By: E&P Staff
Texas journalist Molly Ivins was relentless in pursuing justice and defending the powerless, yet never lost her optimism and sense of fun, family and friends said as they celebrated her life Sunday.
In a lively, laughter-filled church memorial service that featured gospel singers and finished with Austin blues musician Marcia Ball performing “Great Balls of Fire,” hundreds of admirers clapped and cheered Ivins’ words and spirit.
Ivins, who died Wednesday at age 62 after a long battle with breast cancer, smiled down on the crowd from a portrait at the front of First United Methodist Church as numerous friends read from her writings and told funny stories of their adventures with her.
Her friend Linda Lewis brought the crowd to its feet in long applause when she repeated one particular quip from Ivins: “The next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please, pay attention.”
But the best-selling author and syndicated columnist, a Texas liberal who delighted in skewering Republican politicians, particularly President Bush, drew praise even from those she criticized most.
Bush, whom Ivins referred to as “Shrub,” issued a statement after her death saying she was a Texas original. He said he respected her convictions and “her passionate belief in the power of words, and her ability to turn a phrase.”
Ivins was a writer “who led with her heart” and sustained a lifelong sense of outrage against injustice, said Lou Dubose, who wrote two books with Ivins.
“Molly was such a sucker,” Dubose said. “She was such a sucker for the little guy who stood up against the bullies and bastards hijacking our country.”
He said she never stopped working, and even in her final few days quizzed him about his research for a book they were writing and grilled state Rep. Elliott Nashtait, an Austin Democrat, about the Democrats in the Texas House who’d “flipped” and supported Republican Tom Craddick for speaker.
Ivins’ career included working at the Houston Chronicle, the Minneapolis Tribune, the liberal biweekly The Texas Observer and The New York Times. Then she became a columnist for the Dallas Times-Herald and later the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2001, she went independent and wrote her column for Creators Syndicate.
More than 400 newspapers subscribed to her nationally syndicated column.
Ivins also cherished her time with her family, said her brother, Andy Ivins, who recalled their years growing up in Texas and outings they had together as adults.
“I have lost not only my sister, but one of my dearest friends,” he said.
Several other relatives along with former journalism colleagues, liberal activists and other friends packed the church Sunday a block from the Texas Capitol, where so many of the politicians she poked fun at spend their days.
The celebration then moved to Scholz Garden, a famous spot for telling stories and drinking beer near the University of Texas campus.
There were lots of references during the memorial service to Ivins’ love of music and beer. Courtney Anderson, a longtime friend of Ivins, said the columnist was proud of having become sober 18 months ago. She said that helped Ivins regain a clarity she hadn’t experienced in years and deepened her comfort in her spirituality.
And, she said, it never dimmed Ivins’ sense of humor.
See E&P Editor Greg Mitchell’s “Pressing Issues” column elsewhere on this site for word on how the New York Times still wouldn’t run her famous “gang pluck” line in its obit.