She was born Mary Tyler Ivins on August 30th, 1944, in Monterey, California. She grew up in Houston. She earned a Degree in Journalism at Smith College, in my home Commonwealth of Massachusetts. After that, in the mid ‘60’s, she wandered to Minnesota and got her first reporting job, as a police reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune. How many great journalists started in the police beat, anyway?
She tired of real winters, (As did Monica and I), pining for the warmth and by spice of Texas food and politics. She moved to Austin and became the Co-Editor of the Texas Observer, a paper famous as the “Liberal conscience” of Texas. According to her long time friend, Nadine Eckhardt, she soon became a regular in the Austin political and party scene. "That's where she became the Molly Ivins as we've come to know her," said Eckhardt, “Molly was always right in the middle of everything."
She most certainly had a way with words, and regardless of one’s political bent, nobody could or would deny that fact. Next came a stint with The New York Times, where she even penned the obituary for Elvis in ’77. She later admitted that the toney Times wasn’t her cup of tea: New York sensibilities simply don’t mix well with Texas common sense, Ivins style…
So in ’82, she returned to Austin and started writing for the Dallas Times-Herald. She hooked up with her buddy Ann Richards, who would later become Governor, and Bob Bullock, the hard-drinking state Comptroller who would eventually become the Lieutenant Governor.
Her column gave her wide freedom to speak as she saw fit, and that she did. I’m proud of what are referred to as ‘Ebenisms’, but I don’t hold a candle to her in that regard. To call her language colorful would be putting things mildly: She referred to Ross Perot, as a "runt with an attitude." And perhaps most famously, she dubbed Gubernatorial candidate George W. Bush, the "Shrub," and never grew tired of calling him that. "Whomper-jawed," meant surprised, and getting P.O.’d was "throwin’ a walleyed fit."
She never married, and never had kids. She got breast cancer in ‘99, and let everybody know it in her inimitable style: "I have contracted an outstanding case of breast cancer, from which I fully intend to recover," she wrote, "I don't need get-well cards, but I would like the beloved women readers to do something for me: Go. Get. The. Damn. Mammogram. Done."
She wrote three books and co-authored a fourth. She was a three-time finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and served on Amnesty International's Journalism Network. Given all that, she said more than once that her greatest honors were being banned from the campus of, (The quite conservative), Texas A&M University, and having been named the Mascot Pig of the Minneapolis P.D..
She’s survived by a sister, a brother, two nephews and two nieces.
Here’s a smattering of Mollyisms for the uninitiated:
"I believe politics is the finest form of entertainment in the state of Texas: better than the zoo, better than the circus, rougher than football, and even more aesthetically satisfying than baseball."
"Yes, I've called myself a little-'d' democrat. I am a populist, maybe even a left-wing Libertarian. It used to be if you didn't have a hyphen in your definition, you clearly had not thought about it."
"He (Democrat Jim Mattox) was a wonderfully good attorney general. And somewhere underneath all that ruthless-pol, no-holds-barred fighter stuff there lurks a decent human being."
If you’ve never read any of her stuff, go find it, get a bottle of bourbon, pour one, crack the book, and dig in. She’d like that.