and third funniest people at the table,” he said, drawing chuckles from tearful family members.

Mrs. Richards, a Democrat who served as governor from 1991 to 1995, died Wednesday at the age of 73 of esophageal cancer.

When Mr. Clinton finished speaking, Mrs. Richards’ daughter, Ellen, thanked him for “all the great times that you shared with our mom.”

The former president paused for a moment beside the casket, then greeted family members, hugging or shaking hands with each one in attendance. At one point, he bent down to comfort Mrs. Richards’ 8-year-old grandson Wyatt, who broke down in sobs.

The Capitol Rotunda was then opened to the public. Hundreds of mourners snaked around the building. Later, some visitors left tributes to Mrs. Richards on a grassy area in front of the Capitol.

One note read: “Ann, Thank you for all that you’ve done for women in Texas. We will miss you dearly.”

Mrs. Richards is survived by her four children — Cecile, Daniel, Clark and Ellen Richards; their spouses and eight grandchildren.

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