America has lost a great writer, and a fighter for truth and justice who never gave up and never backed down. A tribute from an editor and friend:
Of course, having grown up in Texas, all of this made sense to me. But to newspaper editors in Seattle, Chicago, Detroit and beyond -- Yankee land, as Molly would say -- her folksy language could be a mystery. "That's just Molly being Molly," I would explain and leave it at that.
But there was more to Molly Ivins than insightful political commentary packaged in an aw-shucks Southern charm. In the coming days, much will be made of Molly's contributions to the liberal cause, how important she was as an authentic female voice on opinion pages across the country, her passionate and eloquent defense of the poorest and the weakest among us against the corruption of the most powerful, and the joy she took in celebrating the uniqueness of American culture -- and all of this is true. But more than that, Molly Ivins was a woman who loved and cared deeply for the world around her. And her warm and generous spirit was apparent in all her words and deeds.
Editing Molly Ivins must have been one of the toughest jobs in journalism. From her former editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
Lunch finished, Ken and I figured the most we had accomplished was one more at the company trough. A trip for nothing.
"When do I start?" she asked.
It was one of the happiest days of my newspaper career.
It didn't last long, the euphoria.
"OK, Mister Editor," Ken said, dropping off a copy of Molly's first column, scheduled to run in a couple of days, "you might want to look at what Molly wrote."
I'd been in the business to know that the words "you might want to look at" rarely meant "you're going to love it."
I read the lead paragraph.
"Good god, Molly can't say this!" I said.
"I think that was the name of her first book," said Ken.
Together, Ken and Molly had removed the word, crafting a new graph, which said, in part:
"...Should you happen to contravene a law made by the only politicians we've got, this too will become a matter of some moment to you. For example, if you happen to possess six or more phallic sex toys, you are a felon under Texas law. In their boundless wisdom, our solons decided that five or fewer of the devices make you a mere hobbyist."
I could have killed them both.
A fellow Tennessee blogger recalls a memorable outing with Molly Ivins and Ann Richards from his days as a river guide:
They were camped at Dick's Creek on the Chattooga river and I was one of the river guides. The rapid they would run first thing the next morning is featured prominently in the movie Deliverance. "Isn't this where that Drew guy died?" they kept asking.
In those days I considered myself invincible and near immortal, so I had no fear of the river or its rapids. I do admit to total intimidation by the wheelbarrow of booze we had to wheel in each night to set up camp. It was over a mile from the closest point we could get a vehicle but it was the one nonnegotiable demand. Every morning we wheeled out a much lighter load of completely empty bottles, but other than some grumbling when I tried to herd everyone into the canoes they never showed ill effects that I could tell.
I bore the brunt of masterful one liners every time I gathered them up on a scouting rock and said, "OK, here's how we're gonna run this..." All of it foul mouthed and all of it funny. The second night one of the men had to be hiked out of the gorge to go handle a situation back in Texas. "Willie's wife got busted at the airport," they said. I can't remember the guy's name but they called him the "Fixer." Yeah, it was THAT "Willie" but I don't know which of his wives it was.
They were the biggest tippers I had ever run into.
Here's another remembrance from a professor of broadcast journalism at the University of Tennessee and a Knox County Commissioner:
We met when I was running to be Lubbock County's Democratic Party chair. I told her that Lubbock had gotten so Republican, that even though I was running unopposed, I might have to switch parties to get elected. She let loose with a great belly laugh and nearly spilled her beer.
That was Molly. She was a great broad in the nicest old-school-journalism use of that word. She could remember every back-story detail, tell stories so true and funny your sides would split, and charm even the most repugnant Texas "sumbitches" that she'd just mocked in her column.
My friends in TV news would read aloud "Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?," taking frequent breaks to avoid hyperventilating. She signed my copy of the book, "For Mark Harmon who stands tall among the tens of liberals to be found in Lubbock. Raise more hell! And keep laughin' too. With many thanks for your help and all best wishes in your frontline freedom fightin'."
Sometime I hope you read Molly's touching farewell to her friend, the great Texas storyteller and antiblacklisting crusader John Henry Faulk. Our first long conversation was about him. I had only met him once and for just a brief time, but she appreciated every detail. A lot of people don't know how often Molly would drop everything to fight some infringement on the First Amendment. She had no patience for how the powerful would abuse the downtrodden. She would hold up a mirror to show their shameless actions, outrages so grand it almost looked like a funhouse mirror was before you.
Goodbye my friend. Your faithful friend and former Lubbock correspondent.
From Molly Ivin's final column:
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. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"
She was a hell of a fighter and she went down swinging.