News & Politics

Molly Ivins, 1944-2007

Syndicated political columnist Molly Ivins died of breast cancer Wednesday evening at her home in Austin. Molly's enduring message is, "Raise more hell."
Syndicated political columnist Molly Ivins died of breast cancer Wednesday evening at her home in Austin. She was 62 years old, and had much, much more to give this world. She remained cheerful despite Texas politics. She emphasized the more hilarious aspects of both state and national government, and consequently never had to write fiction. She said, "Good thing we've still got politics -- finest form of free entertainment ever invented."

Although short, Molly's life was writ large. She was as eloquent a speaker and teacher as she was a writer, and her quips will last at least as long as Will Rogers'. She dubbed George W. Bush "Shrub" and Texas Governor Rick Perry "Good Hair."

Molly always said in her official résumé that the two honors she valued the most were (1) when the Minneapolis Police Department named their mascot pig after her (she was covering the police beat at the time); and (2) when she was banned from speaking on the Texas A&M University campus at least once during her years as co-editor of The Texas Observer (1970-76). However, she said with great sincerity that she would be proudest of all to die sober, and she did.

She worked as a reporter for The New York Times (1976-82) in New York and Albany and later as Rocky Mountain Bureau Chief covering nine mountain states by herself. After working for the staid Times where she was heavily edited, Molly cut loose and became a columnist for the Dallas Times Herald.

When the Herald folded, she signed on as a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2001, she became syndicated, eventually appearing in 400 newspapers. She never lost her love for The Texas Observer or her conviction that a free society relies on public-interest journalism. She found that brand of journalism the most fun. In recent years she shamelessly used her national and international contacts to raise funds for the Observer, which has always survived on a shoestring. More than $400,000 was contributed to the feisty little journal at a roast honoring Molly in Austin October 8. Molly's enduring message is, "Raise more hell."

Her full list of books and awards will be abbreviated here. In addition to compilations of her brilliant, hilarious liberal columns, she wrote with Lou Dubose, Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (Random House 2000) and Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America (Random House 2003). She was working on a Random House book documenting the Bush administration's assault on the Bill of Rights when she died.

Molly, being practical, used many of her most prestigious awards as trivets while serving exquisite French dishes at her dinner parties. Her awards include the William Allen White Award from the University of Kansas, the Eugene V. Debs award in the field of journalism, many awards for advocacy of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the David Nyhan Prize from the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School at Harvard.

Molly had a large family, many namesakes, hundreds of close friends, thousands of colleagues and hundreds of thousands of readers. She and her two siblings, Sara (Ivins) Maley of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Andy Ivins of London, Texas, grew up in Houston. Her father, James Ivins, was a corporate lawyer and a Republican, which meant she always had someone to disagree with over the dinner table. Her mother, Margot, was a homemaker with a B.A. in psychology from Smith College. In addition to her brother and sister, Molly is survived by sister-in-law Carla Ivins, nephew Drew and niece Darby; niece Margot Hutchison and her husband, Neil, and their children Sam, Andy and Charlie of San Diego, Calif. and nephew Paul Maley and his wife, Karianna, and their children Marty, Anneli and Finnbar of Eltham, Victoria, Australia. Molly followed her mother to Smith and received a B.A. in 1966, followed by an M.A. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and an honorary doctorate from Haverford College.


Statement from The Texas Observer

Molly Ivins left her editor's chair at The Texas Observer more than 30 years ago and went on to play a larger stage. But she never left us behind. She remained convinced that Texas needed a progressive, independent voice to call the powerful to account and to stand up for the common folk.

She kept our voice alive. More than once, when the paper was on the brink of insolvency, she delivered speeches and gave us the honorariums. She donated royalties from her best-selling book Shrub to keep the doors open. Her determination and efforts sustained the Observer as a magazine, as a family, and as a community.

Molly was a hero. She was a mentor. She was a liberal. She was a patriot. She was a friend. And she always will be. With Molly's death we have lost someone we hold dear. What she has left behind we will hold dearer still.

Despite her failing health, and an impending ice storm, Molly insisted on being driven to the Observer's most recent public event in early January so she could thank our supporters. Observer writers are useful, she explained to the crowd, in much the same way as good hunting dogs. Turn them loose, let them hunt. When they return with their prey, pat them on the head, say a few words of praise, and set them loose to hunt again.

For the time being, The Texas Observer's web site will be dedicated to remembering Molly, her work, her wit, her contributions to the political discourse of a nation. We invite readers to submit their own thoughts and recollections, to say a few words of praise. Then, we will return to the hunt.

To read more about Molly Ivins or to make a comment about her, go to Texas Observer. Tax-deductible contributions in her honor may be made to The Texas Observer, 307 West Seventh Street, Austin, TX 78701 or the American Civil Liberties Union, 127 Broad Street, 18th floor, New York, NY 10004.

Memorial services will be announced in the coming days.
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